A Look at What's New in Wear OS 2.0

A Keyboard, Revamped Notifications and More Equal a Better Smartwatch Platform

A Look at What's New in Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) 2.0
Google

Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) was a major overhaul of Google's wearable platform. Here is a look at included features, along with information on when the next updated platform will become available.

The Timeline

If you own an Android smartwatch, your watch is using Wear OS 2.0 to power everything it does. The current version became available in 2014. An update to the software is expected from Google in October 2018.

Overview: Wear OS (formerly Android Wear)

On the most superficial level, Wear OS offers a modern style for a watch interface and a darker color palette. The wearable platform features loosely color-coded notifications that help you quickly see which app any given pop-up notification is tied to. Plus, notifications slide up and out of view, so they don't obscure the watch face as much as previously. Finally, Wear OS includes a keyboard along with smart replies to messages and handwriting recognition — all to help you communicate quickly and relatively easily.

Now that you have the big picture, let's dive into the specifics.

A Rundown of the Updates From Wear OS 2.0

1. A Smart Interface — The intuitive design affects how you interact with your smartwatch. For example, Wear OS notifications are small but will sport a color code that lets you know which app they're related to. So a new email received through the Gmail app will sport a red color, along with a tiny Gmail icon. ​

The interface also features expanded notifications so you can view more text in an email, for example.

2. An Improved Watch Face Selector — Because watch faces are one of the top ways to customize a smartwatch (and since there are so many great options for Wear OS users), it gets its own list item here.

3. Apps Can Now Function More Independently — Wear OS 2.0 brought independence to your smartwatch: With 2.0, your smartwatch does not need to be paired to your smartphone for apps to work. So even if your phone is far away or simply not connected to your Wear OS watch, your Wear OS apps should be able to deliver push messages and other important information. This is likely one of the features that you might not actively notice, but it still makes an important (and positive) difference in how you interact with your wearable.

4. Complications Come to Wear OS — You may recognize the concept of complications if you've ever used an Apple Watch and tried playing around with its watch face options. As the name implies, these are additional bits of information, and the way they relate to Wear OS is that watch faces for any app can now display a variety of extra info. Think weather, stock stats and more, depending on the third-party app in question. On the developer side, this means an app maker can choose to share certain aspects of his or her app with watch faces.

5. Keyboard and Handwriting Input — Wear OS lets you reply to incoming messages by voice or with emojis that you can draw on-screen and now includes a full keyboard and handwriting recognition — the latter of which lets you draw out letters on your smartwatch screen. Thankfully, given the tight size constraints of the on-screen keyboard, if you're skilled, you can even swipe out a message rather than hunting and pecking for each individual letter. Plus, Wear OS offers suggestions for the next words once you start typing, so the process isn't too painful. Since third-party apps are able to use the keyboard and handwriting recognition features, communicating across the board on Wear OS is fairly easy.

6. Google Fit Updates — Last on the list of major feature updates is Google Fit, which is responsible for tracking your movement data across apps. With Android 2.0, apps are able to automatically detect activity such as running, walking and biking. This may not be the biggest announcement when it comes to Wear OS improvements, but it's an important one, especially considering the current competitive state of the fitness tracking business.