Google I/O round-up: The future of smartwatches and Android TV

Could Android really be the future for smartwatches and what is Google´s latest TV project? Find out here

26 Jun 2014


Google has ushered in a new age of individuality and style for the smartwatch with its new wearable tech operating system.

A version of the Android operating system designed specifically for wearables was launched at Google I/O in San Francisco alongside the first two smartwatches to run the software.

The Android Wear OS was launched alongside a TV set top box and the latest version of the Android phone and tablet operating system - Android L.

Here we'll take a closer look at Android Wear, alongside the other news that came out of Google I/O.

What is Android Wear?

Samsung Gear Live (AP)

Samsung Gear Live running Android Wear (credit: AP) 

How many times do you check your phone each day? Google reckons it's around 150 times.

And it has launched its Android Wear operating system to help reduce that number - to give you the information you need "at a glance".

Android Wear is a shrunken-down version of the Android smartphone and tablet operating system. It's designed specifically for wearable tech such as smartwatches.

With Android Wear you can pick up texts and calls from your wrist - no need to worry about passwords, swiping screens and rooting around in bags.

You can even respond to calls with pre-programmed holding texts.

Android Wear devices work with any phone of Android 4.3 or higher and anything you do on your smartwatch, such as making an appointment, then updates to your phone as well.

Chris Martin, consumer tech editor at PC Advisor, says: "One of the best things of the tight Android integration is that you only need to install apps on your smartphone and they will be automatically put on your Android Wear smartwatch."


What's all this about contextual features?

But as well as delivering calls and texts to your wrist, you can also ask it all kinds of questions using Google Now voice search and notifications and built-in apps.

Tell it to wake you up at 7am the next morning and it will, ask it when your flight is leaving and it will tell you.

Set an alert to remind you to buy milk. Check the weather. Find your way around using Google Maps. Reserve a table for dinner at a restaurant.

It'll also use your calendar to suggest things to you without prompting - if you're down to take a flight, it can send you details before you travel.

Will Findlater, editor in chief at Stuff, says: "Many people have questioned just how worthwhile a smartwatch can be, but Android Wear's ability to provide information as you need it, be that a weather report when you're leaving for work, a notification that there's congestion along your normal route or a reminder to pick up milk as you walk past a shop seems like it has huge potential."


The first smartwatches of Android Wear

Samsung Gear Live

Smartwatch pioneer Samsung now has a watch that works with phones made by other manufacturers. The Gear Live will run Android Wear and be compatible with Android phones from 4.3 onwards.

It looks like Samsung's Gear 2 watch - with a similar futuristic, square design. It boasts the same heart-rate monitor and Super AMOLED screen. And is dust and waterproof.  It's available from July 7.


LG G Watch

We've known this was incoming since March. The LG G Watch sports a futuristic smartwatch design - with a metallic body and rectangular face. It boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and is dustproof and waterproof. It too is available from July 7.


Smartwatches as fashion accessories

Until now smartwatches have looked pretty much the same, but Android Wear opens the door for devices of all shapes and sizes that run the same universal software.

Expect futuristic, square watches and round-faced traditional watches with leather straps. Expect partnerships with fashion brands as well as tech firms. Expect the smartwatch to become a statement of individuality and style, rather than a geek badge.

For instance, later this summer the Moto 360 will launch - a smartwatch that looks like a normal watch, with a round face and leather strap.

Moto 360

Moto 360 - yet to be released (credit: AP) 


Android Wear the future of the smartwatch? What the experts say….

Will Findlater, editor in chief at Stuff, says Android Wear could take smartwatches mainstream with its potential for individuality and choice.  

"Android Wear could be the platform that makes smartwatches mainstream. Its main strength is that it's not just a single device but an operating system that can run on a variety of watch designs and form factors - important because watches aren't just worn for function, but because of how they look and what that says about the wearer.

"Android Wear may just have found the smartwatch 'killer app' with its ability to provide contextually useful information direct to your wrist. Many people have questioned just how worthwhile a smartwatch can be, but Wear's ability to provide information as you need it, be that a weather report when you're leaving for work, a notification that there's congestion along your normal route or a reminder to pick up milk as you walk past a shop seems like it has huge potential. Assuming, of course, that it works as promised.

"The first watches available from LG and Samsung are attractive in a gadgety sort of way, but what will be really interesting is when Motorola launches the 360 - an Android Wear watch with a round face - and some of the fashion brands that Google has partnered with release their takes on the platform."


Android TV

Android TV

(Credit: AP)

Google has launched its latest bid to take over your living room - Android TV. 

Android TV comes as either a set top box or is built into TVs from manufacturers including Sharp and Sony.

It's basically the Android you see on your smartphone and tablet but on your TV. It's thought app developers will be able to create a single app that works across your TV as well as tablet and smartphone. 

You'll be able to switch between watching regular TV as well as online services such as Netflix, iPlayer and YouTube.

The biggest feature is the fact you'll get Google Play on your TV. The Google Play store is jam-packed with movies and TV shows.

Play games on your Android tablet? You'll now be able play them through your TV too. Search for things using the remote or the built-in Google Now voice search.

Android TV comes after 2010's Google TV project and last year's Chromecast streaming stick. 

Android L operating system 

Android L is the latest version of Google's operating system for tablets and smartphones. Google calls L one of its "most comprehensive releases".

It features a new material design that is inspired by the idea of paper and ink. Google design chief Matias Duarte talked about how the new design could "expand, reform and reshape" to fit different products and categories.

It has been designed not just for phones and tablets, but also for smartwatches and laptops. The look is clean, flat and crisp. It's minimalist and free from clutter.

Notifications have been improved too. You can pick them up directly from the lock screen. It will also learn how you use your phone over time to prioritise useful and relevant notifications.

Mobile web browsing gets simpler too, with individual cards for each browsing window that can be easily managed and flicked between.

Google says it's faster too. During the demo it explained how apps will run more efficiently.

You can also save your battery by shutting down certain features of your phone when you're low in juice.

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