Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Everything you need to know about Google's new OS
Android Wear 2.0 essential guide

Android Wear 2.0, the biggest update for Google's smartwatch OS so far, is finally here. The updated smartwatch OS has launched on two brand new Android watches and has also been arriving on existing Wear watches.

The LG Watch Style and the LG Watch Sport are the lead devices for the updated platform and both are available right now. A barrage of Wear 2.0 smartwatches are set to launch in the coming months - more on that down the page.

Essential reading: When will Android Wear 2.0 come to my device?

The update adds a whole host of new features, has an emphasis on custom watch faces, fitness and standalone apps. iPhone users are also in line for a much better iOS/Android Wear experience.

Read on to get up to speed with 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 don't need your phone nearby to use apps on your Android Wear device. Using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or cellular instead of depending on a tethered phone or cloud syncing, your smartwatch now remains much more functional away from your phone.

Where's mine: Android Wear 2.0 update for existing smartwatches

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 now download apps straight to the watch, making up for the previous lack of app support available when paired with Apple's smartphone.

We've been told by Google to expect hundreds of standalone Android Wear apps for the launch period. Existing apps, developed for Wear 1.x, will also still work.

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

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

As part of the grand untethering of phone and watch, Android Wear 2.0 now includes a standalone Play Store, meaning you're able to browse and download apps right to your smartwatch.

This also means you don't need to install the apps on your phone – just the watch itself – as 2.0 doesn't require the two to be paired.

Android Wear 2.0: Material design

The most recent Android makeover has now made its way onto Android Wear smartwatches. But it's not a simple cut and paste job.

The design has been 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. You can even put your favourite apps up the top by holding and dragging them.

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

These new menus and the like are also much easier to control thanks to Wear 2.0 supporting a rotational input. On the new LG duo a moveable watch dial allows you to move up and down menus, zoom in and out and so on, but the new hardware control option doesn't have to be a side scroller; the platform supports any rotational input. Samsung-style rotating bezel anyone?

Android Wear 2.0: Watch faces

Android Wear has been playing catch-up with Apple's Watch OS in making its watch faces more useful. In Wear 2.0, you are 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 also much better now. You can simply line up your favourite faces and swipe from the existing watch face to access them. For example, you could have three different faces lined-up, complete with relevant complications, for work, running and home-time and access them with easy swiping.

Android Wear 2.0: Messaging

Sending messages is limiting on the wrist since the screens are so small, but 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 is 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 are 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 are 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 likes of the Moto 360 Sport, Polar M600, Nixon's The Mission and the New Balance RunIQ. And the new LG Watch Sport too, of course.

In the latest Wear update Google has made big improvements with Google Fit integration, including the addition of individual activity counting within Fit – think press-up reps and the like.

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.

Talking of music, streaming tunes is now an option. The updated Google Play Music app allows you to stream music not stored on your watch using Wi-Fi or LTE connectivity.

Also, when you work out with a cellular-connected Android Wear device, you can still use the calling and messaging functionality.

Android Wear 2.0: Notifications

Anyone that has used an Android Wear watch will know how those Google notification cards had 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 are 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 pulls up the card notification before it hides away again. You are still able to swipe up from the bottom to go through your notifications as normal, but it gives Android Wear a much cleaner look and feel.

The notification cards themselves 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: Android Pay

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Android Pay is on board Wear 2.0, bringing contactless payments to smartwatches that pack NFC.

Like its Apple and Samsung rivals, you simply load up your bank card to the device and tap away to buy that coffee or pretzel (other items are available).

Android Wear 2.0: Google Assistant

Android Wear 2.0 also adds Google Assistant to your smartwatch, helping you to find answers using your voice. It's like Alexa but less good.

You can ask Google Assistant about the weather, get it to set timers or remind you to buy a coffee or a pretzel (other items are available) – you just hold down the standby button on your watch or say "Ok Google."

Android Wear 2.0: It's not for everyone

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Wear 2.0 isn't available for every Wear smartwatch. Older devices such as the original Moto 360 and the LG G Watch 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.

Sony has confirmed the SmartWatch 3 won't be getting Wear 2.0 either but an unofficial Wear 2.0 update for the SmartWatch 3 is in the works.

It's the first notable deviation away from the philosophy of a controlled smartwatch experience for all.

This is the official list of existing devices, many of which should now be running the new software: Asus ZenWatch 2 & 3; Casio Smart Outdoor Watch; Fossil Q Founder; Fossil Q Marshal; Fossil Q Wander; Huawei Watch; LG Watch R; LG Watch Urbane and 2nd Edition LTE; Michael Kors Access; Moto 360 2nd-gen; Moto 360 Sport; New Balance RunIQ; Nixon's The Mission; Polar M600; and the Tag Heuer Connected.

Android Wear 2.0: New smartwatches

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Already on sale and rocking Wear 2.0 are the LG Watch Sport and Watch Style, the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45, the Huawei Watch 2 (and Huawei Watch 2 Classic).

Next to hit the shops will be the Casio WSD-F20 and the ZTE Quartz in April. The Montblanc Summit will launch in May, along with Verizon's Wear24. Those will be followed by a plethora of launches later in 2017. Here's the list...

