Home New Android Wear Update Supports GPS And Offline Music Syncing

New Android Wear Update Supports GPS And Offline Music Syncing

Google pushed out a major update for its Android Wear smartwatch software that, among other things, supports location-tracking GPS hardware and offline music syncing. All that potentially gives these gadgets useful features that will still work, even if they’re not tethered to a smartphone.

That’s a first for the platform, which makes this the biggest—and perhaps most important—software update for Android-powered wearable devices so far.  

Sony’s latest—and unimaginatively named—Smartwatch 3 will be the first to take advantage of the new features. It started taking pre-orders from Verizon on Thursday, officially giving Android Wear its first GPS-equipped wrist gizmo.

Android Wear Watches Become More Like Standalone Devices

The big battle in smartwatches these days—other than convincing people to want one—is the fight between standalone watches and those that pair with a smartphone. Today’s Android Wear devices have always fallen firmly in the latter category.

Now the offline music and GPS features, targeted at fitness-minded users, nudge Android Wear somewhere in between. Problem is, only one of the two key features in this update can be used universally by all Android wearables. Watches from LG, Samsung and Motorola will get offline music syncing. The other, GPS, is only compatible for Sony’s watch. 

See also: What Not To (Android) Wear: One Woman’s Search For Smartwatch Bliss

Even if that weren’t true, it’s not clear how those new features might drain power. As it is, Android Wear devices suffer from short battery life, and that’s without GPS tracking or music playback. But we should know their impact soon enough—the software update has already started rolling out in waves to the various Android Wear gadgets.

Users may also notice changes to the way Google Play organizes apps. The company boasts that “tens of thousands of apps enhanced for Wear have been added to Play already,” which sounds great. But finding the ones you want can be tough amid all the other options.

Recognizing that, Google just organized them into 8 new collections to make app discovery easier.

While you’re in the store, you can check out the new features once your LG G, Moto 360 or Samsung Gear Live has been updated. Offline music is available through Google Play Music. Sony Smartwatch 3 customers, once they get their gadgets, can fire up the GPS feature in Golfshot and MyTracks.

Sony Smartwatch 3: Third time’s the charm?

Sony was one of the first to come out with a smartwatch. And yet, it struggles to get any respect in the wearables business. That may be why, despite saying it wasn’t pursuing Android Wear back in March, it’s now offering its first Google-fueled watch.

Last Friday, Sony’s Smartwatch 3 turned up on Google Play with a $249.99 price tag and the words “coming soon.” Although Verizon is opening pre-orders now, Google Play hasn’t quite gotten there yet. 

See also: Android Wear Gets Customized; That Didn’t Take Long

Intended to be sporty, Sony’s device suffers from a clunky design aesthetic (because runners and other athletes don’t deserve a nice-looking watch, I guess). On the plus side, the gadget can be popped into and out of different casings or wristbands, which can be handy. Too bad there’s not much variety. The options from Sony are white, pink, yellow and black rubberized straps. 

If its looks don’t appeal, maybe the internals will. Smartwatch 3’s hardware specifications seem competitive: It offers a 1.6-inch 320 × 320 resolution LCD “transreflective” screen (for outdoor visibility), a 1.2 GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, and a 420 milliampere hour battery. Sony says the device can last for two days on a single charge. 

We’ll have to see how playing music and using GPS will hit that run time. Even if those features don’t impact the battery, which is highly unlikely, $250 still seems like a lot for what looks like a chunky toy watch—even if it can tell you where you’re running and play the “Eye of the Tiger” along the way. 

Photos courtesy of Sony

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