What is Android Wear?

Once again reality has trumped fiction: soon we’ll all be sporting Inspector Gadget style smartwatches and chattering into our wrists like FBI agents. But as this new family of tech trickles into the shops, you might be left confused about what smartwatches actually are. Here, the O2 Gurus take a look at Android Wear, the range that uses the same platform as Android phones.

What is Android Wear?

Android Wear is exactly what it sounds like: a version of Android operating system that you wear. We recently filled you in on what Android L is, and Android Wear is the wearable version of that. At the moment it’s only found on smartwatches but over the coming years we’ll start to see it turn up on other wearable technology, like pendants, clips and maybe even Google Glass.

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What can it do?

You need to pair your Android Wear device with a phone or tablet running Android 4.3 or higher to get the most out of it. Once you’ve done that, the watch can show you calendar reminders, messages, emails and weather info on your wrist. You’ll also be able to send basic messages and emails by dictating them, or ask for directions from Google Maps just by saying, “Ok Google” and then telling it what to do.

But that’s just the beginning: as with Android on your phone, the idea is that there’ll soon be a huge library of apps that you can download to use on the wearable gadgets. There aren’t all that many at the moment, but there is a selection ranging from GPS apps for runners, ramblers and golfers to some recipe apps and Duolingo, the popular language-teaching app.

Will Android Wear help me get fit?

That’s part of the idea, yes – aside from having apps and Google Maps to help fitness fiends plan running and cycling routes, some Android Wear watches will come with sensors that let you measure speed, distance and your heart-rate.

Google has also introduced a new set of developer tools to help app makers get the most out of the life logging data you can amass using your phone or smartwatch. They’ll be able to build more complex apps that use information like the number of steps you’ve taken, the amount of sleep you get, what you’re eating and how much of it, and even things like blood sugar and pressure. This means we’ll be seeing a lot more fitness and health apps capable of doing much more advanced things on Android in the near future.

When can I get an Android Wear watch?

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You can get an Android Wear device right now: the first two watches to land were the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live (both above). Both of these have gone for a square watch-face, so if you prefer a less boxy look then you might want to wait for Motorola’s upcoming Moto 360.

Considered by many to be the best-looking of the Android Wear watches that have been shown off so far, the 360 has a round face more like a traditional watch and a slimmer strap. There’ll be no messing about with wires, either, as the 360 will use wireless charging instead of a USB port.

Moto360

No one knows exactly when the Moto 360 will come out, but industry insiders tip late July as the month to watch. As for future Android Wear devices, other tech stalwarts HTC and Asus have both said they are making watches – and anyone after something a bit more stylish will be pleased to hear that popular watch brand Fossil is also working on something Wear-flavoured.

It’s early days for Android Wear and it certainly hasn’t reached its full potential yet. But as developers create more apps and we all get used to talking to our watches, we might end up finding it strange to see Android on our phones instead of our wrists.

Will you be lining up to buy an Android watch? Let us know over on Twitter @O2 or in the comments below. 

To find out more about how wearable tech can help you get in shape, tune in to LBC Radio on Saturday at 8.30pm, when O2 Guru Davina will be talking about fitness tech. Find out more here.

You can also find us on O2 Guru TV or visit an O2 Guru in store.