- Android P for Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) gets a developer preview from Google today.
- Most of the new features revolve around conserving battery power through various methods.
- The preview can only be loaded onto a Huawei Watch 2 or Watch 2 Classic. If you don’t own one of those, you’ll have to use an emulator.
Three weeks ago, Google dropped the Android P developer preview for smartphones, which brings a ton of new features and design changes to the operating system. Today, Google released a different kind of Android P developer preview, this time for Wear OS, the rebranded Android Wear software for smart wearables.
The preview software (read: not at all stable) can only be installed on two watches: the Huawei Watch 2 and Watch 2 Classic. If you don’t own one of those watches, you’ll have to view the developer preview in an emulator on a computer.
So far, the Android P upgrade appears to bring only a small amount of new features, but they could have a significant impact on the usability of the software.
First up, there’s a dark UI system theme. Before you object and say that you’ve already got that via the system update that came with Android Wear 2.8, this developer preview sets the dark theme as the default. According to Google, this should “improve the glanceability for wear apps,” which is an interesting way to put it.
Next, Android P for Wear OS limits background activity to an enormous degree by shutting down all apps running in the background, unless your watch is on a charger. The only two app exceptions are watch faces and complications that the user has currently selected. This should significantly improve battery life for sure, but will it make things inconvenient for users who have a lot of apps on their watches?
Continuing with attempts at battery conservation, the new software will turn off all radios when you take it off. Presumably, this is for those times where you take the watch off but don’t put it on a charger, like at the gym. Rather than the watch sit there draining battery while looking for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals, it will go into a sort-of sleep mode until you put it back on or put it on a charger.
Similarly, if your watch isn’t connected to anything via Bluetooth (like your smartphone), it will now automatically shut off Wi-Fi. This will help with battery conservation.
Considering that the dark mode could also apply to the idea of conserving battery power, it seems that the most prominent changes coming to Wear OS are about getting the watch to last longer before it needs a charge. However, this is just a developer preview, and features could be added or taken away before the stable rollout.
If you want to give Wear OS a shot, head here for the files and instructions you’ll need.