The fourth Android Wear 2.0 developer preview is finally here, and it brings a number of very welcome updates to the upcoming operating system. In fact, according to a blog post from Google, there are a number of major changes to the operating system in developer preview 4, as well as a number of minor tweaks.
Android Wear has had a bit of a rough go of it in the past few months. Android Wear-based watches have really stopped being released, and Google pushed the launch of Android Wear 2.0 by a few months — it was originally set to be released before the end of the year, but now won’t be available until early 2017.
Perhaps the biggest change to Android Wear 2.0 is that apps, which can run natively on Android Wear without a companion app, can now offer in-app billing. These purchases can be authorized by users with a simple four-digit PIN number. Google has also introduced an API that will allow developers to cross-promote their phone and watch apps by sending users to the Google Play Store on a phone from a watch app.
Google has also reintroduced the swipe-to-dismiss gesture. For those who haven’t yet tested out Android Wear 2.0, it might come as a surprise to hear that early versions of the new OS didn’t allow users to swipe away notifications. Thankfully, that feature has now returned. Last but not least is the fact that hardware buttons on the watch are now mapped to “power” and not to “back.”
The search giant has also released a developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 specifically for China. It looks like the preview will only be available for testing on the Huawei Watch.
“With Android Wear 2.0, apps can access the internet directly on Android Wear devices,” according to the Android Developers blog. “As a result, for the majority of apps, having a companion phone application is no longer necessary.”
Android Wear 2.0 is set to release in a few months, and will hopefully reinvigorate interest in the operating system. Google is obviously hoping that both developers and manufacturers will want to take advantage of the new changes.
Article originally published in December. Updated on 12-14-2016 by Julian Chokkattu: Added in news of Android Wear 2.0 for China.