Google Allows Multi-APK Support for Android Wear 1.x
One of the changes introduced with Google’s second generation smartwatch platform, Android Wear 2.0, is support for standalone applications. Google has announced that Android Wear 1.x will now support standalone apps. As the name would suggest, an Android Wear standalone application does not need the smartphone in order to run the application. It is able to independently communicate with the network if it needs to, which means that the Android Wear smartwatch is less reliant on the host smartphone.
A related technology introduced with Android Wear 2.0 is that of the “multi-APK.” This reduces the size of the APK, or application install file, on the Android smartphone by unbundling the Android Wear component. Although this change will reduce the size of the Android install files, the main reason here is that it won’t matter if the customer is using an Android or iPhone smartphone in partnership with the Android Wear device. Adding multi-APK support for Android Wear 1.0 is good news for customers of older devices (such as the Motorola Moto 360) feeling left out in the cold by new apps that cannot install on their device, and by manufacturers not updating their devices to the new platform.
Another related change is that the Google Play Store policy is changing to encourage developers to change how they code Android Wear apps. Google wants all Android Wear apps capable of independent operation to be written as such. This of course brings significantly improved compatibility with Apple iPhone-using customers, because iOS will not cooperate with Android Wear in the same way Android can. Existing applications supporting Android Wear will lose the “Enhanced for Android Wear” badge unless developers unbundle their apps into smartphone and smartwatch apps. This change takes effect from January 18, 2018.
I’ve mentioned the Apple iPhone a few times already in this article, but before you take up your pitchforks, Google is taking steps to make the Android Wear platform a better option for Apple customers. Currently, whilst you can use an Android Wear device on an iPhone, it is a limited experience, especially with an older Android Wear 1.x device. Whilst for every one iPhone bought around the world, there are four Android devices bought, the Apple iPhone has been a hugely successful device in many developed (and rich) markets. Opening up Android Wear to these customers is a very good thing for Google, and of course gives Apple customers a more viable smartwatch alternative to the Apple Watch.