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All about Android Wear 2.0: The latest from Google I/O 2016


Google launched Android Wear 2.0 at Google I/O. The new version of the smartwatch OS will roll out to devices later in the year, developers can get their hands on the developer version right away. The update brings a set of Google’s Material Design guidelines for the UI. The UI has been enhanced with more functionality and options given to developers. There are capabilities for notifications added, along with better input mechanisms. Android Wear 2.0 also reduces the dependence of smartwatches on an associated smartphone.

Revamped UI: Android Wear 2.0 adds a Complications API. The Complications API allows app developers to create small, iconic complications that provide status updates at a glance. This is a way for apps to display critical data on the screen, retrieved from a local or online data source. The complications are usually an icon, and a short text string. Apple’s smartwatches offer a similar functionality. Developers can use their complications with third party watch faces as well.

Action drawers have been introduced. The navigation drawer on the top allows users to switch between application views. These are say, settings, contacts and chats in a messaging application. At the bottom is the action drawer, that are contextual possible reactions to what is on screen. For example, in the messaging app, composing a reply, sending an attachment or location are options.

There are a comprehensive set of UI guidelines for applications. The focus was on creating content for round screens. Navigation is streamlined to a single scroll. A combination of swipes and scrolls to navigate through an application is not cool. Applications have been asked to reduce themselves to the most critical functions. Developers are advised to test if all the information on the screen is legible at a quick glance, while the devices are in movement.

Redesigned notifications and Input: The capabilities for notifications have been expanded. There is a special type of notification reserved for messenger apps. There is a first action in the notification area that shows the one most natural response right up front. The response in the notification area is not mirrored in the action drawer. The action drawer shows a list of other possible reactions.

There is a bridging mode to handle redundant updates and notifications on the smartwatch as well as a smartphone. Something known as a dismiss ID has been added. The dismiss ID keeps track of which notifications were discarded by the user, and makes sure that they do not show up again on another device.

There is an input method framework. Dictation, emoji and canned responses are some of the input options available. The input method framework gives users options for reacting. Smart replies are machine generated suggestions. You can trace out a response on the screen using natural handwriting. There is also a qwerty keyboard, which is understandably a little cramped.

Unpaired Smartwatch: Android Wear 2.0 makes smartwatches more independent from smartphones. The smartwatches can connect to online services without using a phone as an intermediary. Though few watches have a dedicated sim card, the OS supports it. The Smartwatch can also use a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection on its own. There are new APIs released for these functionalities.

Because of the increased capabilities of the device, they have more powerful authentication mechanisms now. Usernames and passwords can be entered through the watch itself, and there are text editing capabilities. Android Wear 2.0 also has an account manager.