Google’s Director of Engineering for Android Wear, David Singleton, has confirmed that Android Wear now has more than 4,000 specifically written apps for the wearable platform, and emphasized the watchword for the OS is, “choice.” Singleton took the stage during the keynote presentation at Google I/O to give us an update on the software and its growing ecosystem.
In addition to the thousands of apps, there are 1,500 custom watch faces for Android Wear, and a grand total of seven different watches already on sale. Not bad for a platform that launched this time last year with two devices, and only a handful of apps and watch faces.
Google announced that Android Wear is in the process of being updated, but before you get too excited, it’s the 5.1.1 update many will have already received. If you own an LG Watch Urbane, it’s the same one that’s installed when you first strapped it to your wrist. It’s the fourth such update since Android Wear was released.
If your watch hasn’t received the update yet, there are several new features inside. Google says it has been inspired by the way watches were always used — glance at the screen and get the information you need. For example, the screen now remains on to show key details. This prompted the announcement of a feature we’d half seen recently — always-on Google Maps. Now, Maps will take up the whole screen when navigating, and will stay live until your reach your destination.
Other new features in the latest version of Android Wear include wrist gestures, where a flick up or down will scroll through notifications and messages. There’s a new Launcher menu where apps and contacts are stored, and you can even communicate with friends by drawing emoji on the screen, then sending them on.
Google wants to make Android Wear less reliant on the connected smartphone, and app developers are using it to better effect. For example, it’s possible to use voice activation to hail an Uber car, Foursquare will give live recommendations based on your location, and Citymapper will keep travel information live on the screen until you’re on your way.
Anyone hoping for new watches to be announced at this stage will be disappointed. We’re told only that more models will be released before the end of the year. As for the Android Wear update, if it’s not with you now, the rollout will continue over the next few weeks.