Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

The new features heading to your Android Wear device next year
Android Wear 2.0 essential guide

Android Wear 2.0 is set to be a massive overhaul to Google's wearable platform, although sadly we won't be seeing it until 2017.

At I/O back in May Google announced the update would arrive in the autumn, but has since delayed to the release into early next year.

Aimed at "staying connected to what matters," Android Wear 2.0 will have a focus on watch faces, messaging and fitness and standalone apps that should excite you, especially if you are an iPhone user.

Read this: Living with Android Wear 2.0

Read on to learn about everything you need to know about Android Wear 2.0…

Android Wear 2.0: Standalone apps

Standalone apps are the biggest change for the Wear ecosystem to date. In 2.0 you won't need your phone nearby to use apps on your Android Wear device. Rather, it will be able to communicate through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or cellular instead of depending on a tethered phone or cloud syncing, using a Multi-APK delivery method.

Most Wi-Fi enabled smartwatches can already connect up to Wi-Fi but this is a huge deal for Android Wear watch owners who also happen to have iPhones. It means you can download apps straight to the watch and should make up for the current lack of app support available when paired with Apple's smartphone.

Worried about security with apps running wild on your wrist? While smartphone-paired watches use secure transfer authentication data via the Wearable Data Layer API, apps will make use of AW2.0's new input methods – more on those in a bit – for username and password entry.

Which leads us to...

Android Wear 2.0: Play Store

As part of the grand untethering of phone and watch, Android Wear 2.0 will also include a standalone Play Store, meaning you'll be able to browse and download apps right to your watch.

This also means you won't need to install the apps on your phone - just the watch itself - as 2.0 doesn't require the two to be paired. Google rolled out the feature in the third version of the developer preview, and devs can now start making and publishing 2.0 apps directly to the Wear Play Store.

Android Wear 2.0: Material design

The most recent Android makeover is now making its way onto Android Wear smartwatches as well. But this won't be a simple cut and paste job.

It's being specifically optimised for Wear watches, redesigning the app launcher and creating something that's more accommodating for round screens. The way you interact with Wear has also been changed to fit in with the app launcher. Instead of the usual left and right swipe to find your apps, pushing the side button will display them in a slight arc.

There will also be a new action drawer at the bottom of the display, providing context-specific actions similar to what you'd get on a smartphone.

Android Wear 2.0: Complications

Android Wear has been playing catch up with Apple's Watch OS in making its watch faces more useful. In Wear 2.0, you'll be able to view multiple data from different third-party apps on the watch face. Think complications on Apple Watch. In fact, that's exactly what Google is calling the new watch face widgets – complications.

Now users will be able to have data from Spotify and Google Fit, for example, displayed on a single watch face and also interact with them – devs can supply data to any watch face using the API.

The way you can pick and change watch faces is going to change as well and will be "fast and fun" according to Google.

Android Wear 2.0: Messaging

Sending messages is limiting on the wrist since the screens are so tiny. That should hopefully be alleviated a bit with 2.0's new input methods. A small keyboard can be swiped to let you type out messages and handwriting recognition will let you draw out single letters or join words to send messages.

Google will be offering its own native keyboard but is also opening the door for third-party keyboard apps to offer alternatives.

And that's not all. Google is bringing over the smart replies that Gmail users will be familiar with, giving you the option of three possible responses to quickly reply to a contact. These smart replies will be generated on the watches themselves, meaning no personal info is shared with Google's servers.

Responding to messages no longer requires swiping to another screen as you'll be able to tap on the message and view more data before deciding on your next course of action.

Android Wear 2.0: Fitness

Slowly but surely, Android Wear is becoming a better place for fitness lovers. Especially with the arrival of the Moto 360 Sport and our Android Wear fave, the Sony SmartWatch 3.

In the latest Wear update Google is making big improvements with Google Fit integration, including the addition of automatic activity recognition. It'll be able to open up the relevant apps if you're going on a run, a walk or a bike ride. If you start cycling, it'll automatically launch Strava, for example.

The most interesting addition though is the ability for third-party fitness apps to exchange data through Google Fit. What that means is that your Strava cycling data or calorie burn can show up in your Fitbit companion app.

If you love working out with music, then it's much easier to launch your workout playlist, whether that's from Spotify or another music service, straight from the Wear homescreen. And your phone doesn't even need to be turned on for that, which is definitely very cool.

Android Wear 2.0: Notifications

For anyone that already uses an Android Wear watch, they will know how those Google cards have a habit of obscuring the watch faces and making the place a feel a little cluttered. Now things work a little bit differently.

When you get the cards, the watch face will display smaller icons instead of huge messages that take up space. They'll also be more manageable with a progress bar on the bottom display showing you how many cards are left in the stack.

When you raise your watch to activate it, it will pull up the card notification before it hides away again. You will still be able to swipe up from the bottom to go through your notifications as normal, but this should give Android Wear a much cleaner look and feel.

