When it was first announced that Google and Samsung were coming together to create Wear OS 3, there was a lot of excitement for the future. However, that excitement was quickly followed by a lot of uncertainty and confusion. Considering that many of the best Android smartwatches rely on Wear OS, many users were left wondering which devices would be eligible to upgrade to the new platform.
If you're already the proud owner of an existing Wear OS watch, you're probably worried about the fate of your device. This is especially true if you're interested in what Wear OS 3 has to offer. While some Wear OS watches will be eligible for the upgrade, others will not. Those who are thinking about buying a smartwatch soon will want to figure this out before spending money on a watch that may not be eligible to upgrade to Wear OS 3.
One year later and the only smartwatches that are still the only options on the platform are the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. Needless to say, Samsung has the upper hand in the wearable market for the time being, but analysts claim a shift is happening in the wearable market. In Q3 2021, Wear OS sales almost matched those of the Apple Watch, which is something that wasn’t even fathomable pre-Google I/O 2021. There’s an opportunity for Google to boost its platform even higher, but there’s still a bit of time to wait before that happens. Nevertheless, here are all the watches being updated to Wear OS 3.
Google Pixel Watch
At long last, Google’s first smartwatch made its official debut during the hardware portion of the I/O 2022 keynote. Following some rather-extensive leaks, including hands-on photos provided by Android Central, the Pixel Watch was formally introduced.
Not much information about the upcoming smartwatch has been shared, but Google did confirm that it will be sporting a "refreshed UI and rich notifications." It will also feature deep Fitbit integration, with a dedicated app and/or complication being accessible right from your watch face.
Google’s “refreshed” version of Wear OS 3 will also make it possible for a built-in Google Home app. Currently, there is no dedicated application that allows you to control your favorite smart home accessories. Unfortunately, Google didn’t share whether any of its new and redesigned applications will arrive for other Wear OS 3 smartwatches once the software is made available.
Wear OS 3 at Google I/O 2022
We were really hoping to see Google clear things up for the Wear OS 3 platform and what it means for some of the best Android smartwatches that are currently available. Unfortunately, Google didn’t manage to do that at all, leaving us with many of the same questions that we’ve had since I/O 2021 ended.
The Pixel Watch notwithstanding, Google did give a little bit of a nod to its various Wear OS partners, showing a slide during the I/O 2022 keynote with many of those partners listed. During that portion of the event, Google stated that there are now three times as many “active devices” on the Wear OS platform compared to this time last year.
That comes as little surprise given the sheer popularity of the Galaxy Watch 4 and the fact that we’ve seen Samsung’s latest flagship handsets released. If you’re going to pick up a new phone like the Galaxy S22, it only makes sense to want to pair it with the latest smartwatch available. Leaving Samsung to continue leading the way, while also exponentially growing the Wear OS market share at the same time.
Instead of clarity, Google opted to keep things close to the vest. Here’s the full list of companies that are expected to be launching new smartwatches in the near future:
- Michael Kors
- TAG Heuer
But we still don’t know what’s going to happen with some of those older smartwatches. All we can do is assume and surmise, which really doesn’t do anyone any good until Google finally speaks up and shares its plans.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Series
The Galaxy Watch 4 models are the first devices to run Wear OS 3. It's worth mentioning that this may not be the best example of what to expect from the platform as a whole. After all, this is a Samsung smartwatch above all else. Previous Galaxy Watch users should also know that the new models aren't wildly different from their predecessors. You may still sense the ghost of Tizen OS as you're scrolling through the menus.
Of course, you always have the option to make certain customizations so that your watch looks and acts like a Wear OS watch if that's what you prefer. With that said, Samsung is still at the heart of these wearables. As you might've guessed, the main difference that Tizen users will notice is the presence of preloaded Google apps.
Some examples include Google Maps, Messages by Google, Google Pay, and YouTube Music. While Google Assistant isn't available at launch, the company promised to add it at a later date. The watch has been available for more than six months and that still has yet to happen, but it looks like it should be coming soon. This is the same rhetoric that we’ve been hearing ever since the Galaxy Watch 4 series was introduced. Thankfully, Samsung provided somewhat of an update to let its users know that it’s “officially coming this Summer.”
Additionally, while previous Galaxy Watch models were compatible with iOS, that's not the case for the new models. Currently, the Galaxy Watch 4 models do not offer iOS compatibility, so iPhone users are out of luck. Samsung hasn't indicated whether or not that will change in the future.
