The Android Wear app is used to manage your watch, including applying software updates in the future, plus it's your pathway to new watch faces. Unlike the Apple Watch, Android Wear has downloadable faces available. However, while third-party developers can offer them up for free or premium download on an Android phone, here you'll just have to choose from a collection of 20-plus free faces that Google picked from the pack.
There is, however, one key difference with the way Android Wear and the Apple Watch work with your iPhone: you'll have to keep the Android Wear app running at all times on the phone to keep data flowing to the watch. If you're an avid app-closer, you'll need to remember to keep it running in the background, otherwise your smartwatch won't be very smart at all.
What can it do?
Well, Android Wear devices tell time impeccably when linked to an iPhone, so they are definitely watches. Besides that, the biggest benefit you'll get in day-to-day usage is likely wrist-based notifications. As on the Apple Watch, your various app and communication alerts are forwarded to the watch, letting you stay on top of things without pulling out your phone.
Notifications are handled as cards: scrolling up or down lets you see the alerts from various apps on a separate screen, whether it's email, Twitter or an app notification, plus they'll stack within the same app listing. For example, if you have a dozen new Gmail notifications, you can expand that stack to see a preview of each new email on your wrist, rather than have each appear as a totally separate full-screen card.
Google Now is essentially Android Wear's solution to Siri, letting you say 'OK Google' from the watch's face screen and ask out a command. You can request a web search, for example, if you need a quick fact, an image, local movie times, a sports score or nearly anything else. Should you pull up a listing with a little phone-like icon and an arrow next to it, you can open up the full page in a browser via the Android Wear app on your phone.
Beyond voice search, Google Now is also used to provide contextual cards based on your Google usage, location and more - a weather and traffic card to start your day, for example, or a heads-up on an incoming package delivery based on an email via your Gmail account.
You'll also find a handful of core functions in the form of apps, which are located by swiping left from the face screen. Many are time-centric - setting alarms, a stopwatch or a timer, plus a world clock - but there's also a compass, your agenda and the super handy Translate feature that'll help you carry international conversations on your wrist. There's also Google Fit, which I'll talk about in the next section.
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