Google today announced Android Wear 2.0, the biggest update to its wearable operating system since its release back in September 2014. The biggest change with the software, which releases this fall, is apps can be run standalone without the need for a phone nearby. In fact, Google's David Singleton, the company's head of wearables, says the onstage demo shown today at its I/O developer conference was done with the accompanying Android smartphone turned off the entire time. Android Wear watches will now connect to Wi-Fi networks on their own, or rely completely on cellular when you're on the go.
Google says the overhaul will help Android Wear focus on health and fitness, messaging, and customization. For instance, watch faces can show data from any app now, similar to the Apple Watch's complications feature. Conversing via text with the watch is now easier, with better auto replies, handwriting recognition, and even a tiny swipeable keyboard. The software will also do automatic exercise recognition and sync with third-party apps and exchange data via Google Fit.
To help unify design around Android Wear watch faces and apps, the company today also released a Material Design guide for the software. The online guide goes through every aspect of Android Wear software design, from color, typography, and icons to how best to think about the way each layer on the screen interacts with one another. This should go a long way in helping developers create more consistent experiences for Android smartwatches.