Google's planned revamp of its Android Wear watch software, called Android Wear 2.0, has been pushed back to early 2017. But when it does arrive, compatible smartwatches might start doing a lot more apart from phones.
Ahead of next week's big Google news of what could be a whole ecosystem of products, Google has announced that the consumer version of Android Wear 2.0, expected this fall, has been moved to early next year. Meanwhile, Apple's newest version of the Apple Watch is already available, and Samsung's Gear S3 arrives this fall.
In the meantime, a new developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 offers the ability to test a new feature, adding the Google Play Store directly on the watch. Google is aiming to have apps download away from any phone, in an attempt to make the watches act as more independent devices. Apple's and Samsung's watches need to install apps via a paired phone.
There are a few new Android Wear watches trickling out this fall, including models from Nixon and Polar, but the state of Android Wear smartwatches has largely been on pause lately. Most major Android Wear watch manufacturers, including Motorola, LG and Huawei, have put their smartwatch plans on hold for 2016.
Meanwhile, Google will extend its currently available developer preview program, continuing to improve the Android Wear experience. Android Wear 2.0 improvements include better UI for circular displays and smarter reply notifications.
Google says the idea of an on-watch Play Store is "helping developers reach more users," and that could mean iPhone users too. Android Wear watches can already pair with iPhones, but they can't access the Google Play Store for apps. This could possibly be a workaround, and a way for iPhone owners to finally use Android Wear watch apps too, without having to run through the iPhone. According to Google, that's the plan in the works.
The move to on-watch app downloads could also help for future watches that have their own cellular LTE connections. Right now the only truly cellular-enabled Android Wear watch is the LG Watch Urbane LTE, and that still needs to be paired with a phone to get apps.