The notification cards have been redesigned as well, to show primarily light text on a black background instead of dark text on a white background. According to Google, this should help save battery life and lessen the intrusion of bright notifications.

Android Wear 2.0: It's not for everyone

2.0 won't be available for every Wear smartwatch. Older devices such as the original Moto 360 and the LG G Watch will miss out.

That's not entirely surprising, given both watches were announced more than two years ago. Google usually stops updating its Nexus phones and tablets after a similar time period – and both have been succeeded by multiple sequels.

But it is the first notable deviation away from the philosophy of a controlled smartwatch experience for all.

Getting started with Android Wear

How to set up and connect Android Wear

Best apps for Android Wear

How to install and use apps on Android Wear

How to use Android Wear with an iPhone

Best Android Wear watch faces


  • Gadgety says:

    It certainly looks like a step in the right direction. I'm missing control over sounds in the complications API, though.

  • MaryHinge says:

    What's "this fall" mean? Thought this was a UK site.

    • Grydemone says:

      It means Autumn

  • Pw1 says:

    Google fit is still way to basic, it's Needs to integrate heart rate & Sleep monitoring.

  • google_apple1 says:

    We think that non available third-party app for Apple Watch is not an issue as long as it's standard for Apple ecosystem. For instance Apple Watch 2 will increase the unique functionality over user iPhone control available in the basic for now:

  • smatofu says:

    I have tried Android Wear 2.0. The only good thing about it is the keyboard. Facewatch and navigation changes are worse than Wear 1.x which is pretty good. 

    If I navigate using swipes, I prefer to do everything with swipes. The 2.0 model is some actions with button, and other actions with swipes. 

    • GeminiPete says:

      I totally agree that the hardware button replacing the faster and easier swipe to dismiss/go back is ridiculous and cumbersome in Android Wear 2.0. I have complained to Google about this on their feedback for AW2.0 site, and have pointed out theres near-universal dislike for this "new navigation method". I have no idea if they'll listen, but there's certainly no reason they couldn't at least include an alternative like a 2finger swipe (the OS can differentiate between a single a double finger swipe), the old graffiti undo glyph (swipe right then immediately back without lifting your finger), heck even a loop or some such, just someway to quickly navigate with your finger without having to stop what you're doing and use your whole hand to press a dang button that was never required before. I just don't get why they would go from a perfectly functional and fast, easy method to one that is harder and an interruption to the work flow. My guess is the few articles complaining about swipes from people only used to non touch screen button only things like Pebbles made them think bad things about the far superior touch screen swipes to nav.  Now, if they want to throw in a rotating bezel like the Gear S2&3's then I'm all for that, even additional hardware buttons are fine,  just don't *require* them for navigating around the OS when there's a touch screen!

  • AppleWatchHater says:

    So will android wear devices be able to respond to messages now?

  • karthikvpk says:

    Will the sony smartwatch 3 receive the 2.0 update?

  • Notrash says:

    Please add possibility for user to make screen lit longer.

    It is WAY too short and annoying to use.

    • JohnnyW says:

      Download stay lit wear from the play store.

    • VinnyBoomba says:

      Wear Mini Launcher solves that problem.  You can choose from 5 seconds to 30 seconds.  I don't have experience with 2.0, but overall it's a better launcher than 1.5

  • osirhc says:

    That's super lame that the original Moto 360 won't get Wear 2.0 - guess it's time to start looking for an upgrade.

    • dragon2knight says:

      Typical Google, says one thing, does another.....guess a "universal" and "controlled" ecosystem isn't so universal or controlled anymore....there's nothing wrong with either the LG G watch(except maybe no wifi support) or the original 360(seriously? this watch does everything all the new ones do, wifi included...I call BS here...). Sounds like a money grab, the one thing Crapple is great at. Force you to "upgrade" when the hardware is just fine...guess I'm going back to Pebble, at least they give a crap about their customers.

    • dragon2knight says:

      Couldn't agree more, Google is turning into Apple, forcing an upgrade where none is needed. Whatever happened to "one platform for all"??? Guess they are as big a liar as Apple as well. The original 360 can do whatever any new one can do, easily and with no struggles, so it should easily be able to handle 2.0. I'm headed back to Pebble, they at least don't lie about what they are doing and their stated goals are always met, even if it's not so great. I prefer a company that at least try's to care.....

      • deeznuts4u says:

        There's no way the 1st get Moto 360 could handle Android Wear 2.0.  The original Moto 360 processor is dated and the watch was always laggy.  The battery was horrible. Buy a Moto 360 2nd Gen new for around $150 online. You won't ever go back to the dated 1st Gen 360. 

  • ashishagarwal says:

    Will Moto 360 2nd Gen get Android wear 2.0?? Any news?

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