The first smartwatches featuring Google’s Android Wear software are scheduled to launch in the first half of 2014. They’re designed to give you at-a-glance information on your wrist and respond to voice commands and touch gestures. But you don’t have to wait for the LG G Watch or Motorola Moto 360 to get a sense of how the watches will work.

android wear ui_01

Google has released a preview SDK for Android Wear. It’s designed to let developers add support for wearables to their apps, but it also gives the rest of us an early glimpse of how Google’s new wearable platform will work when it launches to the public.

The folks at Ars Technica, Android Police and Tom’s Guide have in-depth overviews, but here are some of the highlights:

  • The home screen is a pretty simple screen with a clock, voice input button and room for a notification.
  • Swipe down from the top of the screen to view more details including the battery level and date.
  • Swipe up or down on the screen to move through notifications.
  • If notifications support additional actions such as replying to a message, you can access those actions by swiping from the right side of the screen.
  • You can dismiss a notification by swiping from the left side of the screen.
  • The SDK currently supports devices with round, 320 x 320 pixel displays and square 280 x 280 pixel screens.

At this point there doesn’t appear to be a way to create third party apps that run directly on an Android Wear device. Instead the preview SDK lets developers create apps that can send notifications to a device running Android Wear.

Google Android Wear UI

That means a smartwatch running Android Wear might not be much use without a smartphone… unless you just want to use it to tell the time. But as a smartphone companion, an Android Wear device could let you see and respond to notifications from a variety of apps without pulling your phone out of your pocket.

Ars Technica reports that any app which shows notifications on your Android 4.3 or later phone should already be able to send notifications to an Android Wear device, no extra code required. But that doesn’t mean developers won’t be able to add new features designed specifically for watches and other wearables.

One of Google’s promotional videos for Android Wear shows people using their watches to identify songs, track calories burned and other activity-related info, search Google for information such as sports scores, or even open a garage door… suggesting that third-party apps and functions could be in the works (or maybe an official Google garage-door opener is under development).

Think of it sort like the Chromecast SDK which lets developers create Android apps that run on your phone, but which can send content to your Chromecast.

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6 replies on “Closer look at how Android Wear smartwatches will work”

  1. Personally I’m not in hurry to break out features from my smartphone into separate devices.

  2. Cool I guess. What’s the expected battery life of these things? It’d be nice if they’re solar powered to help increase the time between charges.

    Do these also synchronize it’s time including daylight savings via radio waves from Atomic clock stations?

  3. What? What? No 16:9 or wider aspect ratio? No 4K resolution (even if it would take a microscope to know it)? Seems out of place for an article here!

  4. Eventually, I’d like to see these watches be viable stand alone options so that we don’t have to carry out huge smartphones everywhere. That will require a very slick UI and lots of voice features through a bluetooth earpiece, but with Siri and Google Now, I think that is where things are headed.

    Laptops replaced desktops. Tablets are replacing laptops. Phablets can replace tablets. Hopefully a watch will replace a basic smartphone.

    1. Laptops did not replace desktops, desktops are still around. Tablets can not replace laptops; a netbook or a 2 in 1 might be able to replace a laptop though. Phablets can replace tables, but not everyone likes huge phones. 4.5 to 5 inches is about the max most people will use in a smart phone.

      1. By replace, I meant dramatically cut into sales. Look at desktop sales since laptops popularized… and the same has happened to laptop sales over the last 2 years because of tablets. And I think it is fair to say that when people stop buying one tech in favor of another then it is being replaced- even if they do not exactly duplicate every function. You can go further back to the earliest computers that were “replaced” by desktops- even through many large companies still rely rooms full of servers.

        Currently a lot of people have abandoned watches in favor of their phones. But I hope that eventually the reverse becomes the case. I’d much rather wear a watch than carry a phone everywhere- especially when active. The whole appeal of this Liliputing site is the possibility that our tech will become less burdensome both in form and function.

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