From Actions to battery life, these updates will make Android Wear 2.0 even better

It's the little things...
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With Android Wear 2.0 really only just rolling out, it's little surprise that Google isn't announcing anything huge for the wearable platform at this year's I/O. But during a developer session it did tell us about some new tweaks it's making for developers, and how they'll be good for everyone using Wear.

Some of this will be coming from Android O, which will be hitting smartphones and tablets later this year, but there are a few other things to look forward to that will improve the overall Wear experience this year - longer battery life included.

Read this: As tech giants fumble with watches, the fashion world steps up

Google is certainly still fully behind its wearable project. At I/O it said it saw a 72% growth in Android Wear devices activated over the Holiday period compared to year before. It's also seen the number of brands supporting Wear double.

So, how is Wear about to get better?

Aaaand actions


Google Assistant is becoming stronger by the day, and one of its strongest features is something called Actions on Google, which is essentially its version of Alexa's skills, letting Assistant to cooperate with third-party apps. For example, you could tell Assistant to message someone on WhatsApp, and it would know how to access it.

Actions are enabled on Google Home and, as of I/O, smartphones, but Google is going to bring this to Android Wear too. Android Wear head David Singleton explained that while Google is currently testing this with some select partner apps, it plans to fully roll out Actions to Wear "in the coming months". This will make the Assistant much more useful on the smartwatch.

Developers can still build Actions for Home and smartphones right now, and when it's enabled on Wear, they'll be automatically enabled for wearables.

It's (no longer) complicated


Google has also announced an updated complications API, which is more nifty than it sounds. For a refresh, complications are the small information updates you can put on the watch face - something that arrived with Wear 2.0. As much as we love them, not all watch face creators are implementing them right now. Google says that developers are finding it hard to create complications from scratch, so it's decided to make the job easier.

To get technical for a moment, it's introducing something to developers called TextRenderer, which auto-resizes texts to fit the area specified (that's pretty important with such little screen space), and another update which renders the entire complication layout for developers. The upshot is that developers won't have to put so much effort into the process, and you should start seeing better complications in Android Wear in the future as a result. Boom.

It wants us to have more battery


Battery life is the eternal foe of the smartwatch user - and Google knows it. At I/O it announced that it plans to put more restrictions on background processes in future iterations of Android Wear. The Android Wear team also used I/O as an opportunity to give developers advice on how to stop sucking the life out of our wearables

For example, did you know that Bluetooth is way more battery intensive than LTE or Wi-FI? Well it is, and Google wants developers to use the latter when possible to transfer data to Wear devices. It also wants developers to reduce the amount of vibrations and location checks. Hopefully this will all be taken on board.

It also wants developers to be smarter with design choices to reduce battery suck, including making use of ambient mode and using fewer animations. Did you also know that an all-white display can use up to seven times more power than a black display in interactive mode? Us neither. So expect some darker themes from here on out.

Android O is going to change Wear too


Background apps and services for Android O have new limitations on how long they can run and when they can work, and this will affect Android Wear too, helping conserve more battery life. Background services will also only get a few location updates per hour, instead of having unlimited access, which will help save that precious juice.

Notifications are changing with O by giving users more control over how they work. You'll be able to create channels, which let you be more specific about what comes through and how it comes through. For example, maybe you only want to be alerted when a big politics story breaks on a news app, but not other breaking stories; if developers have enabled this option, you'll be able to specify that you only want these notifications.

Finally, O has text autosizing, which will also apply to Wear by making sure text fills the available space. Not a huge deal, but it'll make sure everything looks nice and tidy on your wrist, and we're not going to argue with that.

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