Apple's Spring Forward event on Monday reportedly shook up Google's headquarters, which is now planning to include a couple of extra features to make Android Wear devices a more attractive alternative to the Apple Watch.
A report by The Verge claims Google will be releasing a firmware update to Android Wear that will include support for Wi-Fi and gesture control. The report does not mention when Google plans to roll out the update, but The Verge cites a person knowledgeable with Android Wear's road map that the new features will come with Android Wear's next firmware update.
Many smartwatches running on Android Wear, including the Samsung Gear Live, the Asus ZenWatch, and the LG Watch Urbane, are powered by a Snapdragon chip that has a built-in Wi-Fi module, so a simple firmware update should immediately activate Wi-Fi in these devices. Currently, Android Wear supports only Bluetooth, which means the smartwatches lose much of their functionality when they are not paired to a smartphone via Bluetooth.
With Wi-Fi included, Android Wear smartwatches will continue to function as usual and do things such as push notifications and launch Google Now even if the user left his smartphone at home.
Also to come with the update is gesture control, or the ability for users to scroll through notifications and Google Now cards simply with a flick of the wrist. This eliminates the need for users to swipe the device's screen when checking notifications.
Google will also be introducing a few minor changes to the interface, including adding easier access to apps and contacts. Right now, users have to go through several layers of menus to access their apps and contacts or, in devices that support voice, bark out voice commands to open the apps.
The report comes just a day after Apple unveiled the details of Apple Watch, which surprisingly brings a healthy collection of apps and services that can be used via Wi-Fi even when the watch is not currently connected to an iPhone.
And while the Apple Watch does not support gesture control, the Retina display comes with Touch Force, a technology that allows the watch to recognize varying degrees of forces that trigger various actions. For instance, a light tap could possibly open notifications while a deep press could change the watch face.
Google has been recently very vocal about the improvements it is bringing to Android Wear following the lead up to the Apple Watch's release. Some of these improvements include better APIs for app developers and new Android Wear apps, such as Sleep for Android, Google Play Music, and Todoist.
In December, Android Wear manufacturers sold more than 700,000 smartwatches since July. Apple says it expects to sell 30 million units of the Apple Watch in its first year.
Photo: Maurizio Pesce | Flickr