Android Wear 2.0 Adds Google Assistant, Play Store, Watch Faces

The Android Wear 2.0 patch is bringing some serious competition to the Apple Watch with the addition of several new features that target the Apple Watch. Among the additions to the operating system for wearables are Google Assistant, new watch faces and a new dedicated version of the Google Play Store.

The Android Wear 2.0 patch almost turns wearable devices that run on the operating system into new devices. It’s a total overhaul rather than just cosmetic changes. Early reviews of the new OS are mostly positive so far. According to management, it’s Android Wear’s biggest update since it was launched about three years ago.

Android Wear 2.0 brings the battle to wearables

Perhaps the favorite feature is Google Assistant, which many Android users are already familiar with or at least ware of. The new digital assistant is considered to be a brilliant new version of Google’s offering that’s capable of going head to head with Amazon’s Alexa — which was recently opened up to other companies to use on their devices — and Apple’s Siri.

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Google certainly needed to do something because the battle of the digital assistants is getting serious, and some consider this to be the year when they get much more technologically advanced. Samsung has been rumored to be preparing to release its new assistant called Bixby for some time, although that has yet to be confirmed.

Google Assistant was first rolled out on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL toward the end of last year. To activate it on devices running Android Wear 2.0, users simply hold the power button and then say “OK, Google.” It serves multiple functions, such as replying to messages, running Google searches, pulling up directions, and setting reminders. Google Assistant will even offer suggestions on possibly replies to the messages you receive based on context, and it will learn the more you use it.

Other new features on Android Wear 2.0

Android Wear 2.0 also aims to reduce users’ reliance on their smartphones, which is something many have been hoping for. So far, it seems a bit redundant to have a smartwatch because many of them are extremely expensive but remain largely tethered to smartphones.

One way Android Wear 2.0 is battling this is through the addition of a dedicated Google Play Store which enables users to search for and install apps directly on their smartwatch instead of using a smartphone to do it. Not all apps will work on a standalone basis on smartwatches, but some will, such as AccuWeather, Android Pay, Foursquare and Uber.

There are some new features for those hoping for cosmetic updates too, however. The most obvious is the addition of more personalization through new watch faces which are sure to delight users because they combine style with complications, something that wasn’t offered in version 1.0. The OS also looks a bit darker, and the notifications are smaller cards. The user interface has also been improved, and navigation through the apps has been simplified.

Android Wear 2.0 will be pushed out first to the LG Watch Style and Watch Sport on Feb. 10 and then gradually to other compatible smartwatches after that. With all the new features, it certainly seems that it was worth the delay in release.