Google changed the name of Android Wear earlier this month to Wear OS, apparently to make it sound more “universal” to iOS users. They’re now following up on that with a developer preview, bringing with it Android P, a system-wide dark theme and battery saving features. Does this mean new hardware is on the way? Only Google knows for now, but let’s take a look at the software changes.
A dark theme will now be the default system mode for better battery life and “improve the glanceability for Wear apps.” A dark theme already became available to most Android Wear users earlier this year, so it’s a little unclear how this is different. Will all apps have a dark theme? On my Skagen Falster, for example (without the developer preview), the dark theme is system-wide.
Additional battery life improvements will come in the form of software shutdowns of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular connections when a smartwatch isn’t being worn for an extended period. These particular features are being rolled out slowly and developers can manually disable them. Watches will also be unable to connect to Wi-Fi if the Bluetooth connection is lost, although if an app is requesting high bandwidth or the watch is being charged, a Wi-Fi connection will remain. This is to increase battery life if you go out with your phone and leave the watch behind. A final battery saving change will restrict apps from running in the background unless the watch is on the charger (excluding watch face complications). Google is now encouraging developers to end background services.
“Developers should note that Wear OS is going further with Android’s app standby feature than some other form factors. Exceptions to this include watch faces and complications that the user currently has selected.”
This first developer preview is not intended for regular consumers. It’s designed solely for developers to work with as a full blown version materializes. It can be manually downloaded to the Huawei Watch 2 and Huawei Watch 2 Classic, Bluetooth editions only.