Android Wear update: Everything you need to know

Custom watch faces could be the new apps on the Google Play Store
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The Android Wear update has arrived, just in time for its new Pac-Man watch face to sway you into buying a smartwatch as a Christmas treat.

The update is rolling out to users right now and is a smart mixture of the watch faces we've been waiting for and genuinely useful new features and settings.

Essential reading: The best fitness trackers you can buy

Read on to find out what you can look forward to and swing back round to Wareable for our first impressions of the new features when our update lands.

You can download 30 fresh watch faces right now

Head over to Google Play and you'll find a promising new collection of 30 Android Wear watch faces. Once your Wear app has been updated you can download these as you choose. All six existing Android Wear devices are catered for with round and square designs and we're impressed by the initial range. Some have obviously been designed with hardware in mind, such as the gold Rebecca Minkoff design for the Moto 360.

There's trendy minimalist watch faces from the makers of Monument Valley ustwo, the aforementioned Pac-Man face, round diver watch styles and Behance and 500px downloads that let you have photography and artwork as your Wear background. Even Porsche has designed its own watch face.

Most are free but some, like the Despicable Me design, are paid for - the most we've seen so far is 63p.

Finally, some watch faces feature animations - an obvious battery drain - but it's up to you what you go for. The e-paper Pebble can get away with animations and still last days and days. With Android Wear, it's probably best to go static.

More watch faces are coming

With Android Wear's long rumoured Watch Face API, this first thirty won't be alone for long. Developers can now build their own Wear watch faces and stick them on Google Play and the Android Wear app has been updated to make it easier to browse, download and switch watch faces.

Submissions will have to meet guidelines for Wear App Quality – e.g. the ambient mode of watch faces must be black and white with no animations.

Google is also recommending that any keen developers who have created watch faces already make them official now the API is available.

Cards are easier to live with

We've had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Google's notification cards. They can be incredibly useful at times and just get in the way at others.

The new update brings the ability to bring back a card you've swiped away to the right. An undo button will appear just after you've flicked away that email so if you immediately decide you need another quick read, you can bring it back. It sounds small but it gets rid of an annoying day-to-day problem.


There's mute and display quick settings

Another not particularly glamorous but useful addition. Swipe down from the watch face (as you would now to mute and see battery life) and the updated Android Wear presents you with a quick settings menu.

This has already been tried, quite successfully, by third party Wear apps and here you have the choice of Sunlight mode (maximum brightness), Theater mode (screen off and mute) and a smarter general mute.

If your phone is running Android 5.0, you can choose for both the phone and your watch to let through all, none or priority notifications. The two devices can't have different settings for now but it's a start.

You can see which apps are mashing your battery

We don't expect this to have a huge impact on Android Wear's battery. You're not suddenly going to get seven days from your Moto 360. But it is nice to be able to see the battery-sucking culprits and now you can in settings.

The update also lets you keep an eye on which apps are taking up the most storage, as you would on your smartphone.

You don't need Lollipop on your smartphone

Before the update was announced, it was being referred to as the 'Lollipop' update for Android Wear. Google says the latest Android Wear release is based on Android 5.0 Lollipop. But it's not stupid - plenty of us haven't upgraded to Lollipop yet.

So, as before, any Android phone running 4.3 and above can get the update to the Android Wear app and their device.

How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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