Android Wear 2.0 is set to be a massive overhaul to Google's wearable platform, and it looks as if it's about to land.
At I/O back in May 2016 Google announced the update would arrive in the following autumn, but the search giant later admitted it had been delayed until 2017.
Concentrated on "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 can 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 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 either, 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
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 that 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.