First big Android Wear update supports GPS and offline music

You don't need to lug around your smartphone to track your performance if you own a Sony SmartWatch 3.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The first major update to Android Wear makes it possible to track your performance during training without lugging about a smartphone in your pocket, but the only device capable of doing this is Sony's new SmartWatch 3.

The fitness focussed update announced yesterday is the first of the many rapid iterations Google has promised for Wear. It improves Wear's usefulness for an independent fitness tracker, so long as the smartwatch running the platform contains a GPS sensor.

Currently, the first and only Wear watch with a built-in GPS sensor is Sony's new waterproof SmartWatch 3, which became available yesterday for $250 from Verizon Wireless. Notably, it comes ahead of next year's launch of Apple's Watch, which also contains a GPS sensor. And while Samsung released the the Gear S with 3G and a GPS sensor in August, that device was running Tizen. Its Wear-powered Gear devices don't come with GPS onboard at present.

Google flagged GPS support as well as the other main update for Wear — offline music — in an interview with ZDNet's sister site CNET last month.

Another feature that ties into the music update is the ability to pair a Wear device with a Bluetooth headset, again making it easier to take your smartwatch on a jog or a bike ride. Users can store music on a Wear watch and then listen wirelessly without the hassle of a phone strapped to their arm or bobbing around in their pockets.

Google said it will deliver the update to other Wear devices, such as the LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live, and Moto 360 in the next few days, but really the only additional feature they will get is offline music.

One feature that didn't make yesterday's cut but is due in a second update is customised watch faces, which essentially act as the homescreen of Wear devices. Google said in September that it plans on making it possible to easily swap out watch faces, for example, allowing them to display a stock ticker, sports results, calendar or fitness sensors.

A minor addition in this update is the ability to hide notifications by "swiping down directly on the card when it appears. To view it later, simply swipe up", Google said on its product forums.

Additionally, Android Wear developers and users should also benefit from an update in Google Play that makes it easier to find and explore Wear apps. The store now includes eight new app collections to support this.

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