Smartwatch fans have been waiting for the Android Wear 2.0 update since the summer of 2016 and after a lengthy delay, the new update has arrived with the brand new LG Watch Style and Watch Sport. Last generation’s Android Wear smartwatches will receive the update sometime this February but unfortunately, first generation Android Wear devices will not get the update.
Let’s talk about the new hardware first. Both the LG Watch Sport and Style feature a rotating crown which is used to navigate through the UI a la Apple Watch. It isn’t as intuitive as the rotating bezel of Samsung’s Gear watches but is still more convenient than having to swipe the screen all the time. Older watches without this rotating crown will function as before but newer watches will have greater potential if developers make use of the crown to improve interaction in applications.
The update brings with it a number of performance and UI improvements. The UI is simpler now making it much easier to navigate, switch watch faces or select apps. The biggest change is the ability to download applications directly onto smartwatches without the need to pair with a smartphone. The process of searching for apps on a tiny screen is obviously tedious but thankfully you can download applications onto the watch from the Google Play Store’s webpage.
A big plus point for iPhone users is the ability to install third party apps onto the watch, something you could not do on iOS in the past, which makes it much more useful for those loyal to Apple. The new update also lets you choose which applications you want installing on your watch. Previously, any app on your phone with an Android Wear companion app would automatically install. The LG watches also come with the Google Assistant installed which should arrive on supported devices as a standard feature of the new Android Wear 2.0 update.
Google is looking to make smartwatches more useful and this is evidenced by the addition of an LTE antenna, GPS and NFC on the LG Watch Sport. LTE on the watch itself would allow notifications, calls and messages to come through even if you are away from your phone. GPS should appeal to fitness enthusiasts as it would allow for accurate tracking of runs. The addition of NFC is a pretty big deal as this is going to be used to make mobile payments with Android Pay thus adding more utility.
While all these new improvements might sound great, I can’t help but wonder if this is too little too late from Google. Because the update was delayed for so long, most manufacturers did not release new smartwatches for quite a while. This has lead to slumping sales figures and not much profit either. Almost three years after Android Wear was introduced, the same questions are still being asked. Smartwatches today are cool accessories for the smartphone. Google is trying to add purpose to these devices by attempting to make them independent of smartphones but even now there is no real selling point for these interesting gadgets.