Google unveils Android Wear beta program, but it only supports one model

Google has announced a very limited beta program for Android Wear, allowing its flagship smartwatch, the LG Watch Sport, to test out some upcoming features based on Android 8.0 Oreo.

Today, we are launching the beta of the next Android Wear update. As we mentioned at Google I/O, this will mainly be a technical upgrade to API 26 with enhancements to background limits and notification channels.

The update is not significant from a consumer perspective at this point, since it doesn't change the Android Wear 2.0 user interface that started rolling out earlier this year. Instead, it updates the core AW code to Oreo, giving it access to two important features phone users have been enjoying for some time: notification channels, and background limits.

The former lets apps on the watch follow the same rules as apps on the phone; if you limit a particular app from sending specific notifications, that behavior will be imitated on the watch.

For notifications generated locally by Android Wear apps, users will be able to customise the notifications channel they want to see, right on their watch.

Given that Android Wear is becoming more phone-independent, notification channels will likely benefit those who rely on apps that generate their own notifications rather than just forwarding them from the phone.

Background limits are battery-saving properties that should extend the battery life of some watches.

There are increased restrictions on background services. Developers should assume services can no longer run in the background without a visible notification. In addition, the background location update frequency will be reduced. Battery-saving best practices such as using JobScheduler should be adopted to ensure your app is battery-efficient and able to perform background tasks when possible.

There's no word on when Google will make the Android Wear beta program available to more watches, but it's good to see the company sticking with its development path nonetheless. You can sign up for the beta if you have the LG Watch Sport.

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.