Update: The preview is now available to download and flash on your Android Wear device by following the instructions at the Android Wear Development page.
Original post: Google just announced a major update to its Android Wear smartwatch platform.
Two years after the introduction of the platform, Google boasts that over 100 smartwatch designs are available on the market, from both traditional tech companies and respected watchmakers like Tag Heuer and Casio.
Now Google wants to inject more energy into the Android Wear ecosystem, by adding new features and reworking a number of key experiences.
First off, any watch face will be able to integrate data from any Android Wear app. You can even mix and match, meaning that your watch face can show data from multiple apps. Of course, you can customize exactly what you want to see on the watch screen.
To facilitate interaction on tiny smartwatch screens, Android Wear 2 will let you reply with AI-powered smart replies, similar to what you get in Inbox by Gmail and the new Allo messaging app. You can also “handwrite” text on the watch screen and have it automatically converted to text. Finally, there’s a new keyboard for more traditional input.
Google also revamped the Coach component of Android Wear. Fitness apps can now exchange and sync data through the Fit API. Thanks to this, the jogging distance you recorded with, say, Strava will be visible in your Fitbit app.
Certain apps can now start automatically when the device detects a physical activity. This works for music apps as well.
The biggest change coming to the architecture of Android Wear is the availability of standalone apps. You will no longer need a phone in order to install and sync Android Wear apps. New standalone apps work without a phone nearby. And thanks to support for networking over WiFi, Bluetooth and cellular, Android Wear smartwatches will become truly standalone devices.