Google is adding a bunch of new features to smartwatches powered by Android Wear, including the ability to connect to W-Fi, draw Emojis on your wrist, and more. The announcement comes just before the Apple Watch officially launches on April 24.
Google’s new update will focus on making the smartwatches that run on its software more independent and easier to use, so that you don’t have to rely on your phone as much.
In addition to supporting Wi-Fi, so you won’t have to be near your phone to connect to the internet with your watch, Android Wear will automatically be able to kick certain apps into low power mode. This means you can keep apps on screen for a longer period of time without draining your watch’s battery.
For example, if you’re looking at Google Maps, Android Wear would be able to display it in black and white instead of full colour so that you can keep it on screen while you’re travelling to your destination without worrying about battery.
One of the most interesting new features, however, is the ability to draw Emojis within messages. It sounds a bit like the sketching feature the Apple Watch has, which lets you draw a picture with your finger and send it to a desired contact. Google’s feature for Android Wear, however, interprets your drawing and translates it into an Emoji. It works with lots of different types of messengers, including SMS text messages, Facebook messages, and GChat.
Once you draw an image, you’re presented with a selection of Emojis to choose from that resemble your sketch. Google also says a full Emoji keyboard for Android Wear is in the works. Google says the inspiration for the Emoji sketch feature came from a hackathon that was held within the company.
Another new feature lets you simply flick your wrist to navigate through Google Now cards and notifications so that you can browse without having to touch the screen.
Android Wear is also getting a new user interface that makes it easier to flip between screens. When the update launches, you’ll be able to swipe in from the right to see all of your apps, and then swipe in from the right again to see your contacts.
This sounds a lot easier than the way Android Wear watches currently work. It’s easy to get to your Google Now cards, but there’s no real easy way to access all of your apps on Android Wear watches. You either have to use voice commands or do a lot of scrolling.
It sounds like Android Wear watches are about to get more intuitive and easier to use, but we’ll know for sure when the update rolls out in the coming weeks.