Google is rolling out a major update for Android Wear before the launch of the Apple Watch, set to add WiFi connectivity, new dictation, messaging and power saving functionality.
The update will come to all nine smartwatches, but sadly the LG G Watch and Asus ZenWatch will not be able to harness the new WiFi functionality, since the manufacturers forgot to add a WiFi chip.
From what we can tell, Google will push out the update without the WiFi feature to the LG G Watch and Asus ZenWatch, meaning the other features should still be available.
Having WiFi connectivity allows the smartwatches to work without having a mobile closeby for Bluetooth connection. As long as the mobile is connected to WiFi or LTE, it will be able to ping the smartwatch, even if it is not in proximity range.
It is a smart move for people that use their Android Wear smartwatch for running or take it to work, but want to leave their smartphone at home. It is also Google’s first move to autonomise the smartwatch, making it independent from smartphones.
Android Wear has not shown much success in the early stages, with only 720,000 sales in the second half of 2014. Compare that to the two million Apple Watch pre-orders, it looks pretty dismal for Google.
That said, the Moto 360 successor and LG Watch Urbane are two big smartwatches and Samsung is finding success with the Gear S. We might see other traditional watchmakers like TAG Heuer and Swatch get involved with Android Wear in the near future as well, to compete with the Apple Watch.