Wear OS 4: 5 features we want to see
What we want to see from Google's next wearable platform.
It's been almost two years since the last major version of Wear OS was introduced. Google and Samsung took to the stage at Google I/O 2021, sharing the overhauled design, along with the surprise announcement that future Samsung wearables would be adopting the platform.
Since then, we have seen two iterations of Wear OS on Samsung smartwatches, the Pixel Watch was finally released, and a few other smartwatches have been released with Wear OS 3 in tow. However, two years later, there are still some things that are missing from the platform, and we're going to take a look at features Google could add with Wear OS 4.
Customizable Quick Settings
Not only are the best Android smartwatches designed to be an extension of your smartphone, but they should also provide quick and easy access to things without needing to reach for your phone. That's where the Quick Settings panel comes into play, but for one reason or another, Wear OS 3 does not (natively) allow you to rearrange the different tiles.
In some cases, such as Samsung's One UI Watch, you have the ability to customize the different toggles that are available. But the same can't be said for Google's own Pixel Watch, which gives you a bunch of Quick Settings buttons, without letting you decide what's shown. This feels like an oversight, and the release of Wear OS 4 would be the perfect time to add this functionality.
Fitbit integration for everyone
Even before the Pixel Watch was officially announced, the presumption was that Google would be leveraging its acquisition of Fitbit back in 2019. This came to fruition following the release of the Pixel Watch, as all of your health and fitness data is handled and stored by the Fitbit app on your phone.
However, with Wear OS 3, Google has put much of the onus on the different smartwatch makers when it comes to your health and fitness data. For example, the Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 rely on Samsung Health, while the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition uses Fossil's own Wellness app. That's not to say that either Samsung Health or the Fossil Wellness app isn't capable, but we're big fans of uniformity.
So it would be nice to have Wear OS 4 smartwatches enjoy the same experience, regardless of what wearable you are using. Accessing and customizing your Wear OS 3 smartwatch is now handled by multiple apps, with one being designed for customizing the device, and the other for health. At the very least, it would be nice to have all of the health data synced with a single app, especially if you decide to go switch from the Galaxy Watch to the Pixel Watch or a Fossil wearable.
Backup and restore functionality
In late 2022, it was discovered that Google was working on a better method for backing up and restoring your smartwatch. Much like the ability to customize the Quick Settings panel, not implementing a proper backup system for Wear OS seems like another oversight.
As it currently stands, you don't actually have the option to back up anything on your smartwatch. Instead, this means that every time you have to restore your Wear OS device, set up a new one, or pair your existing smartwatch with a new phone, all of your settings are gone. It's a tedious process, and a rather frustrating one, to say the least.
Not much has been shared in regard to a new backup and restore feature for Wear OS 4. But the most recent reports suggest it will allow you to back up things such as app data, device settings, and "Watch faces and tiles."
The ability to switch between devices without resetting
This is the first of two "long shot" features we want to see, but we're still keeping our fingers crossed. As someone who regularly switches between phones, is a slog to have to reset the watch, deal with the pairing process, and then go back and customize the watch to my liking. Of course, a proper backup and restore system would alleviate some of the headaches.
However, if Google wanted to implement something like this, all it would need to do is to consult the Fitbit team. This is something that has been available on the best Fitbit wearables for years, as you just need to sign into your account. Then, you can access the device from within the Fitbit app and then can "move it over" by changing the Bluetooth connection.
Support for built-in biometrics
It appears as though Google is gearing up to revamp its Smart Lock functionality across Android, ChromeOS, and Wear OS. Extend Unlock is Google's planned revamp of Smart Lock allowing you to keep your phone unlocked as long as it is connected to your smartwatch. This is great for your smartphone, but what if the next version of the Pixel Watch included an embedded fingerprint scanner on the side?
This isn't a new idea by any means, as the functionality was shown off all the way back in 2016. But that example was clearly a prototype and never made it to the masses. Embedding a fingerprint scanner would be quite useful for things such as using Google Wallet or Samsung Pay to make mobile payments. And as shown in the video above, it could even offer another way for interacting with the Wear OS interface without actually touching the screen.
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Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.
fuzzylumpkinI use a Galaxy watch, so I hadn't realised just how second rate the experience on a pixel watch was. No backup and restore? Really?Reply