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article imageAndroid Wear 1.4 adds voice calling support and new gestures

By James Walker     Feb 6, 2016 in Technology
Google has unveiled a new update to Android Wear that will become available on existing devices over the next few weeks. The latest version of the smartwatch operating system expands on the set of available gestures and enables speakers.
In a blog post this week, Google explained that the update, now confirmed to be Android Wear 1.4, focuses on expanding the range of hands-free usage modes available on smartwatches. There is extended support for gestures, a new voice messaging feature and the possibility of making and taking calls on some compatible devices.
Android Wear has always had some degree of gesture input but wrist actions are now even more integrated into the platform. The homescreen's view of Google Now cards can be navigated by flicking the wrist and cards expanded with a "push."
Additional actions simplify returning to home with a shake of the wrist and displaying the app list, assigned to a lift. Google says the new commands will let you "stay connected to what's important, while keeping your phone (or other hand) in your pocket."
Since the discovery of a disabled speaker hidden within the Huawei Watch, Android Wear fans have speculated that a future update would add support for voice calls directly from a smartwatch. Google has now delivered, confirming that the speaker in the Huawei Watch and 49mm Asus ZenWatch 2 will be activated once the update is installed.
Calls can be made or accepted using a Bluetooth connection from a connected smartwatch. Users will be able to keep their phone in their pocket more often while still being able to take calls. Call quality may be a bit lower when communicating with a smartwatch's speaker and microphone over Bluetooth but it could prove a popular way to have quick conversations.
Finally, support for voice input has been expanded to include text message creation. Compatible apps include Google Hangouts, Nextplus, Telegram, Viber, WeChat and WhatsApp. Messages can be sent with "OK Google" voice commands, similar to using voice input on an Android smartphone.
The improvements are likely to be welcomed by owners of Android Wear devices. Google hasn't stated a timeframe for the rollout, instead saying it will become available "over the next few weeks" on all Android Wear smartwatches. For now, only the Huawei Watch and Asus ZenWatch 2 will support the calling functionality but additional devices with built-in speakers are expected to become available shortly.
More about Android, android wear, smartwatch, input, Gestures
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