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Google today announced an Android Wear update that brings a slew of new smartwatch features. The new version will be rolling out over-the-air to the LG Watch Urbane first and then to the other six Android Wear watches “over the next few weeks.”
While most Android Wear watches already include an always-on display (just like a regular watch you don’t have to tap, twist, or shake to see what time it is), Google is now expanding this option to apps. If you want to keep an app visible, as opposed to having it disappear when you drop your arm, now you can.
This naturally affects battery life. Google’s solution is to turn the screen black and white when the smartwatch isn’t in use, and then have it turn on full color when you look at it. It’s not as efficient as letting your watch go to sleep when you’re done using an app, but it certainly helps your smartwatch last longer.
Speaking of apps, Google has declared that “when it comes to your watch, using apps should be as easy as telling the time.” As such, you can now access your apps, contacts, and messages by just swiping left on the watch face.
Since October, Android Wear supported smartwatches with built-in GPS and offline music support, meaning if you needed just these features, you could leave your smartphone at home and just rely on your smartwatch. Google has now added Wi-Fi support, which means that as long as your smartwatch is connected to a Wi-Fi network, you can get notifications, send messages, and use apps.
You thus no longer need to keep your smartphone in your pocket — wherever you decided to leave it, the only requirement is that it is online (data or Wi-Fi connection). This is how it should be: As long as both devices are online, they can communicate.
Next up, you can now use hands-free gestures to check your news and notifications. Just flick your wrist outward to advance to the “next card” in the stream and flick your wrist inward to go to the “previous card.”
Last but not least, you can now draw hundreds of different emojis directly on the watch screen. Google attempts to recognize your drawing and convert it to an emoji that you can then send via SMS, Hangouts, or any other messaging app.
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