Google has made it crystal clear that it is pulling out all the stops to make Android Wear one of the best wearable operating systems around. True to its word, Google has added offline music and use an internal GPS chip to track location, all without the need to tether to a smartphone.
The most obvious use for the new feature is running. Now, with only a watch, a jogging user could listen to music and track their progress with one less device. This previously required dragging a phone along, but when you're running, it's nice to carry as little technology as possible.
It still requires a phone, but there's no better way to deal with notifications.The bad news is that the first batch of Android Wear devices didn't plan ahead for this. While standalone music will work on existing devices, nothing on the market right now has a GPS chip. Early adopters of devices like the Moto 360 will have to buy a new smartwatch to take advantage of the GPS feature.
The Sony SmartWatch 3 is the first Android Wear watch with a dedicated GPS sensor, and it is available for preorder today for $249.99 from Verizon Wireless, with Google Play availability soon. Google says that today's updates will be pushed to the other Android Wear devices already available (Samsung's Gear Live, LG's G Watch, and Motorola's Moto 360) in the near future.
As well as reducing interaction time with Android Wear the new update adds a much needed boost to the watch's ability to run apps independent of a smartphone.The addition of offline music is a big one. It means that you can load your smart watch with music via Google Play and then go for a run, or walk without your smartphone while connected to some Bluetooth headphones.
This -- combined with the addition of GPS support -- means that watches like the Sony SmartWatch 3 are now fully-fledged sports watches.
Android Wear Apps
Google also says it is improving discoverability of Android Wear apps in Google Play with eight new categories of apps that have Android Wear features (Featured, Health & Fitness, Travel + Local, Social, Tools, Communication, Productivity, and More Apps). Google says that there are "tens of thousands" of apps enhanced for Wear at this point, with more coming every week.
With the development pace of wearables moving so quickly Chang promises that big changes elsewhere are already in the pipeline.We'll have more from Chang on Android, iOS and wearables as a product category in our full interview tomorrow.At the moment Android Wear is very voice-focused, a lot of the functionality is driven by it's ability to recognise your voice and then relay that command to a smartphone.Well that's going to change as well, with the team adding functionality for touch interaction, helping you get to the apps you need, quicker.The first major update for Android Wear is available now for all legacy devices and new devices including the LG G Watch R, Sony SmartWatch 3 and the Asus Zen Watch.