Android Wear 2.0 clocks in with smarter smartwatchesNEW YORK — Android Wear hasn’t exactly been a wrist-roaring success since its debut in 2014.The pressure is squarely on Google to make good with the Android Wear 2.0 software release that debuts Friday on two new LG smartwatches, especially as it faces completion not just from the Apple Watch, but from Samsung’s Gear S3, which relies on a flavor of software called Tizen.LG Watch Sport. Thick, heavy, versatile. I’ve spent time wearing both new LG watches, but more so the Sport. It’s a thick and heavy water-resistant mother of a device, with a large readable P-OLED circular display, heart rate sensor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and LTE.You most certainly detect the heft on your wrist, especially when you later replace it with the slimmer LG Watch Style or Apple Watch.Sport has capabilities the Style lacks. For example, I was able to make and receive calls on the watch, even without a nearby phone. And the speakerphone quality on both ends of the conversation was surprisingly decent. You’ll typically have to pay a fee for cellular access. (AT&T and Verizon will be carrying it.)The new Android software, which will also be coming to other devices, indeed represents a step forward for such watches — there’s support for cellular connectivity, the presence of the Google Assistant, a dedicated Google Play Store, among other enhancements. Navigation is greatly improved. And you can use the watch more often than before without having to rely on a nearby phone.Still, whether all this moves the clock far enough along in Google’s favor is debatable. No smartwatch I’ve come across is essential, though once you get accustomed to wearing one — and I own an Apple Watch — you come to appreciate and rely on the notifications and other information-at-a-glance that arrives on your wrist. That’s especially true for fitness junkies, who are among the target users with the Android 2.0 update.Android Wear must play catch-up. Smartwatches based on Google’s operating system for wearables collectively garnered just a 13% market share globally in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the Strategy Analytics research and advisory firm. By contrast, the Apple Watch had a 63% share — and a surprisingly robust holiday selling season.Cliff Raskind, strategy analytics director of Smart Devices & IOT, says Android Wear’s poor showing “is less about major tectonic shifts and more Google and its (manufacturing) partner’s patience to get things just right. We predict that as in phones Android Wear will in a few years actually overtake Apple’s watchOS, certainly in terms of volumes shipped.”Another dedicated button summons the Android Pay feature that lets you pay for something at retail by holding the watch up to a checkout scanner, which after loading one of my credit cards was simple enough. It’s the Android Pay answer to Apple Pay on the Apple Watch.You can use the rotating middle side button to scroll through notifications or apps — there’s a new improved circular app launcher interface. You can also swipe directly on the screen. I didn’t always instinctively know which method to use.
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