Android Wear to become more Apple Watch-like with Wi-Fi support

Google's software for smartwatches currently supports only Bluetooth, meaning its functionality is limited. But that's about to change, according to a report.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Motorola's Moto 360 is among the devices running Google's Android Wear. The operating system is reportedly getting Wi-Fi support. Motorola

Google's Android Wear software for wearables will soon get some updates that will make it act more like the software on the upcoming Apple Watch, according to a new report.

Google is planning to bring Wi-Fi support to Android Wear when the company launches its next software update, The Verge is reporting Tuesday, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the search giant's plans. The update will also include support for gesture control -- so users will no longer need to swipe their finger across the screen of a device to switch between notifications -- and it will make it easier to switch between apps as well, the report claims.

Android Wear is Google's alternative to the software built into Apple Watch. The platform is designed for wearables of all kinds, including smartwatches, and allows users to access third-party apps, search the Web, and more. Android Wear is running on a range of devices, including the Moto 360, the Asus ZenWatch and the Samsung Gear Live. Android Wear works only with devices that run Google's Android mobile operating system. Apple Watch will work only with devices like the iPhone, which run Apple's iOS.

The rumored update comes just a day after Apple held a special event providing more details on Apple Watch . Central to that event was a demonstration of how the device works and how the modified iOS software built into the smartwatch interacts with user inputs.

Both Android Wear devices and Apple Watch rely on other mobile gadgets to deliver their full feature-set. Whether it's notifications, call information or many other functions, the devices connect to another gadget to grab that content. Android Wear currently allows for the transfer of data only via Bluetooth, meaning much of its functionality is gone if an Android handset isn't in someone's pocket or sitting nearby with Bluetooth switched on. Apple Watch will not launch with the same constraint, thanks to its Wi-Fi support in addition to Bluetooth. An Apple Watch user can, for example, take advantage of all the smartwatch's features at home, even when the device it's paired with is outside Bluetooth range -- as long as both gadgets are connected via Wi-Fi.

There are several Android Wear-based devices that come with built-in wireless, but because Android Wear doesn't have support for Wi-Fi, the wearables are limited. Adding Wi-Fi support changes that.

The Verge's sources didn't say when the Android Wear update will launch, but time is of the essence: preorders for Apple Watch kick off April 10, and the device will launch April 24.

A Google spokeswoman declined to confirm the report but did say that "the Android Wear team is hard at work."