Google showed off their big update to Android Wear this week and the company is calling it the biggest update to the platform yet. Here’s a quick summary of what they’ve added:
- Watch face complications
- New app launcher
- A keyboard for text entry
- Smart messaging auto-responses
This feels like a very small update overall, and has not gotten me any more excited about the platform. The addition of watch face complications is a welcome change, but only gets them caught up to watchOS, and the new app launcher looks no less terrible than Apple’s launcher.
I am intrigued by the smart response suggestions for messaging and keyboard text entry. Sure, the keyboard is terrible, but I like the handwriting recognition option, where I can write out words on the screen and Wear will convert them to text. Voice input is obviously a better input method for a device so small, but there are times where I want to reply to a text message and I’m in a position where it would just be awkward to talk into my wrist. I currently have to take my phone out of my pocket to type out a couple words that would be faster to scribble on my watch’s tiny screen.
I’m also happy to see Google put a focus on speed in this release, as that is the Achilles heel of smart watches right now. The Apple Watch would be an absolutely stupendous product if all of its features worked as fast as we’d like, but they just don’t. The videos make it look like Google has sped things up partially by removing all animations, which makes everything look a little cheap.
Ultimately, I’m pretty underwhelmed by this year’s update to Android Wear. There are no features that make me feel like I need to trade in my Apple Watch. Frankly, this release feels like Google is still playing catch up with watchOS 1.0. Apple is likely to show off watchOS 3 in a month and pull even further ahead.