Smartwatches provide us a lot of neat conveniences, from checking your notifications with a glance at your wrist to controlling media that you currently have playing. However, even the biggest fans of the technology would admit that smartwatches don’t really give you anything that you didn’t already have with your phone. The selling point is convenience.
That being said, we’d like to pass on a little trick that gives Android Wear smartwatches an independent benefit. Many of them have a bucket of internal storage at their disposal. This allows a way to download music on the device and stream it to a Bluetooth headset, offline and without a phone connection. Pretty cool, huh?
However, there is a caveat with this capability – it can only be done via Google’s Play Music service. This figures, as Android Wear is a Google product. So if you’re a Play Music user, let’s walk through how to get music onto your smartwatch.
1. Enable Download to Android Wear Setting in Play Music App
The first step to setting up your Android Wear smartwatch with some of its own music is to enable the feature within the Play Music app. Simply go into the app settings and scroll all the way to the bottom. You should see an Android Wear section.
There are two options here: 1) Download to Android Wear and 2) Manage Wear downloads. They’re self-explanatory. Enabling Android Wear for offline playback activates the downloads manager for your use.
When you tap on Manage Wear downloads, you’re taken to the Wear Sync area (where all the magic happens).
2. Choose and Download the Music
Before beginning, there’s a particularity to explain between the phone and smartwatch interaction. Once you do Step #1, any music that you have downloaded on your phone for offline use will automatically begin to transfer over to your watch.
This is a big no-no that I can’t believe Google has not addressed yet. The smartwatch has much less storage capacity than your phone does (it’s 4GB on my Moto 360, of which I only have 2.1GB available for media). Chances are that you have more than that saved on your phone. If you don’t stop the transfer (which we will go over shortly), then the system will automatically try to sync as much as it can until the watch runs out of space.
What should happen instead is that it should not do anything and let the user select what to put on the watch (independent of what’s on the phone). That way, the user can be more selective with the minimal space at his/her disposal.
So what you have to do immediately is uncheck each album that is trying to automatically sync, within the Manage Wear downloads area. Simply touch the smartwatch icon on the right from each album (you’ll see it grey out when it is deselected).
After doing this, you can be selective about which album to send over to your watch.
Note: Your watch won’t allow you to download music if the battery is under 75%. You’ll see a message that tells you to charge the watch in order to sync.
Something else to know is that transferring music over to your smartwatch is not a quick process. One album took me 10-15 minutes. So you’ll need a bit of patience in this step. Also, keep an eye on the available storage as you’re downloading more and more.
3. Pair the Bluetooth Headset
Once you’ve gotten through Step #2 and all the music you want is on your smartwatch, it’s time to pair your Bluetooth headset. Simply go to the Play Music app on the watch and try to play the music.
When you tap on Play on Wear, you’ll be told that there’s no connected device.
Agree to go to the settings and it’ll take you to pair your Bluetooth device.
If your headset is typically connected to your phone, you’ll want to first either break that pairing or turn off Bluetooth on your phone (or it will connect to the phone automatically).
The Play Music app will show you what albums/playlists you have available (swipe top to bottom). Swiping to the right will let you shuffle or see the album’s list of songs.
Upon playing, the standard music controls are just a swipe to the right of the Now Playing screen.
Is this a Feature You Will Use?
It is no doubt cool that you can listen to music directly from the smartwatch. The feature’s usefulness is most realized to me when I think about exercising. You no longer have to carry your phone and have your media needs on your wrist.
That isn’t to say that the Android Wear integration is perfect. Our top request for Google is to boost the download speed of music to the smartwatch. It’s painfully slow.