Android Wear 2.0 Preview on a Huawei Watch: Significant UI changes and watch face complications

Google made the new Android Wear 2.0 update available for developers last week after I/O 2016. We installed it on our Huawei Watch and took it for a spin.
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Android Wear 2.0 update for the Huawei Watch

Last week Google announced Android Wear 2.0 at its I/O event. Like the Android N preview, developers and those willing to take a risk can install the Android Wear 2.0 preview on either an Huawei Watch or a LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition.

Updating to Android Wear 2.0

Since I don't use the Huawei Watch as a primary smartwatch, I decided to spend some time getting up and running with Android Wear 2.0. I'm not a developer and don't have the full Android SDK development kit installed on my computer but I followed the eight-step tutorial I found on The Country Caller website. Rather than installing the full development kit, you can install the Minimal ADB and Fastboot tool to get the essential tools needed to update your compatible Android Wear smartwatch.

As detailed on the Google developer website, make sure you download the correct preview image for your selected smartwatch. Google also has the image file that you can use to flash your smartwatch back to the Marshmallow Android Wear operating system.

Updating your smartwatch to AW 2.0 is fairly straightforward and just requires a few command line entries and a bit of patience. The update was much faster than updating a phone and mine went through flawlessly the first time. Stick with the steps and you should be fine. Once it was updated, I simply connected the watch to my Android smartphone and set everything up.

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Standby watch face

First impressions of the Android Wear 2.0 Preview

Google makes it clear that this current version is a preview and there will be missing and non-functional aspects of the operating system so don't be surprised if some apps don't work or some functions are missing. We will see updates to the preview as we go through the year until Android Wear 2.0 is released as an official update later this year.

The change in the user interface is taking me the most time to adjust to as it is quite a bit different while also making the physical side watch button an essential part of navigating around the watch. When you lift your wrist and see the active watch face, swiping left or right now takes you to the watch face selector. Performing either swipe to change a watch face seems like wasted gestures right from the watch face, but that may be due to the fact I rarely change my watch face.

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Customizing complications on the watch face

To view your stacked cards, swipe up on the watch face. You can then swipe either right or left to dismiss the card or tap on it to expand it and dive deeper into the notification.

If you swipe down from the top on the watch face, then quick controls appear along with the battery life remaining percentage. The current quick control icons include airplane mode toggle, volume toggle, brightness controller, vibration toggle, and settings button. The settings are nearly the same in Android Wear 2.0 as the last version of the OS with the only major differences being the watch face complications and handwriting input option.

Developers now have the ability to add complications to watch faces and to get you started using them Google provides two Elements watch faces. After selecting a watch face that has complications, you tap the settings gear icon below the watch face selector and a display showing you complications and styles will appear.

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Two slots can be customized

Complications let you customize the upper and lower slot and the background. You can choose a complication such as the date, launcher, next event, photos, step count, watch battery, and world clock. I couldn't get the world clock working, but have the date and step count appearing on my current watch face.

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Active watch face with two complications

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New app launcher

In order to launch apps, you have to press the watch button on the upper right. The launcher seems to function much like what we see on the Samsung Gear S2 with apps scrolls up and around the left side of the round watch face and a placement status bar moving down the right side. The Gear S2 would make a perfect Android Wear 2.0 device with the rotating bezel.

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More apps in the launcher

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Recent apps appear at the top

Most recently used apps will appear at the top of the launcher with all of your other apps in alphabetical order down the list. So far the only app of mine that doesn't work is Nest.

Tap and hold doesn't seem to be implemented in Android Wear 2.0 and I personally like using the physical watch button as a key element on the watch. I rarely used the button previous to 2.0.

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Changing watch faces

Tap on the gear icon below the watch face to customize the watch face.

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Selecting an input method

Handwriting is an option for text input in Android Wear 2.0 and it actually is a bit more functional than you might at first think. After you write a letter, the display automatically scrolls the written text to the left providing you with more blank space. The OS converts your handwriting to text on the fly and so far seems to do a great job at recognizing my chicken scratch.

You can also choose to have the Google keyboard available for text input and again this is more functional than I would have thought for a watch display. The word suggestions are quite helpful and I often found I only had to tap one or two letters to have the word I want appear as an option to select. You can always use your voice for text input as well if you don't want to use either of these input methods.

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Handwriting on Android Wear 2.0

The display scrolls to the left as you write on it.

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Entering text via the keyboard

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