What you need to know
- Wear OS 4 was teased at Google I/O 2023 and will bring new features, including better battery life and enhanced text-to-speech support.
- Wear OS 4 will support backup and restore, a feature that has been available only on Galaxy Watches.
- The new Watch Face Format will enable developers to easily create customizable watch faces.
- Google also announced new apps such as Gmail, Calendar, and WhatsApp coming to the platform.
It's been a while since Google announced Wear OS 3, and while it took a while for the platform to kick off, it continues to be adopted by more people as the update rolls out and more watches launch. Now, two years after Wear OS 3 was first announced, Google is talking about Wear OS 4.
The company teased the update during Google I/O 2023, saying it will bring several new features that users should be excited about. Among them is enhanced text-to-speech support to improve Wear OS accessibility, as well as better battery life. That last one is something we heard before with Wear OS 3, although it hasn't really been the case with many smartwatches, so we hope Google can provide this time around.
One exciting new feature coming to the platform is support for backup and restore, a feature long requested on Wear OS. Since the platform requires full resets when connecting to new phones, it can be cumbersome to have to set up a Wear OS smartwatch just as you had it before. This should make the setup process go by much quicker, even when moving from one smartwatch to another.
Also, when setting up a new watch, permissions will now carry over from your smartphone, meaning you don't have to re-enable them on the smartwatch.
Wear OS 4 will be available later this year, but Google says the developer preview and emulator are already available for developers to try out. And while they company didn't go into too much detail, we'll likely hear more information about the update closer to the launch.
Gmail, Calendar, WhatsApp, and more
In addition to new Wear OS features, the platform is also gaining some long-awaited apps. Gmail and Calendar are finally coming to Wear OS, allowing users to check and respond to emails or RSVP for events. It's a little surprising that it's taken this long, seeing as how Samsung already has a Calendar app on its Galaxy Watch series and a Microsoft Outlook app has been available for some time.
Google did not specify when the apps will be available, just that they're coming "later this year."
WhatsApp is also launching an app on Wear OS. It was recently made available for users in the beta, but the experience is fairly limited at the moment. However, it seems the app should be more widely available "in the coming weeks," bringing additional features we haven't seen yet, including the ability to start new conversations and even answer calls.
In addition to new apps, existing ones are gaining new features. Google Home is bringing enhanced notifications for Nest doorbell owners, allowing users to view who's at the door from their smartwatch. Users will also be able to lock and unlock their doors.
Spotify and Peleton are also gaining new Tiles for quick access to podcasts, new AI DJ playlists, workout tracking, and more.
More efficient watch faces
With Wear OS 4 on the way, Google is making it easier for developers to create new watch faces for the platform, thanks to the new Watch Face Format. This lets developers design watch faces without needing to have any executable code involved. According to Google, there will be "no code embedded in your watch face APK."
This should make watch faces more battery efficient while also requiring less maintenance from developers, as the OS will handle the watch face rendering and logic. Wear OS 4's built-in editor also saves developers from having to build one themselves.
Developers interested in creating watch faces with the new format are able to do so now so that they're ready for Wear OS 4 when it becomes available.
The Pixel Watch is one of the best Android smartwatches you can buy. It has a sleek design that is bound to turn heads, great performance, optional LTE connectivity, and great health and fitness features thanks to Fitbit integration.
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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.