Google releases Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview 4

huawei_watch_closeup_dim_display_TA

More news on the Android Wear space today on the heels of yesterday’s announcement regarding the acquisition of Cronologics to help with development of the platform. Google’s development team announced the availability of Developer Preview 4 for Android Wear 2.0. This may be a bit of surprise as some may have thought Developer Preview 3 would be the final preview when it came out shortly before the original expected launch of Android Wear 2.0 this past fall. A delay in the final version’s release until 2017 apparently meant the developers could continue to add features and functions to the point that a developer preview release was possible.

In their announcement, Android’s developers note that one of the key concepts they are working on is “letting watch apps work as standalone apps.” This seems to fly in the face of some wisdom that suggested users did not need standalone apps on their wrist since they almost always have their smartphones with them. That meant the smartwatch could function more as an extension of the smartphone instead of a replacement. As use cases surfaced though, it became apparent that there were situations where using a smartwatch – and the apps loaded on it – in a standalone fashion was preferable. A good example would be users tracking fitness activities who would like to leave their phone behind while working out. New APIs have been added to Android Wear to help developers ensure their apps can function in this manner.

One set of APIs that was added involves authentication routines. This includes both OAuth and Google Sign-in. The new APIs mean developers can build apps that will launch an authentication screen on a smartphone when a button on the smartwatch is tapped, making it easier to authenticate directly with server side APIs. If a developer uses the Google Sign-in for authentication purposes, they can even bypass all that, merely selecting which account they want to authenticate.

The new preview also includes support for in-app billing. When implemented, all users have to do is enter a 4-digit Google Account PIN to be able to make purchases directly from their device. This means developers can offer up things like game levels or watch face styles that can be purchased right from a smartwatch.

A couple new APIs focused on the whole standalone concept include PlayStoreAvailability and RemoteIntent. The first one is meant to help users more quickly and easily find and install apps from the Play Store on their device. Going in the opposite direction, the RemoteIntent API can be used to launch custom URLs on a paired smartphone from an Android Wear 2.0 device. One of the keys to this ability is that it does not require a specific phone app or data layer to already be installed on the smartphone.

Google’s developers also brought back a feature from the past based on user feedback. That feature is the swipe-to-dismiss gesture, which enables users to swipe an activity from left to right to dismiss it and then move down the “back stack” of other activities. There is also a change to the hardware button so that it maps to power instead of being the back button. Google also added some new Fragment and View support so developers can build their own custom actions to use instead of swipe-to-dismiss.

Finally, Google is making it possible for legacy apps developed for Android Wear 1.0 to work with Android Wear 2.0. If one of these legacy apps is installed on a smartphone and there is a companion Android Wear app embedded, users will be prompted to install it. They can skip it if they want and then do that later by finding it in a special section of the Play Store called “Apps you’ve used.” Google does strongly suggest that app developers not continue to use or rely on this method for app delivery and suggests they switch to multi-APK delivery instead. One of the key benefits of this is the ability to install apps directly to a smartwatch.

A handful of other small improvements are included in the developer preview. Google does not indicate which devices the latest developer preview will work on, but it may be limited to the Huawei Watch and LG Watch Urbane 2 LTE similar to the release of Developer Preview 3. Google says they are working on Developer Preview 5.

source: Android Developers


About the Author: Jeff Causey

Raised in North Carolina, Jeff Causey is a licensed CPA in North Carolina. Jeff's past Android devices include an HTC EVO, a Samsung Note II, and an LG G3 along with a Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1. He currently uses a Motorola Moto X Pure Edition and (very rarely) a Nexus 7 (2013). He is also using a Verizon-branded Motorola Moto Z Play Droid supplied by his job. Jeff used to have a pair of Google Glass and a Moto 360 Sport in his stable of gadgets. Unfortunately, his wife and kids have all drunk the Apple Kool-Aid and have i-devices. Life at home often includes demonstrations of the superiority of his Android based devices. In his free time, Jeff is active in his church, a local MINI Cooper car club, and his daughter's soccer club. Jeff is married, has three kids, and a golden retriever.