One of the biggest criticisms about most smartwatches is that you need to keep your phone nearby in order to really use them to their full potential.
Many of these watches use Bluetooth to communicate with your phone, and are therefore able to display notifications from your phone or let you control things like your phone’s music player from your wrist.
Some smartwatches have their own cellular radios built-in so that you can use them independently, but these watches are often more expensive and clunky.
Google, however, wants to solve this headache by adding Wi-Fi support to Android Wear. The Apple Watch can also connect to W-Fi, and this new addition from Google makes its smartwatches more fit to compete directly with Apple’s.
This means you’ll be able to connect your watch to a Wi-Fi network just like you would your phone or any other computer. And, as long as your phone is turned on and has a data connection, you’ll still get notifications on your wrist even if you’re phone isn’t nearby.
The watches that support this feature will be able to switch between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when necessary, so if you’re connected to Wi-Fi and then happen to grab your phone when you return home, the watch will know to switch over to Bluetooth automatically.
The feature will only work on certain Android Wear watches, however. Although Google is building Wi-Fi support into its watches, it’s up to the companies that build these watches to put the necessary components inside their watches and enable the functionality.
Watches such as the LG Watch Urbane, Sony Smartwatch 3, and Samsung Gear Live already come with components that support Wi-Fi. So, if these companies decide to support the new feature, their watches would be able to connect to Wi-Fi sometime after Google’s new Android Wear update rolls out over the coming weeks.
It sounds like a small update, but it’s significant considering this has been such a shortcoming for smartwatches in the past.