Google let the cat out of the bag yesterday with a blog post detailing just what we should expect in the next major version to Android Wear. An upcoming software update will be adding Wi-Fi support, always-on apps, and a few other interesting options. While we wait for new firmwares to hit our wrist-bound hardware, the Android Wear app just received its own update to prepare for the new features. This isn't just a small maintenance release to add configuration screens, there are some major visual and organizational improvements, and a few new features.
While Microsoft's wide release of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for tablet users was more than welcome, there were more than a few strings attached. Most notably, it was incompatible with Android 5.0+, making the newest devices unable to use them. The other major hangup was the lack of support for x86 processors, which basically means all Intel SoCs, a popular choice in the midrange tablet market. Microsoft is now working on a semi-private beta that adds support for both of those groups.
One thing is for sure, if you ask developer Chris Lacy for something enough times, he's going to do it. Well, maybe. Case in point, the new version of Action Launcher includes a number of highly requested features. You can grab v3.4 from the Play Store right now to check it out for yourself.
You can't do as much with a smartwatch as you can with a phone, but these little wrist computers are surprisingly capable. You just need the right apps. Well, and watch faces too. Google highlights a few Wear apps from time to time, but we're always watching in order to spot the best things for your watch, and here they are.
Google Maps offers some stellar features, but that doesn't mean that it can't be improved upon, particularly in the area of public transit. Moovit is a navigation app that specializes in bus and train routes, and the latest version completely overhauls the interface. In particular it's much easier to assign a destination location from the main screen: instead of manually entering an address via text, just slide the map around until the indicator is where you want to go.
Plex is one of the easiest ways to view local video on your mobile devices, and its developers have been gradually cranking out updates as of late that improve the Android experience. Version 4.2 doesn't overhaul the experience, but it does introduce a number of tweaks to the user interface.
One addition is the new Discover mode to help you browse the content in your library. A panel at the bottom allows you to easily switch between it and standard navigation.
Adobe released Lightroom Mobile on Android a few months back, but at the time there were some baffling gaps in the feature set. Today's update fills in a few of the missing pieces, but you'll still need a Creative Cloud subscription to use it. Don't expect that to change any time soon.
At this point, there is no real shortage of "smart" launchers in the Android ecosystem. Of course, we have to put "smart" in quotation marks, because there still is a void in terms of truly good products trying to do that. So when I tell you that Bento is a new entrant in this bustling market of context-aware launchers, you shouldn't ask, "do we need another one?" You should ask, "is this the one that will really do a great job?"
Bento is a venture capital-backed project that is in a semi-private beta at the moment.