What you need to know
- Google has announced a massive overhaul for Wear OS.
- The platform is now being co-developed by Samsung and will allow more customization and better app development.
- Fitbit health and fitness tracking will be built into the platform, as will a new YouTube Music app.
Among the big announcements at the Google I/O 2021 keynote, apart from the Android 12 beta, are the updates that are coming to Wear OS. Google has unveiled a major overhaul to the platform thanks largely to a partnership with Samsung.
Samsung is bringing its development efforts from its Tizen platform into Wear OS. Tizen powers some of the best Android smartphones on the market, but Samsung believes that combining efforts with Google will help to boost both companies' wearable efforts.
This was echoed in a blog post by Janghyun Yoon, Samsung's Executive Vice President and Head of Samsung's Software Platform Team:
Thanks to their partnership, Wear OS will perform better and be more battery efficient. Google states that apps will open 30% faster on the latest chipsets, and animations should be much smoother when switching between apps or Tiles.
Wear will soon be more customizable, similar to how Android is on smartphones. OEMs will be able to give their Wear OS smartwatches a look and feel that matches their own smartphone offerings, something that's only been seen in a limited capacity from devices like the OPPO Watch. This will likely help smartwatch OEMs to better differentiate their devices. And to add to the experience, Samsung is bringing its watch face design editor to the platform.
Google's first-party apps are also getting overhauled, including Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Google Pay, the latter of which will be coming to 26 more countries on Wear OS. This also marks the long-awaited introduction of YouTube Music on the Wear platform, more than six months after Google Play Music was killed off. The app will come with smart downloads for offline listening. Cue the collective sigh of relief.
Spotify has also announced that it's rebuilding its app and bringing the ability to download apps and podcasts. This is one feature that has been notably missing from the company's Wear OS app, so it's likely to make a lot of users happy.
Another first-party app that's arriving on the Wear OS platform is Fitbit. Google is tying Fitbit services throughout its Wear platform, which will be available on any Wear device. This could potentially give Fitbit users a reason to switch to the platform or even non-Fitbit users to start using the service. Nonetheless, now that Google owns Fitbit, it makes sense for the company to tie its services into Wear.
While there were no hardware announcements like the much-rumored Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, Samsung also did say that Wear OS experiences will arrive on its next smartwatch. The announcement also highlights a focus on development tools to try and lure developers to Wear OS, such as third-party Tiles.
The updates to Wear OS will arrive later this year.
The best of Wear OS right now
The Wear OS watch you can buy right now
The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS is the best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy, thanks to its dual-layer display, large battery, and newer Qualcomm chipset. Updates from both Google and Mobvoi continue to improve the watch, bringing more features and faster performance.
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Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.