Wear OS Lollipop

Wear OS watches

Wear OS (formerly 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 continues to get additional goodies, some more substantial than others. Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) brought some new features to Wear OS, such as the ability to control music playback on a smartwatch via Google Play Music.

LTE Connectivity

With the release of 5.1.1, Google announced that cellular support was coming to Wear OS. 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.

This functionality only works 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.

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 a small extra charge. Not everyone will see the need to spend extra money each month to ensure their smartwatch is always connected — but it's definitely worth it for those users that don't want to have their phone on them all of the time.

Wrist Gestures

The other major update Lollipop brought to Wear OS from a functionality perspective is the addition of several new wrist motions you can use to navigate through an Wear OS 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 Wear OS devices to help you master them. It's important to note that wrist gestures will inevitably 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. There is also the gesture of 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 Wear OS 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.