Google has announced the upcoming release of its Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch operating system early in February in an email to developers. Initially expected in fall 2016, this OS update is packed with new functions for owners of recent generations of compatible smartwatches.
The key new feature is the arrival of standalone applications, which can be installed directly on the wearable and function without connection to a smartphone. There won't be many of these apps available to try when Android Wear 2.0 launches, but they promise to be particularly useful, with Foursquare (location-based recommendations), Glide (video messaging) and Lifesum (health). The developers' email goes on to mention a new integrated Play Store for browsing the new applications directly from a wearable, rather than using a smartphone.
Android Wear 2.0 brings a new interface with, for example, a reworked notifications system, offering additional content and actions. Plus, Android Wear 2.0 users can enjoy more onscreen info with more options for customizing what's displayed (time, temperature, number of steps, etc.). This version of Android Wear also brings new eagerly awaited interactions, such as a veritable onscreen keyboard and handwriting recognition for writing messages with your finger, for example.
As with the smartphone version of Android, Android Wear 2.0 is likely to roll out progressively, coming to different brands and models at different times. Android Wear notably powers the Moto 360, the Huawei Watch, the LG Watch Urbane, the Asus ZenWatch 3 and the Sony SmartWatch 3. Most of these models should be in line for the update. Samsung, on the other hand, has its own in-house operating system called Tizen.
The roll-out could also be accompanied by Google's first own-brand smartwatches, currently known under their codenames "Swordfish" and "Angelfish."