Google Releases New Android Wear APIs in Play Services 7.3

Google dropped an API bomb on developers this week with the release of Play Services 7.3. The focus of Play Services 7.3 is to improve apps for Android Wear, but it also targets Google Fit with some nifty new APIs to help people better track workouts and manage their health.

One of the biggest improvements in Play Services 7.3 is new support for connecting multiple Wear devices to a single smartphone. With the current version of Android Wear and Play Services, phones can only pair with one watch. If you want to pair the watch with a different phone, you have to reset the watch entirely, which gets really old. In order to let phones connect to multiple watches, the Data API, Message API and Node API can now interact with the new Capability API.

Android Wear also gains the Channel API, which Google says provides bidirectional data connections between devices. It works in coordination with the Data and Message APIs mentioned above.

Play Services makes massive changes to Google Fit, Google's health app. New APIs will let third-party app writers retrieve sensor data like location and speed, collect and store that activity in Google Fit, and aggregate that data into an easy-to-digest format for end users to read. Google Fit is also adding new data types for users and developers to tap into. For example, end users will be able to track nutritional information, including protein, fat and cholesterol intake. Developers can take advantage of these new data points to create richer and, hopefully, more helpful health apps for Google Fit and Android Wear.

Google updated the Fused Location Provider API to help improve power needs of location-hungry apps. Google says the tweaked API lets Google Fit batch location updates together, reducing battery usage and, on some devices, improving location accuracy. Google also wants developers to stop using the Location Listener API in favor of the new Location Callback API for continual monitoring purposes. Again, this is meant to boost efficiency when apps are making use of GPS and other location tools, which are typically a drain on batteries.

Last, Google made it easier for apps to connect to Play Services. "One of the biggest benefits of Google API Client is that it provides a single connection state, whether you are connecting to a single API or multiple APIs," explained Google. "However, this made it hard to work with APIs that might not be available on all devices, such as the Wearable API. This release makes it much easier to work with APIs that may not always be available."

The SDK for Google Play Services 7.3 is ready and waiting. All the details, including updated documentation, are available here.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.