Google To Arm Droid Devs with Weapons for SmartWatch War

Google announced a significant update to its Android Wear platform this week and hinted that good things are on the way for developers, too. The system upgrade should show up at about the same time the Apple Watch begins to ship. It brings Google's limited Wear platform closer to feature parity with the Apple Watch, but Google is playing coy at the moment when it comes to new developer tools. 

The Android Wear over-the-air update is primed to show up in a week or two. With it comes great new powers for end users. For example, always-on apps. Today, the only "app" that can run endlessly on an Android smartwatch is the watch face itself. That changes with the new Android Wear. Google is expanding the always-on option to third-party apps, which means you can leave them running on your wrist without worrying about the screen going dark. This could certainly open new doors for developers. 

Another killer feature? WiFi. This represents a huge improvement for Android Wear users and a big opportunity for developers. At the moment, Android smartwatches rely wholly on a nearby Android smartphone for their information. Phones and watches connect with one another via Bluetooth. Android Wear smartwatches cannot access data without a phone, but WiFi will change that. "As long as your watch is connected to a WiFi network, and your phone has a data connection (wherever it is), you'll be able to get notifications, send messages, and use all your favorite apps," explained Google in a blog post. Android Wear already supports GPS. Apps that can update anywhere WiFi is available? Developers should be salivating at the thought. 

Another key improvement is the addition of an app launcher. On Android smartwatches today, finding and using third-party apps is awkward at best. Some developers have created their own app launchers to solve this problem, but Google is going to make it right with the next version of Android Wear. With a dedicated app launcher, developers' apps will be easier for smartwatch owners to find and use on their wrist. The platform is set to gain some gestures, too, that will let users flick through on-screen content with a snap of their wrist. 

Last, Android Wear is also about to become a lot more emotional thanks to added support for emoji. The platform will gain access to hundreds of emoji, and users will even be able to draw their own (Apple Watch envy, anyone?) to brighten up those text messages. 

With all these functions headed to the Android Wear platform, ProgrammableWeb was obviously curious to know what Google has up its sleeve for developers. After all, developers will need some new tools to add the new features detailed above to their applications.

"We plan to share more on this in the coming days," said a Google spokesperson to ProgrammableWeb. "Look for an Android Developer Blog post in the next day or two on this. Also, when the Wear OTA rolls out, we'll share more on how developers can use the new APIs with documents and samples."

In other words, Google has a new set of APIs ready for the Android Wear platform on deck. Be sure to check back with ProgrammableWeb once the details roll out. 

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