Is Android Wear the key to unlocking your smartwatch potential?
Android Wear 2.0 is out now.
Google revealed its next generation software platform last month, marking the company’s most advanced wearable release to date.
With Mobile World Congress 2017 seeing the first group of new devices running the new software being shown off to the world, it’s clear to see that Android Wear 2.0 marks a major step up from past generations.
But does this mean that it’s finally time for users to embrace the smartwatch buzz and buy their first wearable?
Android Wear 2.0 is set to be the most popular wearable software yet
First, lets take a look at some of the improvements that Android Wear 2.0 brings over the original release.
The launch comes three years after the release of the original Android Wear, meaning there’s a whole host of new and exciting features that should make using a smartwatch easier and more appealing than ever before.
Top of the list is Google’s new voice-activated smart assistant. Previously only available in the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, the Google Assistant is a hands-free way to get all the information you need, direct to your wrist.
Ask the Google Assistant a question and it will respond – whether that’s asking about the weather, how best to get to work, or even making a restaurant reservation.
All you need to do is hold down the power button on your watch, or say “OK Google”, and the Assistant will spring to life.
Android Wear 2.0’s flexibility should allow for a wide range of devices
The Google Assistant can also bring is a quicker way to write or respond to messages via dictation.
In fact, sending a text or instant message is easier than ever with Android Wear 2.0, as users can tap on a notification to respond via typing, dictation or for the first time, drawing with their finger.
Apps including Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts and WhatsApp are all included, and will also be covered by Android Wear 2.0’s new Smart Reply feature, which learns from your typing habits to provide quick suggestions for your next words.
Android Wear 2.0 also bring more customisation to your watch than ever before, with users able to personalise their first choice watch face to always display information and notifications from their favourite apps.
This means you can get updates on your calendar meetings, fitness information or message alerts with just a look.
Up to eight different watch faces can be customised in this way, meaning you’re never too far from the updates you need.
The Huawei Watch 2 looks to show off all the best features of Android Wear 2.0
Best of all, Android Wear 2.0 brings an end to the era of needing your phone with you at all times to enjoy the most out of your smartwatch.
The new software allows users to download apps directly from the Google Play app store to their watch.
Google has introduced specially-designed versions of many popular apps for Android Wear 2.0, including the likes of AccuWeather, Uber, Runkeeper and more.
If you have the right network connection, you can also make calls and use these apps no matter where you are – or where your phone is.
The Huawei Watch 2 comes with full Android Wear 2.0 support
So it seems that Android Wear 2.0 brings a lot of software advantages – but what about the devices themselves?
A number of the world’s biggest tech firms released Android Wear watches, and interest in the new platform has already been high.
LG was the first company to launch an Android Wear 2.0 device, with the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style revealed alongside Google’s launch of the new software.
The LG Watch Sport targets more athletic customers, with built-in GPS and 4G LTE connectivity making it an intelligent standalone device.
In contrast, the LG Watch Style is a slimmer, more stylish device which is available in silver, titanium and rose gold colour schemes.
Both are set to go on sale in the UK later this year, and to be honest its hard to see much wrong with either device.
As mentioned, this launch has now been followed by a number of new products revealed at Mobile World Congress 2017.
Among the new Android Wear 2.0 devices is the Huawei Watch 2, which like LG’s offering is available in two distinct styles – ‘Classic’ or ’Sport’ editions, each with their own special features and design.
Huawei says its new wearable will look to appeal to smartphone users looking for something extra to compliment their mobile device.
The Huawei Watch 2 Classic version comes with a hybrid-leather strap, and is available in a range of different colour options, for those looking to stand out from the crowd.
The fitness-focused Sport edition comes with a purely rubber strap which should stand up to wear and tear – much like the watch itself, which is IP68 compliant with water and dust resistance.
But for those looking for something a bit more high-end, luxury watch firm Tag Heuer is also reportedly hard at work on its first Android Wear 2.0 device.
According to inside sources, the company will reveal more about their new device next month – and it looks pretty special.
Early rumours suggest that Tag’s new watch will be both smart and mechanical with users able to switch between old-fashioned and hi-tech as they wish.
Tag Heuer could be set to release a luxury Android Wear 2.0 device soon
However these are far from the only devices that will be able to run Android Wear 2.0, as Google is also making the platform available to a number of older products.
This includes popular wearables such as the Moto 360 2nd generation, LG Watch Urbane and Huawei Watch, although some Android Wear 2.0 features will only be able to be used on certain devices with the correct hardware.
The full list of compatible devices also includes ASUS ZenWatch 2 & 3, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, Casio PRO TREK Smart, Fossil Q Founder, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Wander, LG G Watch R, Michael Kors Access Smartwatches, New Balance RunIQ, Nixon Mission, Polar M600 and TAG Heuer Connected.
So the big question – is now the time to splash out on an Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch?
If you’re looking for your first Android wearable, it’s hard to see much wrong with any of the new devices, with stylish design and builds matched with a much more complete software offering.
The power of the Google Assistant should be reason enough to upgrade, as it offers far more usability and handy features than ever before.
Unlike Apple’s WatchOS, Android Wear 2.0 can also be licensed by many manufacturers, allowing different companies to tease the most out of the software.
Each company can also add in its own specially-designed apps, platforms and services, giving customers far more flexibility than previous generations.
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Finally, there’s price. Much like premium smartphones, Android Wear 2.0 devices will largely set you back less than buying the latest Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch Series 2 currently starts from £369 if you buy direct from Apple – around £50 less than the expected price of the Huawei Watch 2 and both LG Watch models.
If you have the budget, an Apple Watch 2 can even set you back as much as £1,049.
Admittedly, the older Apple Watch Series 1 can be yours for £269, but if you’re in the market for a brand-new smartwatch, you’d probably prefer to get the latest device.
Overall, it may ultimately come down to personal preference. Apple fans will doubtlessly prefer to go for an Apple Watch, whereas Android users may plump for a device that runs the same family of software as their smartphone.