Google Beefs Up Smartphone Software Before Apple Watch Debut

Google Inc. is fortifying its software for smartwatches, just days before the Apple Watch goes on sale.

One new feature of Android Wear will be the ability to bring up information with a flick of the wrist, just like Apple Inc.’s new gadget. Google is also touting a new tool that lets users draw and send emojis, as well as an option to keep an application running all the time (for navigation or grocery shopping, for example). Another key update: Android-powered watches will be able to power some apps without being near a paired smartphone, unlike the iPhone-tethered Apple Watch.

Google is betting the new software will help defend its share of the market for wearable gadgets. About 957,000 Americans bought the Apple Watch on April 10, the first day Apple began accepting early orders, according to Slice Intelligence. That compares with 720,000-plus Android Wear devices shipped for all of 2014, according to Canalys.

“We’re making Android Wear more helpful as well -- getting you what you need, right on your wrist,” David Singleton, engineering director for Android Wear, wrote in a blog post Monday.

The update will apply to all seven models of Android Wear watches over the next few weeks, beginning with the new LG Watch Urbane, made by LG Electronics Inc.

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