Select Mobvoi TicWatch smartwatches
One group of users that can breathe a sigh of relief is anyone who currently owns or plans to purchase one of the latest TicWatch smartwatches. A few lucky models will be eligible for the Wear OS 3 update, but we're still waiting for an exact date on when that will happen.
The new models with the Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset will offer the Wear OS 3 update, including the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS, TicWatch Pro 3, and TicWatch E3. The earliest possible rollout is expected to happen around mid-2022 or even during the second half of the year. While you'll need to be patient for a bit longer, the good news is that users who purchased these TicWatches won't be stuck with the old platform indefinitely. Owners of past Mobvoi wearables won't be as lucky, though.
Fossil Gen 6 smartwatches
Right when Samsung was announcing the Galaxy Watch 4 and other new products, Fossil had an announcement of its own to make regarding the launch of the new Gen 6 models. The Fossil Gen 6, Skagen Falster 6, and Michael Kors Gen 6 are all available now and will eventually offer Wear OS 3. It was even confirmed that the Razer x Fossil watch, which is essentially a Gen 6, will receive the update at some point.
This leaves a very large group unaccounted for: anyone who owns an existing Fossil smartwatch that's not in the Gen 6 lineup. If you like the sound of owning a smartwatch with the new Wear OS 3 platform, you should think twice about purchasing an older model. The Gen 6 smartwatches might not be cheap, but these are the watches you'll have to consider if you want one with Wear OS 3.
Early in 2022, TAG Heuer introduced its latest luxury Wear OS smartwatch with the Calibre E4. This is another one of those options powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100+, but it also comes at a steep price. The 42mm option starts at an eye-watering $1,800, which is quite a price to pay for a watch that can’t yet be upgraded to the latest version of Wear OS.
But on the bright side, TAG Heuer has promised that Wear OS 3 will arrive for this luxury smartwatch at some point this year. It’s just another example of how various smartwatch makers are stuck in a bit of a holding pattern for the time being. Nevertheless, the Calibre E4 ships with Wear OS 2.34 and still functions just as you would expect from a last-gen wearable.
Who's getting left behind?
If your watch wasn't mentioned above, it might be one of the many devices getting left behind. This is especially disappointing for people who recently purchased their wearable, like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, for example. That's not the only disappointment, though. None of the previous Samsung Galaxy Watch models are eligible for the update.
What does this mean for the other models? The previous Galaxy Watch models will continue to run Tizen OS and receive updates for some time. Samsung says, "For customers who already own the Tizen OS-based Galaxy smartwatches, we are continuing to provide at least three years of software support after the product launch."
As you can imagine, just how long you'll continue receiving this support depends on when your product was released. Therefore, you may want to review the different devices and their respective launch dates so that you'll know exactly when your Galaxy Watch will stop receiving updates.
Another group of users suffering a similar blow is anyone who owns an existing Fossil smartwatch such as the Fossil Gen 5E. While the fate of existing Fossil wearables was initially unclear, Google has since clarified that only Fossil's new generation of smartwatches would run Wear OS 3.
With that said, the exact timeline for availability still hasn't been nailed down. Currently, we know that Wear OS 3 won't be available on eligible devices until the mid to second half of 2022. The Gen 5 models and earlier aren't as fortunate. For example, anyone who bought a Fossil Gen 5E won't have the option to update to Wear OS 3.
Playing the waiting game
It's also worth noting that users with eligible devices will be able to decide whether or not they want to update their software. Google says it plans to offer more details ahead of the update so that users can make an informed decision. Considering the projected mid-to-late 2022 rollout, you still have time to learn more about Wear OS 3 and determine if you want a watch that will upgrade to the new platform.
While most people might view this as a no-brainer decision, it may require some additional thought. You'll be required to reset your smartwatch to the way it was when you first got it, after all. This is known as a factory reset, which means you'll be wiping your watch and starting from scratch.
Not everyone will be willing to perform a factory reset, which is partly why the system upgrade will be offered on an opt-in basis for eligible devices. Do you plan to update your eligible smartwatch to Wear OS 3?
A whole new experience
Considering that the first wearable to run Wear OS 3 is a Samsung watch, it'll be a unique experience for all. Whether you're a Wear OS regular looking for something new or you're accustomed to Tizen, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is your first chance to experience the merger in all its glory.
One of the lucky ones
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is one of the lucky existing Wear OS watches that will be eligible for the system update. When you combine the new platform with the innovative dual-layer display, built-in GPS, Google Pay, and Google Assistant, you'll have the ultimate Wear OS experience.
Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time, she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.
- Andrew MyrickSenior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables