Android Wear to support local music and GPS, become runner’s best friend

Android logoOne of the biggest downsides to Android Wear—or (nearly) any smartwatch—is that it requires a tethered smartphone to work. This is fine for day-to-day activities where you have your smartphone anyway, but for activities where you'd rather carry a lighter load, like running, Android Wear doesn't help much.

In an interview with CNET, Android Engineering Director David Singleton and Vice President of Android Engineering Hiroshi Lockheimer talked about the future direction of the platform, including announcing upcoming standalone functionality that doesn't require a smartphone. They revealed that Google will update Android Wear "several" times before the end of the year, with the first update coming this week.

Android Wear to support local music and GPS, become runner’s best friend

We aren't sure what is coming when, but in the interview, the Googlers mentioned local music storage and playback, as well as A2DP Bluetooth support. In addtion to a pair of Bluetooth headphones, you'd be able to listen to music without a smartphone.

An upcoming Android Wear update will also add GPS support, so together with Google Fit, you could track and sync your running or biking data without a smartphone, too. This would add a whole additional use case to Android Wear: a light music player that can still do all the tracking you'd want in an exercise app.

What is unclear is how GPS support would work with existing devices. While devices that use phone SoC like the Snapdragon 400 should have a GPS chip, we aren't sure if the chip is permanently disabled the way that additional CPU cores often are or if OEMs planned ahead and just left the GPS chips dormant. We've asked Google for comment on this and will update the post if we hear back.

Android Wear still doesn't officially support watch faces, but an update for that feature was promised in the interview, too.

"One of the things we set out to do when we set out developing the platform was to make it possible for a manufacturer to bring any sensor they could find to the platform." Singleton said. "We're also seeing people do interesting things with sensors like altitude and pressure. You can imagine a device that's particularly aimed around taking a hike. Or skiing."

When asked about manufacturer customization, Singleton mentioned that OEMs could add hardware sensors, apps, or customized watch faces, but it seems that modifying the underlying platform code, the way OEMs can with Android, is still out of the question.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google, smartwatch

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