Android Wear Update Details: New Software Supports GPS And Music Playing Without Needing To Connect To A Phone

By Connor Sears , Updated Oct 24, 2014 03:19 PM EDT

Android Wear's latest update will allow smartwatches to support GPS tracking and music playback without being connected to a phone, the Android team announced yesterday.

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The basic concept behind the smartwatch is that it mostly serves as a supplement to a user's smartphone and not as a device in and of itself. Pairing a smartwatch with a phone allows the watch to serve as a handy user interface mechanism while letting the phone do the heavy lifting in terms of processing. Take that connection away, and the smartwatch's lighter specs make it functionally limited.

Some people, however, like to be able to go for a run without keeping their phones in their pockets. Fortunately for them, the new Android Wear update is giving smartwatches back some independence.

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The update allows smartwatches with built-in GPS sensors to track a wearer's movements, allowing it to calculate things like run distance and speed without needing a phone close by. Further, Android Wear will now support music playback on a watch without needing a phone. People who like to run to music can now simply store some songs on the smartwatch itself, pair up a set of Bluetooth headphones and crank up the music, no phone required.

Of course, today's smartwatches have limited storage space, so you won't be able to load up your entire discography. Surely there's enough room for a couple albums and playlists, though.

Google also announced that preorders are now open for the Sony SmartWatch 3, the first Android Wear device that will feature a built-in GPS and will be able to use the operating system's new phone-less GPS abilities. Existing Android Wear watches like the Moto 360 and LG G Watch will still be able to make use of the new music playback features.

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