Back on November 11th, Google updated Android Wear to version 1.4. There were a couple of updates that included the removal of the battery stats and the graph that projected how long the battery would last (I am missing that graph already), along with the addition of cellular connectivity. It’s this latter point that I’m discussing today. According to Google’s official Android blog, Google is looking to extend the range of the connection between watch and phone. What began with Bluetooth LE was quickly extended to using WiFi for watches to connect and tunnel to phones. As of November 11th, watches now will have the software support to use its own cellular connection to the same, and Huawei already releasing a model that takes advantage of it, the LG Watch Urbane 2ND Edition.
From their blog: “Android Wear lets you stay connected, even when your phone isn’t with you. With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support, for example, you can see who’s calling when your phone is in the next room, or respond to messages at the gym while your phone is at home. Today, we’re bringing cellular support to Android Wear, so you can stay connected in even more places.” I like this. A lot. That being said, I’m not saying this so much for what they’ve announced, that I can leave my internet connected phone at home while going out, and still be able to maintain a connection between it and the watch, as cool as that is. I’m looking at the next logical step, and that’s for watches that will work without pairing them to phones to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting this to show up in Android Wear 22.214.171.124. But that being said, I don’t think that achieving the dream of Dick Tracy is all that far away at this point, at least for Android
Short of tweaking the software to no longer *require* the companion app operating on a phone, everything else is in place. Connect to a network? Already supported in 1.4, meaning two things. First, the obvious, is that communication can happen from the net to the watch, so email, SMS, and the like can occur directly. Second, this sets up the ability for the time to be set by the network instead of the phone, just like phones do today. A small issue for sure, and its solution is not yet in place, but considering that smartwatches still get used for telling time and currently rely on the phone to establish that, it’s now one less reason to maintain a connection between the two. As users of Android, we already can install software to phones from the Google Play via the web, so why couldn’t the same be done for Android Wear smartwatches? See a watchface you like online? Click on an icon on its Google Play page, and shoot it to your watch, no phone necessary. I can also foresee the same being done for apps, breaking them apart from being first installed onto phones, so they can be installed directly from the web as well. Android Wear already supports a microphone, and bluetooth headphones for music, so the pieces are already there for having phone conversations. I think this idea could legitimately work, though kinks still need to be ironed out. LTE is pretty battery hungry, so that needs to be addressed either through better batteries or finding ways to curtail the radio’s appetite (ideally, it would be both). This would likely increase the size of the watches as well, accommodating more hardware and a bigger battery. Like anything else though, the size of those will go down in time. All told, were I to guess as to when we could see this happen, I would guess that it would be one to two years out. Timeline not withstanding, I think it is almost a foregone conclusion that it will happen at some indeterminate point. The future is awesome, and I can’t wait.
Urbane 2 pic: http://www.slashgear.com/tags/lg-watch-urbane-2/