Big Android feature drop adds some cool new Wear OS and smart home tricks

Three Wear OS images
Some new tricks are coming to Wear OS devices (Image credit: Google)

Google has got into the groove of pushing out new Android features in between major updates such as Android 14, and the latest of these to land is particularly useful if you use a Wear OS watch on your wrist to control your smart home.

There are 11 new features in total, as per Google's blog post, across a range of devices – but it's perhaps the Wear OS ones that are most interesting. You can now, for example, control a wider range of appliances from your wrist, including robot vacuums and mops, and put a Google Assistant shortcut on your watch face.

What's more, you can now use your Wear OS smartwatch to set your status as home or away in the Google Home app, rather than relying on your phone. That can trigger a range of smart home actions for when you leave home or get back to it.

Also "coming soon" to Wear OS is support for Google Assistant routines: these routines bunch together groups of actions, so you can use them to turn on the lights and the heating at the same time, for example, or get directions to work and get your agenda read out to you with a single command.

Even more updates

The Android updates aren't limited to Wear OS though. Google Messages is getting custom background themes for voice messages and full-screen emoji reactions to texts (yes, just like iMessage) – you can read more about these upgrades here.

Google TV is getting another 10 free channels in the US, to add to the 100+ channels that are already available. Google doesn't say specifically what these channels are, but does say they cover movies, sports, and game shows.

If you use your Android phone as a FIDO2 security key, then Android is adding the ability to set up a custom PIN code – which means that if someone should get hold of your smartphone, they won't be able to use it as a security key without the PIN.

Finally, Google is adding some extra AI smarts to the TalkBack feature on Android (which describes what's on screen for those with vision impairments), and expanding the Live Captions feature (which captions audio in real time) to cover more languages.

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David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.