Developers, prepare your apps! Google is widely expected to debut its Android Wear 2.0 platform in early February, and the company wants to ensure a wide selection of compatible apps are available at launch.
Android Wear 2.0 has faced a heck of a delay. Google first revealed the new wearable platform at its I/O Developer Conference in May 2016. The company initially targeted a fall launch alongside Android 7 Nougat. Come September, Google delayed Android Wear 2.0's debut until December, and later it pushed the launch into early 2017.
With no new platform, there have been no new watches as device makers hold off on the hardware. Case in point, the recent Consumer Electronics Show saw the debut of a single Android smartwatch, the Casio WSD-F20. The entire ecosystem has been in limbo awaiting the platform's arrival.
Finally, some good news. Google began circulating an email this week targeting Android Wear developers. In the email, Google implored developers to update their apps for the Wear 2.0 platform. Some of the key steps it is asking devs to complete are to: set APKs to minSdkVerion 23 or higher; target APKs to watches; specify whether or not APKs are standalone; and upload APKs via multi-APK.
Why such specific directions? Android Wear 2.0's biggest features are a watch-based Play Store and the ability for apps to run without nearby smartphones. These are key.
First, the watch-based Play Store. Android Wear 2.0 will include a small version of Google's app store that will allow watch owners to browse through, search for, and download watch-specific apps directly from their wearable. This gives Android Wear apps a huge boost in visibility. Second, the stand-alone functionality dramatically expands what's possible on Android watches. Apps that work on the watch without constantly talking to a nearby smartphone give watch owners far more freedom to roam and remain connected. This will be made possible by support for LTE directly within the Android Wear platform. The next wave of smartwatches are expected to have their own 4G radios.
Other important features within Android Wear 2.0 include a refreshed user interface, in-app billing, cross-device promotion, simplified authentication, burn-in protection and more. These functions are powered by a bevy of new APIs.
Google has not made any official announcements regarding the launch of Android Wear 2.0, but suggested that developers have their apps ready to go by early February. This sets up the Mobile World Congress trade show, scheduled for late February, as the perfect venue for smartwatch makers to show off their newest round of wearables.