Wearable tech was a big part of Google I/O 2016 including the Daydream VR platform. Smartwatch fans will also be interested to find out about the first major new version of Android Wear. Here's the Android Wear 2.0 release date and new features. See also: Best smartwatches 2016.
Although there have been some updates to Android Wear since its launch in 2014, a full version number is finally arriving for smartwatch owners bringing with it some cool new features. Google is calling it "the most significant Android Wear update since its launch."
Android Wear 2.0 release date and developer preview
Like many other things which were announced at Google I/O, the Android Wear 2.0 release date is 'this fall' – or autumn to us. This means we can expect it to arrive for users around September onwards.
However, you can get a developer preview already if you wish and Google will release additional updates for it over the summer. It's available for the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition and the Huawei Watch.
Google I/O podcast discussion
Android Wear 2.0 new features
"Based on what we've learned from users and developers, we're evolving the platform to improve key experiences on the watch, including watch faces, messaging, and fitness," said Google.
Overall, there's a trends towards the Android Wear smartwatch being a device in its own right, with less reliance on a smartphone for it to function fully and usefully. Let's look more specifically at the new features which will arrive with Android Wear 2.0, though.
Check out the video at the top of the page for an in-depth preview of Android Wear 2.0.
Apps on Android Wear 2.0 can access the internet directly over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular meaning that it doesn't need your phone to be close or even switched on to fully function. Apps can also receive push messages via Google Cloud Messaging.
Of course, early Android Wear watched didn't come with Wi-Fi, let alone LTE connectivity, so this will be more of a big deal with newer devices.
A redesigned user interface for Android Wear 2.0 begins with a darker colour palette. Bigger changes include a new notification design and a new app launcher which takes note of the fact most Android Wear smartwatches use a round screen.
New notifications will be less intrusive and the darker colours will help save battery life. Google has also added Material Design for wearables which will make everything look more consistent and prettier alongside the rest of the Android ecosystem.
Watch Face Complications
It's part of the UI but warrants its own section as the new complications API will make the watch faces on Android Wear much better. In simple terms it means you can add widgets to any of your watch faces to display the information that's most important to you – whether it's your step count or info on your precious stocks. Tapping the widgets will take to directly to the app it's linked to as well.
Although you can use your voice to dictate, you might not always want to read your message or search query out loud. With Android Wear 2.0 you'll be able to either use handwriting recognition – the screen scrolls along as you write each letter with your finger – or you can use an actual keyboard on the screen which includes next work suggestions and swipe input. How well this will work on watches like the Moto 360 which have a 'flat tyre' at the bottom is unclear.