Wear OS is now being co-developed with Samsung to attract developers, bring more customization

Google IO 2021 Keynote Wear Apps
Google IO 2021 Keynote Wear Apps (Image credit: Google)

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:

The great experiences that consumers loved on previous Galaxy smartwatches will continue on this unified platform. Samsung implemented our best technology to provide optimized performances, and advanced sensor batching and low power display technology to ensure an efficient and long-lasting battery.

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.

Google Io 2021 Keynote Wear Task Switching (Image credit: Google)

Google Io 2021 Keynote Wear Tiles (Image credit: Google)

Source: Google

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.

Wear Os Google Maps Pay Youtube Music

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

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.

Wear Os Fitbit Integration

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

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.

Derrek Lee
News Editor

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.

  • I think this was a mistake. They should have stuck with Tizen. The end of the smart watch is upon us (unless you use an Apple Watch). Why would Google be any different with Android Wear than they have been the past several years? This just makes Samsung watches worse than they were.
  • Yep. Samsung tried a WearOS device early on but abandoned it pretty fast.
  • Wear OS with the 4100 chip now is great, and if you haven't tried it you wouldn't know. So if Samsung makes even better then why not. You will see when the Galaxy Watch 4 comes out with Wear and the newest chip (4100+ I believe). Nobody will miss Tizen.
  • Totally agree, every Galaxy Watch has the same CPU and RAM combination. Samsung didnt manage to move it forward after the OG Galaxy Watch. Ive got the Ticwatch Pro 3 and can totally agree its a different beast all together. Im on 4 and a half days battery life on a watch thats tracking my exercise and sleep.
  • This makes sense for Samsung. They'll be able to develop a lot of models that android users will be willing to try, and then sell more smartphones. Apples to oranges, but kinda like when Apple went intel.
  • Until we get a decent SOC for a watch only so much can be improved. My Fossil watch is so slow on just about everything I dont even try using most of its features.
  • I am SO looking forward to this. It's about time they partnered up! (see what I did there?) I think it will be a good thing, the only way anyone can put out a watch that can compete in Apple's dominating market. Google and Samsung NEED to work together. I have a Fossil Carlyle gen 5, and it's... okay. I love it for notifications and watch faces, tracking my runs, but battery life is just okay at best and OK GOOGLE doesn't work. Seriously? lol. But I like the new gBoard and it makes texting my watch easy to do. Although I DO miss drawing my emojis. I hope for the best with this partnership! I am looking forward to some great watches!
  • This is good and bad because with more customisation it'll be good for the new Wear platform but smartwatch will be as fragmented as Android is already now that Google is handling responsibility for updates to the OEMs and we'll be saying the smartwatch updates is a mess. Thanks Samsung for fragmenting the Smartwatch updates because say what you want about Wear OS, but at least Google was in control of the updates but to be fair, Samsung and Google stand alone in Android updates consistency.
  • I really hope they do t force us to use Google pay on the watches. Samsung Pay is far superior.