Android Wear has given users lots of options for how they wish to interact with their devices since the beginning, and the forthcoming updates are going to expand those options even further.
One of the headline new features is the ability to make and take voice calls on your smartwatch. Owners of Android Wear watches like the Huawei Watch and the ASUS ZenWatch 2, both of which feature an external speaker, will be able to take advantage of this new functionality when the update rolls out in the coming weeks. Presumably we will see additional manufacturers add the necessary hardware to future devices. While I concede this seems like a ridiculous feature, I actually found it useful on more than one occasion during my time with the Samsung Gear S2.
Sticking to the voice theme, more Android Wear apps will now support sending messages by voice alone. Google Hangouts, Nextplus, Telegram, Viber, WeChat and WhatsApp will be the first to support this. Initiating a message through one of these services will be as simple as “Send a (service name) message to…”.
Android Wear is also gaining some new gesture controls to go with scrolling. Users will now be able to expand cards by holding their arm out and pushing down to show the active card’s first action and repeating the gesture to select this action. To go back you can simply raise your arm up. Opening the apps menu from the watch face relies on the same pushing down gesture. The settings menu can be accessed from the watch face by a twist of the wrist away from the user. The final new gesture is also the most simple, and that is simply shaking your wrist to either return to the watch face or cancel an action.
If any of those gestures sounded confusing, and they were to me initially, take a look at the Android Wear Help page on them.
The entire wearable market is still trying to figure out exactly what we want to do with these devices and what are the best ways to interact with them. While they aren’t appropriate for every environment, I think Google is right to keep working on voice commands and interactions with Android Wear, as one of the prime use cases for my smartwatch is getting things done when I don’t have my hands free to use my smartphone.
These updates will be rolling out to all devices in the coming weeks, with the caveat that some features, like voice calling, are restricted to devices with the necessary hardware.
What do you think of the new functionality? Is there anything in particular that you are excited to try out when the update arrives?