Developers, time to rev those mobile app engines. Google Play Services 5.0 has been rolled out to nearly all Android devices, bringing with it compatibility with Android Wear devices. If you're itching to get on the ground floor with wearables, the tools are now all available.
Google has already released an SDK for Android Wear, its platform for wearable devices. Google updated the beta to full 1.0 status late last month during its I/O developer conference. That's the first part needed to write apps for Android Wear. The second piece, Play Services 5.0, is also now in place. Together, the Android Wear SDK and Play Services 5.0 provide all the hooks needed to code for Google's smartwatches.
Play Services forms the core of Android devices and the Play Store. With Play Services, Google is able to upgrade Android devices without actually upgrading the version of Android. Google announced Play Services 5.0 during I/O, too, and just this week completed pushing it to devices running Android 2.3 Gingerbread through Android 4.4 KitKat. That means most Android handsets get all the new features, even if they are running older versions of the operating system.
The key part of Play Services 5.0 is an API for Android Wear. The API lets developers code their apps such that they can speak with and pass data between smartphones and Android Wear devices. Right now, only two Wear devices are on the market: The LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. Both are available from the Play Store. Motorola's Android Wear device is expected to arrive later in the year, with others to follow from the likes of Huawei and Lenovo.
A handful of developers have already published Android Wear apps in the Play Store, which now has its own section supporting wearables. There are about two dozen apps there to start, but with the help of developers, that number will grow swiftly. Initial backers include Pinterest, American Airlines, and IFTTT.
If you're worried about monetizing Android Wear apps, consider this: Wear apps have a smartphone component. The associated smartphone apps can be supported via ads, in-app purchases, or download charges.
While the earliest wearables, such as the Pebble smartwatch, Samsung Gear 2, and Sony SmartWatch 2, all have developer programs, Android Wear represents the best opportunity in the burgeoning wearables market.