Google released the developer preview's latest update for its Android Wear platform in the form of Android Wear 2.0 at the Google I/O 2016. The upgrade that has not been released to the public yet is slated to bring significant changes to Android Wear, taking it ahead of where it currently stands with a Marshmallow-based interface.
"We're making a Developer Preview available today and plan to release additional updates throughout the summer, so please send us your feedback early and often. Also, please keep in mind that this preview is a work in progress, and is not yet intended for daily use," says the post by Google on the Android Wear upgrade.
The developer preview teases a whole lot of improvements for the platform including some refreshing changes to the UI. Let's take a detailed look at what's new in the preview, which will help us get an idea on what to expect from the final public release later in the year.
- User Interface: The UI has got some great changes like a completely new notification design and app launcher. The colour palette for the display has gone shades darker to give a more balanced look and it has become easier for users to switch watch faces now with a new watch face picker. The darker themed UI introduced by Google also helps save on battery.
- Standalone apps: Now the hassle of always keeping the phone close to you in order to use your smartwatch to access the internet won't be a problem. Any Android Wear app can now access the internet directly over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi without relying on Data Layer APIs. This means apps can run even if the paired phone is far away or turned off. The feature also enables these apps to work regardless of whether your Android Wear is paired with an Android device or an iPhone.
- Material design: Google has released a new Material Design for Wearables guide with the developer preview that introduces us to new navigation drawers and action drawer components etc. This makes it easy to align your app with the system UI's new vertical layout. There is also a guide on how to get the dark colour palette.
- Messaging notification style: In the preview a new notification template is showcased whose layout is optimised for quick and responsive messaging. This is similar to what we have already seen on the developer preview version of Android N on phones and tablets.
- Input methods: Android Wear 2.0 will bring keyboard and handwriting input methods which users can use in their apps via Remote Input and EditText. One can even create their own custom input methods.
- Complications API: With the introduction of the complications API, app developers can now choose to publish their data to a wide variety of watch faces and make it easier for users to launch their designed apps from the watch face itself.
- Google Fit: With health-based apps gaining significance, Android Wear 2.0 teases automatic activity recognition, a feature we have already seen on Fitbit-like wearables. This feature will help users track their activity and then provide health information with the Google Fit API.
- Support for Android N: The Android powered smart watches will also gain Android N support and have features such as Data Saver, Java 8 Lambda support and new emojis.