Android Wear is an adaptation of the Android OS which will be used on wearable devices such as smart watches. A number of manufacturer have pledged their support to Google’s wearable tech platform and the first devices when Google launched this platform at Google IO 2014 in San Francisco. Android wear is originally designed to be paired with a full-size smartphone.
Original Release (2014-06-25)
The first version of Android Wear was announced by Google’s Sundar Pichai at Google I/O 2014 in San Francisco. This version requires companion smartphones running on Android 4.3 (API Level 18) and above in order to run communicate. It also requires an Android v4 support, which is an old library introduced in the early days of Android. Android Wear was immediately made available to Android developers.
Android Wear has a user interface with two main elements: the Context Stream (right) and the Cue Card. The context stream is a vertical list of regular cards that the user can look at. Each card is a distinct notification that can be discarded with a swipe to the right. Without any user action, the latest notification is visible right away.
The Cue card (right) is the card opened upon saying “OK Google”, or by taking a physical action like touching the device. The Cue card shows a number of possible actions or intents that can be triggered by voice command, or touch. Google suggests that developers should make each intent very clear. Over time, app developers can add intents/actions that will trigger a request to a smartphone app.
The home screen will typically show a watch face, which is a clock design. Right now, most designs come from Google, but each manufacturer can add their own, and it is possible for 3rd parties to create watch faces. Watch faces can be changed from the Android Wear app, or directly from the watch by long-pressing the watch screen.
Having an always-on screen is a requirement of Android Wear, which is great because users should not have to push a button to see what time it is. There is also a power-savings mode that basically dims the screen to conserve power. When the user moves the writs to look at the watch, or when there is a touch gesture, the display brightens up. The user can trigger the power-savings mode by covering the screen with the palm of the hand, or simply by taking no action for a certain amount of time.
The battery level can be checked at any time by scrolling down for 0.5 screen from the home page. That’s handy if you’re having battery anxiety.
Devices: at the same time it was announced, Android Wear had hardware support from Samsung and LG who made hardware available within 24hrs of the on-stage announcement. You can read our initial preview of the LG G Watch. Other companies like Motorola, HTC and ASUS had confirmed plans for supporting the Android Wear during IO 2014. Among the most unreleased watches, the Moto 360 was the most anticipated device. Fossil did not announce anything, but was featured among the device partners of Google.
Hardware partners: behind the scenes, many hardware companies were providing the components necessary to make this happen, among them: MediaTek, Broadcom, Intel, Imagination Technologies, Qualcomm, Fossil, LG, MIPS and Samsung (semiconductors). At the event, both watches from LG and Samsung used the Snapdragon 400 processor from Qualcomm.