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Major Android Wear update adds Wi-Fi, Emojis and always-on apps

Google announced a major new Android Wear update on Monday, just a few days ahead of the first Apple Watch arrivals. The new and improved wearable software finally adds Wi-Fi support and also makes it possible to send Emojis from your wrist with a clever new feature.

To send a quick Emoji from your Android Wear device, users will soon be able to just click reply on an incoming message and then scroll down and tap on “Draw emoji.” Then you can use your finger to sketch the image you want. Google will quickly match it with the closest Emoji, sometimes offering multiple options if your drawing is too vague.

Meanwhile, Wi-Fi support finally makes it possible to leave your phone behind and still receive notifications on your wrist. It should work as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi and your smartphone still has a data connection no matter where it might be. Some Android Wear devices, like the LG Urbane already offer support for Wi-Fi, while others may require an update to take advantage of this new feature.

Google is also adding new gesture controls that make it possible to scroll through notifications with just a flick of your wrist. That should be particularly helpful if you need to check a message while your hands are full. Finally, the Android Wear update includes a new battery-saving always-on option for apps that shows everything in black and white, and returns to full color when you interact with the device. That’s particularly useful for things like maps.

The update is rolling out to all Android Wear smartwatches in the next few weeks, starting with LG’s Watch Urbane.

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Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...