The launch of Google’s new Nexus 5 smartphone brought with it a whole new version of Android. Android 4.4, or KitKat as it’s known in Google’s continuation of alphabetical dessert designations for version releases, boasts a ton of under the hood changes designed to improve the entire user experience. Arguably the most interesting of the laundry list of changes made are all the little features that point to enhanced platform-wide support for wearable technology of all kinds.
Whether we’re talking about Google Glass, wearable fitness gadgets like FitBit, or any of the increasingly massive list of smartwatches such as the Galaxy Gear, there’s no shortage of wearable technology on the market today – and coming in the not-so-distant future – that will need better support from Android in order to offer the best experience to users.
While Google has implemented some cool tech in Android 4.4 with its new step detector and step counter services, broader support is a must moving forward. A quick look at the breakdown of features from the latest version of Android shows that Google is more than prepared for the oncoming storm of wearable tech.
A critical facet of communicating with wearable tech of nearly any description is making sure that communication is both fast and low power. Access to more information over a shorter period of time makes every part of the user experience better, and knowing that your accessory isn’t a burden on your phone’s battery is a must. Google has implemented Bluetooth MAP support to allow apps the ability to communicate with third-party devices more efficiently, as well as Bluetooth AVRCP 1.3 to allow for uniform audio control for Bluetooth devices like car stereos and speakers.
Bluetooth HID over GATT (HOGP) is also available in Android 4.4. This profile is specifically designed for low-latency connections with low power accessories. While this may not be ideal for a smartwatch or Google Glass, something like a smart pedometer that only has to check in every once in a while would benefit very much here. The profile is also potentially useful for Bluetooth keyboards and gamepads – basically anything that requires very little power to operate and transmit data.
Android 4.4 also supports Wi-Fi Tunnelled Direct Link Setup (TDLS), which will likely have many different uses. TDLS makes it possible for two devices on the same wireless network to communicate in the most efficient manner available to them.
Two TDLS compliant devices can choose to use the fastest standard available to communicate, and can even determine if a direct link would be better for the task at hand. This is incredibly useful for any device-to-device communication, whether that is streaming a video to a TV via Miracast or screen sharing from something like Google Glass to your phone. Either way, it’s a powerful tool to have.
Altogether, Google has added quite a bit of flexibility in how Android 4.4 communicates with all sorts of devices. By making this version of Android so accessory friendly, it further encourages wearable tech developers to make sure their hardware supports Android as well as iOS. This in turn will make it much easier for developers to enable support for these accessories within their own apps, making the whole experience come full circle and provide an encompassing service for users.