Apple's Watch arrives later this week, so it must have seemed like a perfect time for Google to try to invigorate interest in Android Wear watches. Yesterday the company announced a new update to Android Wear that arguably makes the system more competitive with the Apple Watch.
One of the nicest convenience features is WiFi support. Prior to the update, your Android Wear watch talked to your Android phone over Bluetooth, meaning the two need to be in close proximity to work. Once the update rolls out the watch can connect to WiFi and from there to your phone, as long as the phone has some kind of connection (WiFi or cellular). This means if your phone is upstairs on the charger and you're on the back deck (and in range of your WiFi network) wearing your Android Wear watch, the two devices can still communicate. In fact if you leave your phone home and go to the office the two will still remain connected.
Next, there's now an 'always on' mode for apps. Prior to the update only the clock face would stay on all the time, but post update you'll be able to keep an app on screen. It'll fade to a black and white image in order to save juice but otherwise will continue to function. Unfortunately this won't work with any app; developers will need to code their apps to support always on. Google Maps and Keep will support the feature initially.
In general apps will be easier to get to post-update. Instead of being buried in a menu, just tap the screen and your apps will appear. Swipe up and down to scroll through your list of apps, and swipe across to get one screen over to get to your contacts.
Another new feature is the ability to flip through notifications or news just by flicking your wrist.
Last, and possibly least, you'll be able to draw emoji and using a system similar to handwriting recognition, Android Wear will figure out what you're trying to draw and send it on. Google says the system will recognized 'hundreds' of emojis.
The new update to Android Wear is rolling out over "the next few weeks" starting with the LG Watch Urbane which launches Friday. Google says the new update is compatible with all the currently available Android Wear watches. For more information check out Google's official blog.