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Android Wear: features, tips and tricks

We’ve spent three days with Google’s Android Wear smartwatch OS, the interface you’ll find on some of the biggest new watches such as the LG G Watch and Motorola Moto 360. Here’s a run-down of some of the best features, and some quick tips n tricks to get you started…

Android Wear tip one: Set up your smartwatch, and phone compatibility

Android Wear is compatible with any Android smartphone that’s version 4.3 Jelly Bean or above, and set up is beautifully simple. Just download the Android Wear app from the Google Play Store onto your phone, then open the app up. You’ll be told to turn Bluetooth on if it isn’t activated, and then your smartwatch should pop up on screen, ready to pair with just a tap.

As soon as your phone and smartwatch are all matey, you can check out a brief tutorial on how to use Android Wear. It’s a nice touch, and covers the basics in quick and easy fashion, but the joy of Android Wear is that it’s beautifully intuitive.

Android Wear tip two: Get to know and change the hibernation screen

If you’ve ever used the Samsung Gear 2, or quite a few other smart watches and wrist bands, you’ll know how annoying it is to have to push a button or perform some over-elaborate arm-raising motion to actually see what time it is.

Google Android Wear smartwatch features review and tips and tricks

Thankfully Android Wear supports always-on hibernation screens, so you can constantly have the time and other info displayed, without turning the display on manually. On the LG G Watch, this is a feature that you can toggle on or off, but not easily – you’ll have to take off the watch, locate the tiny push button underneath, and prod it with a pin. You can then disable the hibernation screen in the settings menu, if you’re desperate to extend battery life.

Tap and hold your finger on the smartwatch’s screen and you can change the look of the clock, to all manner of funky alternatives. Just flick through and choose the one you want.

Android Wear tip three: Get to know the Android Wear interface

Tap your smartwatch’s screen and you’re taken into the main Android Wear menu, which is basically a series of Google Now-style cards. Each card is a notification (emails, birthday and calendar reminders, etc). and you can flick up and down to cycle through each card.

Google Android Wear smartwatch features review and tips and tricks

If you want to dismiss a card, just swipe your finger to the right and it’ll vanish. Swipe to the left and you’ll come across more options – for instance, on an email card, you can choose to archive the message, reply to it, or open it on your phone.

Android Wear tip four: Issue commands on the move with Google Now

Aside from notifications, one of the best things about Android Wear is the ability to use Google Now without reaching into your pants and tugging out your portable pal. All you have to do is double-tap your smartwatch’s screen, and the Google Now prompt pops up, ready to accept your voice command.

Google Android Wear smartwatch features review and tips and tricks

This proved endlessly useful as I dashed from one press launch to the next, or as I man-jogged my way to the pub, ten minutes late for a boozy catch-up. Just double-tap the screen and blurt out “Text [insert name], I’ll be there in five”, and your message will be prepared ready for a quick verification before zipping to its intended recipient. And all without touching your phone.

Android Wear tip five: Get turn-by-turn directions via Google Maps

Another handy bit of app support is the Google Maps turn-by-turn directions feed. Open up Maps on your mobile, type in your destination and get it to plot a route for you. You can then slip the phone away and just read those directions straight off your wrist, rather than staring down at your phone screen constantly.

Google Android Wear smartwatch features review and tips and tricks

It’s especially handy if you’re staggering around late at night, looking for the nearest bus stop or Chicken Cottage – after all, fumbling with your phone after a few shandies as you stroll down darkened streets is just an invitation to muggers.

Android Wear tip six: Download some more apps

You can expand the G Watch’s features by downloading new apps, and it’s easy to find compatible ones – just go into the Android Wear app on your phone, then scroll to the bottom. You should see a blue bar that says ‘Browse compatible apps’. Just tap that and you’ll be taken to a full list of apps that support Android Wear.

Google Android Wear smartwatch features review and tips and tricks

At the time of writing, it’s pretty slim pickings – just over 30 apps in all. But we fully expect this to expand rapidly, and at least you can get the likes of Runtastic already, to track your fitness levels.

Those are all of our Android Wear tips, but feel free to share your own in the comments below.

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