Google has promised standalone music playback over Bluetooth as part of Android Wear for some time, and it appears with Wear version 4.4W2 we're finally getting it, at least if you use Play Music (you're also getting new playback controls). If you're using the latest Play Music APK on your Android phone and have the Android 4.4W2 update on your smartwatch, you can now download your pinned music from your smartphone to your watch.
We spotted it in a teardown of the new material Play Music app this morning, but it looks like a new set of media controls in Android Wear are live - and here's exactly what they look like.
The new controls get a red-themed makeover and volume +/- buttons, plus a nifty kind of physical remote key animation. It's nice. For Play Music, these new controls require two things: the material version of Play Music (which contains an updated mini APK for Wear with these controls) and the 4.4W2 update to Wear, which is rolling out to some devices now, like the LG G Watch.
Google has slowly been adding replacement charging docks for the Android Wear devices to the Play Store. That's important in the case of watches like the Gear Live, which uses a special clip to charge the watch. It's less of an issue for the Qi-equipped Moto 360, but the official stand is in stock now anyway.
The listing for the dock appeared recently, but it wasn't available for purchase. That's changed now, and you can order it for $39.99.
Android 4.4W.2 is slowly rolling out to various Wear devices this week, and my G Watch R review unit just received it earlier this afternoon. A couple of commenters have pointed out a new feature in W2 that we hadn't yet noticed - you can now hide notifications, as opposed to dismissing them, directly from the watchface.
We've already seen about a half-dozen Google apps leaked in a Nexus 6 system dump, but we haven't taken a look at Google Drive yet. The app does have some material design in store though - as with the others - it's still in testing, so anything could change. That said, it's worth taking a look. Google Drive has implemented many of the new material design paradigms that make the app cleaner, leaner, and easier to use.
I know there are more than a few American readers who took a chance on this post, clicking on the headline even though they know the presence of Huawei's name likely means that everything they're about to read won't apply to them. The Ascend Mate 2 is one device that runs counter to this expectation. Huawei sells the phone directly to consumers online, including folks who live in the US.
T-Mobile is currently pushing out an over-the-air update to its version of HTC's flagship phone that bumps the software up to Android 4.4.4. Interestingly enough, getting the latest version of KitKat isn't the highlight of this release. This OTA also comes with the suite of features bundled together as the HTC Eye Experience, which the manufacturer detailed in a selfie-themed event where it unveiled the Desire EYE.
The Eye Experience, which we've previously detailed more in-depth, introduces numerous features that range from useful to just plain gimmicky.
Yesterday, I had an opportunity to meet with Oculus VR at one of the company's numerous offices in Irvine, CA to discuss the company's partnership with Samsung on a piece of hardware you're likely aware of by now: Gear VR Innovator Edition.
Gear VR is, for all intents and purposes, the first consumer product to ever bear the Oculus name. The company's various developer kits have never been marketed to consumers (even if some consumers do buy them), and even this new Samsung gizmo isn't going to be heavily distributed or broadly-targeted.