Final Android Wear 2.0 developer preview adds better iPhone support before expected Feb. launch

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For the last developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 before its release next month, Google has reintroduced support for iOS devices, allowing users to pair their wearable devices to an iPhone or iPad.

While the ability to pair an Android Wear device has existed before, in Tuesday's fifth release, developers are now able to allow apps to be installed onto iPhone-paired watches, by altering a flag in the watch app manifest. The flag tells the Google Play Store that the watch app doesn't require an Android phone app to function, can work on an Android Wear device in a standalone mode, and can be installed directly from the store.

It is also possible for Android Wear apps to perform a few actions on the connected iOS device. Support for "phone hand-off flows" like OAuth and RemoteIntent can allow the Android Wear app to launch a web page on the iPhone, for example.

Android Wear has offered iOS support since 2015, but Google did not include it as part of the developer preview releases until the fifth release today. Today's new additions expand the usability of Android Wear when used with an iPhone, bringing it more in line with the experience of Android users.

Importantly, an update to the Wearable Support Library now means apps compiled with API level 25 and the library are considered ready for deployment for the Google Play Store. This effectively allows developers to finalize watch apps before Android Wear 2.0 ships, so they can be available to download by users as soon as possible.

Also in today's update are changes to the Navigation Drawer that makes it quicker to access, support for NFC host card emulation, and a ProGuard bug fix that affects complication data containers.

Android Wear 2.0 is expected to ship in early February, and is likely to be accompanied by two new Android Wear devices at launch. A recent leak suggests LG and Google are preparing to unveil a pair of smartwatches that have a side button, seemingly mimicking the Digital Crown function used in the Apple Watch.

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