Google has introduced WiFi support and a host of other new features with the latest update to its Android Wear app, dedicated to smartwatches running the OS of the same name.
Users now have the option of displaying apps even when their arm is relaxed or moving, such as during a jog. The update also adds new touchpad gestures for more convenience: swiping left pulls up the contacts screen, while a simple flick of the wrist allows the wearer to scroll through texts or alerts.
Significantly, the update also adds WiFi support for a range of compatible devices, including the LG Watch Urbane, Moto 360, Sony Smartwatch 3 and Samsung Gear Live. These wearables can now receive push notifications directly over a WiFi network, meaning they no longer require a Bluetooth connection to be operational.
On a more anecdotal note, Google has also added the ability to draw emoji, a fun feature not yet available on the Apple Watch. The system translates touchpad gestures into hundreds of available icons for use in messages.
Finally, the app now allows users to manage multiple wearables, including screen lock controls for each of them when not in use.
Could calls be the next step?
In the wake of the app update, rumors on the next Android Wear OS update are already swirling. Artem Russakovskii of Android Police indicates that the platform will be compatible with speaker-enabled smartwatches, meaning users will be able to make calls directly through their wrist. Currently, this is already possible on the Apple Watch or the Samsung Gear S (with the Tizen OS).
Google could also make its wearable platform compatible with iOS, according to a report from The Verge, meaning that iPhone owners would be able to take advantage of Android Wear devices. It remains to be seen, however, whether Apple will allow Google to sell an Android Wear app on the App Store.
The latest version of the Android Wear OS could be announced at the next Google I/O developers conference, which takes place May 28 and 29.
The Android Wear app is available for free download on Google Play.