Smartwatches get smarter with Android Wear 2.0

Mr David Singleton, Google's director of Android engineering, showing the audience at the Google I/O event last week how, with Android Wear 2.0, users can write on their watches using their fingers.
Mr David Singleton, Google's director of Android engineering, showing the audience at the Google I/O event last week how, with Android Wear 2.0, users can write on their watches using their fingers.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The Android smartwatch will get smarter, more useful and less reliant on the phone.

When Android Wear 2.0 - the biggest update to Android wearables yet - launches later this year, it will allow smartphones to connect directly to the Internet and let users install apps into the watch.

"The watch can now talk to the cloud via cellular or Wi-Fi," said Brett Lider, the design lead for Android Wear.

This means the Android smartwatch can stream music, receive online messages or sync exercise information to the cloud - without needing a phone.

Android Wear 2.0 also provides more options to personalise the Android smartwatch, such as allowing users to add informational widgets from any app on their watch faces, such as weather, calories burnt or their to-do list.

The new version of Android Wear will also come with an onscreen keyboard for users to type on. Another new inclusion is handwriting support, which allows users to write on their watches using their fingers.

The messaging system will be smarter, with the introduction of smart replies - short, automatically generated replies to messages received on the phone that let you quickly reply to messages.

At the Google I/O event last week, the tech giant also gave a demonstration of how smartwatches could progress to in the future, under its gesture-research department called Project Soli, run by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects department.

Google is working with electronics manufacturer LG on a prototype smartwatch that uses radar to recognise hand gestures.

Move your hand within range of a Soli-enabled smartwatch, and it will automatically change the watch face to show you the temperature outside or new messages that have just arrived.

Flick your fingers up and the phone cycles through messages, weather display, and the calendar - or other apps you have set up - all without you touching the watch.

Lester Hio

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Smartwatches get smarter with Android Wear 2.0'. Print Edition | Subscribe