Today, Apple Watch orders will begin shipping out to customers. With 3.2 million devices pre-ordered in the first few days, according to analyst predictions, Apple has already become the market leader of smart watches. Not to be outdone, Google this week has announced a major update to Android Wear.

Among the new updates to Android Wear include Always-on screen and always-on apps, Wi-Fi support, a simpler interface, faster usability and emoji enhancements.

Whilst Apple Watch attempts to save power by keeping the screen off until a user brings their screen up or touches it, Google is introducing a new standard feature to keep the phone always-on. To help save power, Google has designed Android Wear to use a simple black and white display when devices aren’t being used. Taking this a step further, Google is extending this to apps, so that users can keep apps open, without draining extra power. When the user engages with Android Wear, the screen reverts to full colour.

Until now, Android Wear devices have needed a phone to be in proximity for notifications, apps and messages to work. With this latest update, Android Wear devices can connect to Wi-Fi networks, to receive all notifications, even if you’ve left your phone at home. The smart watch also has the ability to help locate the phone if necessary. This means you can be out and about with your wearable, connect to Wi-Fi and still receive everything other than phone calls. By doing this, Google is taking a step beyond Apple, where the Watch and iPhone need to be on the same Wi-Fi network for notifications and calls to work.

Other features coming to Android Wear include the ability to flick your wrist to scroll through a stream of news or notifications, faster access to apps and contacts and the ability to draw an emoji for Android Wear to find the right emoji.

Reports that Google is working to support the iPhone, mean that it opens up the opportunity for manufacturers of Android Wear to target iPhone users, making these new features all the more interesting.

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