Android Wear watches can now do more without a smartphone

After announcing more stand-alone functionality for Android Wear watches in September, Google is delivering through a software update. On the Official Android Blog, Google detailed the update, saying on Thursday that apps for Android Wear watches can tap directly into a watch’s GPS radio if the device is equipped with one. A new version of Google Play Music for Android Wear also now supports direct playback from the wrist.

There’s only one currently available [company]Google[/company] Android Wear watch with a GPS radio; it’s the Sony Smartwatch 3, which can be pre-ordered today Verizon stores for $250. For now, that’s the only watch that can take advantage of the direct GPS feature, allowing apps to get your location, track your movement or determine how far you are from the pin at your local golf course. All other Android Wear watches are still reliant upon using a connected phone’s GPS.

golfshot on Android Wear

All Android Wear watches can works as dedicated music players with this update, however. The watches have capacity to store music files locally, which can now be played back directly to a set of Bluetooth headphones. Of course, Android Wear watches can still control music playback on a connected phone, but now the phone isn’t needed if you want to leave it behind while going out for a run or a round of golf.

While the software update is welcome news, I can’t help but look back at the MotoACTV watch I bought in 2012, which had these features (and more) right out of the box. I wish Motorola had used that as the basis of its own Android Wear watch, the Moto 360, by including radios for GPS and Wi-Fi, which let the watch work with or without a phone as needed.