Google is rolling out an update to its Android Wear platform that brings new features to existing (and upcoming) smartwatches.
One of the biggest changes is support for WiFi, allowing you do more with your watch even when your smartphone’s not around.
The update also adds support for always-on apps, allowing apps to stay visible until you dismiss them so that they don’t disappear as soon as you drop your arm.
When you drop your arm the screen will still dim to save battery power. But always-on apps for the always-on screen mean that you won’t have to repeatedly open up the same shopping list app as you stroll through the grocery store, for example.
As for WiFi support, up until recently Android Wear devices could only connect to the internet by pairing with your smartphone via Bluetooth and using your phone’s internet connection.
Now that the watches can go online without your phone, you can send messages, view notifications, and interact with other apps that require an internet connection when your phone isn’t handy.
Note sure your watch has the hardware to support WiFi? It turns out many existing Andorid Wear models including the Moto 360 already have WiFi hardware. It just won’t be enabled until after this software update rolls out.
If you’re keeping track, that means Android Wear now supports WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Add support for cellular data and you might not need a smartphone at all anymore.
There are a few more changes in the latest Android Wear update, including support for a new “flick your wrist” gesture to scroll through notifications without touching the screen, quicker access to your contacts, and support for drawing emoji on the watch screen.