Movado Connect, Misfit Vapor, Hugo Boss Touch, Tommy Hilfiger T24/7, Diesel On, Guess Connect, Gc Connect, Fossil Q Venture and Q Explorist, Emporio Armani Connected, Michael Kors Access Bradshaw and Access Sofie.

Busy times indeed.


Shop for recommended Android Wear watches on Amazon

LG Watch Sport
LG Watch Sport
$450
Huawei Watch
Huawei Watch
$289.99
Polar M600
Polar M600
$329.95
Nixon The Mission
Nixon The Mission
$372.91

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40 Comments

  • Gadgety says:

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

    • harshiloh says:

      I want to try custom app development in Android wear 2.0.

      Which watch is available in market right now with wear 2.0, please share the details.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • Bob73927 says:

      Yes.

  • jac101 says:

    will the beta work with iphone?

  • greniesa says:

    Him on the third release of Android wear 2.0 beta, and I wonder if there's still a way to send apps from the phone? I use some apps that have the wear version that was sent from the phone,  but now that the Play Store is there, it doesn't send anymore . 

    These apps haven't send their apk to the new "unreleased"  Android Wear Play Store , so is their a way to force to send from the phone?

  • Kingbingo says:

    I got confirmation directly from Sony today that the Sony smartwatch 3 will be compatible with 2.0. and you can buy it for £80 in Currys PCWORLD making a very accessible android wearable. Not prettiest but I don't think that Apple offering is all that.

    • jacobfrostholm says:

      Would you mind posting their exact reply please.

  • joshbatt93 says:

    Will the Nixon 'The Mission' watch recieve the update?

  • Xfoneguy says:

    I'm confused - when I search for the Android Wear App in the PlayStore, the version number is listed as 2.0.0.141.xxxx?  I thought this doesn't arrive until next year??

    • nazhussain says:

      The Android Wear app is not the same thing as the Android Wear OS, the latter of which is being upgraded to version 2.0 in the new year. 

  • Abranda says:

    So does this mean that a smart watch paired with an iPhone will now work on wifi?  I got a beautiful Fossil Q Wander for Christmas but it constantly disconnects from my iPhone SE and drives me crazy.  

  • Kemshadows1103 says:

    Will sony smartwatch 3 get an update of android wear 2.0?

  • Juang3d says:

    Now that CES2017 it´s done, is there a release date for this?? 

    And when that release is done, how much time usually takes to motorola to update the Moto360 Sport?

    (I´m new to Android Wear from this christmas)

    Cheers!

  • yogibimbi says:

    Graffiti for Wear 2.0 please!

  • jeffie2 says:

    Been playing with last dev preview on my huaweis for a while now and so far I like 2.0 very much. New dark theme, design changes, complications and especially the new play store with "standalone" apps so i can finally look install indepently from my phone. Not too many apps there yet (i like new runtastic, ezride, of course many apps from google...), but hopefully we'll get there soon

  • shaunMcmahon says:

    Looking forward to getting this on my moto360sport. Have found its functionality a bit limited. Hoping one of the running apps gets audio cues and predicted finish times. This is the 2 features i miss most from the smart phone running apps. All the hardware is there just need someone to program in the functionality.

  • GlobalLive says:

    I have to installed on the Urbane 2 and have to reboot the phone about every 30 minutes because it drops connection.

  • jjjmmm says:

    how can I tell if my watch has been upgraded? 

  • jjjmmm says:

    how do I know if my watch has been upgraded to 2.0?

  • shawndrahorton says:

    I am so confused about how to use this watch. If I look up another video I am going to scream, wheres the manuel on how operate the apps.

    The one app that wont work on my watch is Google Fit... PLEASE tell me that this was not a mistake to have purchased..... - Michael Kors

  • jimmy01 says:

    not enough. need a document with details on how to set up watch and phone. It took me hours to make my watch/apps work mediocritly.  Also all the setting on my android phone.  No, Android wear does not turn on/off the settings on phone correctly. 

  • Kshultz says:

    How do I send a text message on the new 2.0 wear? My messages option is not in the apps? I can respond to a text, but I can't send a new message. 

  • Omnibus34 says:

    where's the owners manual?.  Major upgrade has me guessing.  Took a while to find "timer" for instance.  LG urbane.

  • Dynamize says:

    Yuck, yuck, yuck....

    What an utter ball of s**t. I hate Android Wear 2.0, so much so that I have gone back to my dumb watch.... Anyone want an LG Urbane with Android Wear 2.0 on it? I don't want this garbage anymore.

    Android Wear 1.5 had some big problem but I was hopeful that Wear 2.0 would solve a lot of those.... It did not and it introduced soooooooo many more. I have something on my wrist that is worse than a dumb watch because it keeps randomly buzzing on my wrist, sometimes it is a notification, sometimes its' a hidden notification and some times its just to see if it can p**s me off. Well it can. Oh GOD I hate it. Did I mention that I hate it. It's horrible, nothing works and when it does, rarely i'll add, they took away all the functionality that I like. All of it and I am left with balls, a sack of puss that is infecting my feeling for tech.....

    Google what were you thinking and why can't I just go back to 1.5 I mean it had its problems but in comparison to Wear 2.0 it was a golden egg.

  • dares says:

    Hi,

    I update my android ware to 2.0 (LG GR watch). in this update i have major issue. their is no call answer option when watch getting a call, its only have call busy option. please looking to this matter.

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