The Latest in Android Wear: LTE Support and Wrist Gestures

Incremental Updates Are Improving This Wearable Software.

Google

It's been a while since I touched on Android Wear, the Google-made operating system that powers wearable devices such as the Moto 360 smartwatch from Motorola, along with smartwatches from ASUS, Huawei, and other manufacturers. The software, now on version 1.4, continues to get additional goodies, some more substantial than others.

Several months back, Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) brought some new features to Android Wear, such as the ability to control music playback on a smartwatch via Google Play Music.

Keep reading on for some more recently added features.

LTE

Back in early November, Google announced that cellular support was coming to Android Wear. This means that when you're out of the range of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you'll still be able to use your smartwatch to send and receive messages, use apps and more so long as your smartphone and watch can both connect to a cellular network.

Of course, this announcement doesn't mean that all Android Wear watches suddenly can connect to cellular networks. This functionality will only work on watches that sport an LTE radio under the hood. The first smartwatch to include this feature was set to be the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, available from AT&T and Verizon Wireless, but apparently, due to faulty components, this product was canceled. We'll have to wait and see which other new smartwatches will include the necessary radios.

Though the product was canceled, according to Verizon, the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE could be added to an existing plan with the carrier for an extra $5 a month.

Not everyone will see the need to spend extra money each month to ensure their smartwatch is always connected — but it's at least nice to see that doing so doesn't necessarily require shelling out a ton of extra money.

Wrist Gestures

The other major update to Android Wear from a functionality perspective is the addition of several new wrist motions you can use to navigate through an Android Wear smartwatch's on-screen interface.

First off, know that to use these wrist gestures, you'll first have to turn on Wrist Gestures in the Settings menu. To do so, swipe left on your watch face, scroll down and tap Settings and then Touch Wrist Gestures. Note that using these motions will likely require a bit of practice — luckily, Google even has a tutorial built ​into Android Wear devices to help you master them — and they'll also eat into battery life, though only moderately.

As an example of what gestures can accomplish, here's the protocol for the most basic of actions: scrolling through cards. To navigate between bite-sized screens of information on your device, flick your wrist away from you, then slowly turn it back in your direction. The most recently added wrist gestures include going backward — which requires quickly lifting your arm upward and then bringing it back to its starting position — and taking action on a card, which is basically the same move in the opposite direction; moving your arm down quickly then lifting it again.

Bottom Line

Like with the newly added cellular support, wrist gestures aren't necessarily a make or break features for all Android Wear users — especially since you can already accomplish the same tasks by swiping and tapping on your device's touchscreen.

Still, it's a good sign that Google is continuing to build on its wearable software, and any additional functionality helps advance the case for adding another mobile device to your tech toolbox.

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