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Google Issues Android Wear 2.0 Dev Preview, Delays Final Release

In announcing a new developer preview of Android Wear 2.0, Google indicated the final release of the OS for smartwatches won't happen until early next year.

That latter news tidbit came in one sentence near the end of a blog post published yesterday: "We've decided to continue the preview program into early 2017, at which point the first watches will receive Android Wear 2.0." The final release had been expected this fall.

The company didn't indicate if the delay was due to development problems (a press inquiry is awaiting response), or some other issue. [Note: Google responded with, "We decided to continue the developer preview program until early 2017, to ensure we have enough time to improve and iterate based on all of the great feedback we’ve gotten from the developer community so far."]

Meanwhile, Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview 3 is available.

Highlighting this dev preview is the addition of Google Play on the Wear OS via a new Play Store app. The company said on-watch access to the store will make it easier for users to discover and install apps directly on a watch, helping developers garner more app users.

"We asked developers like you what you wanted most out of Android Wear, and you told us you wanted to make it easier for users to discover apps," said developer advocate Hoi Lam in yesterday's post. "So we ran studies with users to find out where they expected and wanted to discover apps -- and they repeatedly looked for and asked for a way to discover apps right on the watch itself. Along with improvements to app discovery on the phone and Web, the Play Store on the watch helps users find apps right where they need them."

Animated Gif Showing Google Play Access from Watch Face (click image to see animation)
Animated Gif Showing Google Play Access from Watch Face (click image to see animation) (source: Google)

While searching Google Play from a watch UI might seem problematic, Lam said users will have several options to do so, including using voice, keyboard, handwriting or recommended queries. Wares will also be available on Wear by browsing apps in the home view.

"Perhaps the coolest feature: If users want an app on their watch but not on their phone, they can install only the watch app," Lam said. "In fact, in Android Wear 2.0, phone apps are no longer necessary. You can now build and publish watch-only apps for users to discover on Google Play."

Another new feature is improved functionality for complications, which are any features on a watch face that display more information than just hours and minutes.

"Starting with Developer Preview 3, watch face developers will need to request RECEIVE_COMPLICATION_DATA permission before the watch face can receive complication data," Lam said. "We have added ComplicationHelperActivity to make this easier. In addition, watch face developers can now set default complications, including a selection of system data complications which do not require special permission (e.g. battery level and step count), as well as data providers that have whitelisted the watch face."

Lastly, there are behavior changes related to ComplicationData to 1) help better differentiate various scenarios leading to 'empty data' and 2) ease development by returning a default value for fields not supported by a complication type instead of throwing a runtime exception."

Other features of Developer Preview as listed by Lam include:

  • New WearableRecyclerView: This new UI component helps developers display and manipulate vertical lists of items while optimizing for round displays.
  • Inline Action for Notifications: A new API makes it easy to take action on a notification right from the stream. Developers can specify which action is displayed inline at the bottom of the notification by calling setHintDisplayActionInline.
  • Smart Reply: Android Wear now generates Smart Reply responses for MessagingStyle notifications. Smart Reply responses are generated by an entirely on-watch machine learning model using the context provided by the MessagingStyle notification, and no data is uploaded to the cloud to generate the responses.

A complete list of the new features can be found in the release notes.

While noting the continuation of the developer preview program until early next year, Lam said developers can expect at least one more preview, No. 4.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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