If Android Wear is going to make a comeback, it's going to need a pretty serious re-launch with fantastic new software and hardware. At least on the software side, Android Wear 2.0 is shaping up nicely.
Google just released Developer Preview 4 of the Android Wear 2.0 operating system, and it brings with it several welcome features for app makers.
For starters, Google has added a new OAuth API and support for single-click Google sign-in. With Wear 2.0, you can browse the Play Store and install watch apps without putting anything on your phone, so an easy way to sign in to apps and services is necessary. This new feature lets watch apps prompt the phone for an authentication screen. If you're using a Google account, it's even easier—you just get the Google sign-in confirmation screen.
Google's making it easier to sign into accounts for watch apps.
Sign-in isn't the only thing that needs an overhaul if apps are going to live on your watch but not your phone. Devs also need a way to allow for in-app purchases on the watch, so Google's added that as well.
Other goodies in the new preview includes the ability to cross-promote apps between watch and phone. So if you have a phone app and there's a watch component (or vice versa) the app can push you to the right place on the Play Store to get its companion. Compatibility with Wear 1.0 apps has been introduced, and the old swipe-to-dismiss gesture is back.
Google says to "stay tuned for Developer Preview 5," so it would appear that a final release is not on the way soon.
The story behind the story: Back in September, Google decided to delay Android Wear 2.0, once due late this year, into 2017. It was a good call: Android Wear sales, and smartwatches in general, are sinking. Google needs to seriously reboot its watch effort with a major OS overhaul and fantastic new devices. The developer previews show a lot of promise on the OS side, but it's going to take killer apps and some real next-gen watch hardware, along with a big marketing push, to make Wear thrive.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.