I'm weary of this Wear OS waiting game

Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro 4 teaser
(Image credit: Mobvoi)

We’re a few weeks into 2023, and we’ve already seen some cool tech products announced this year, particularly from CES. But while Google and other Android OEMs were present to show off new phones, tablets, and software, Wear OS had barely any presence, and it seems we’re once again waiting for the next generation of Wear OS 3 smartwatches to arrive.

That's not to say there haven’t been some interesting things to show off in the Wear OS space. Google revealed a new Active Unlock feature at its CES booth (via Android Police), an unannounced feature that lets Pixel Watch users keep their phones unlocked if the watch is in use, on the wrist, and nearby.

Citizen also showed off its latest smartwatch, the CZ Smart, which features interesting tech from NASA to help users combat fatigue. However, that watch is powered by the aging (yet still good) Snapdragon Wear 4100+ chipset, which only seems to highlight the fact that we're in 2023 and still have yet to see a smartwatch with the newest chip.

Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+ platform summary

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

The Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 was announced over the summer of last year, with the promise of vastly improved performance and battery life for Wear OS smartwatches. It features a smaller design, better low-power modes, and is much more efficient than its predecessor thanks to its new 4nm process and co-processor.

It's a huge improvement over its predecessor and is set to usher in the first Snapdragon chip for the Wear OS 3 era. I even gushed about how excited I was for Wear OS because of the chipset, which seemed ready to give Samsung and its Galaxy Watch series a run for its money. However, that excitement is turning into frustration as I find myself once again playing the waiting game.

When Qualcomm announced the W5+ chip, it stated that we would see the first example of a Wear OS watch from Mobvoi arriving in the fall. Mobvoi also teased that the watch would arrive in 2022, and yet, here we are in the winter of 2023, and there's still no watch with the new chip besides an OPPO Watch 3 series powered by the standard W5, and those don't even run Wear OS. So far, Mobvoi has been pretty quiet about its missed timeline.

Not only that, but the company has lagged when it comes to releasing Wear OS 3 for its current batch of smartwatches. I've seen a number of users on various forums complain about the lack of news regarding the update, unsure if they should point the finger at Google or Mobvoi. However, as we've seen with companies like Fossil, the update is pretty much in the hands of the OEM at this point.

The Wear OS 3 update for the Skagen Falster Gen 6 smartwatch

The Skagen Falster Gen 6 received the Wear OS 3 update in January 2023. (Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

So what's the deal? We reached out for an explanation on both the missing smartwatch and Wear OS 3 update, and Mobvoi had nothing to share on either matter. Instead, the company decided to put its efforts into releasing a subscription service for its "upgraded" sleep-tracking features and a new watch face app.

Fortunately, we've seen a leaked render of the upcoming smartwatch, which may be dubbed the TicWatch Pro 5. Usually, this is a sign that we may be close to a launch.

However, keep in mind that Qualcomm and Mobvoi first teased this new smartwatch in July of last year, and six months later, there's still nothing to show. Mobvoi's "Epic Front Runner" is already late.

It's a bit of a letdown because it reminds me of all the waiting we did for Snapdragon Wear 4100/Plus era to kick off. Following its launch, we received one watch: the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3. That was the first and only Snapdragon 4100 smartwatch for about nine months until the fairly mid-range TicWatch E3 was launched. Other OEMs like Fossil didn't start jumping on the Wear 4100 train until almost a full year after the chip was launched, and those brought the first wearables to finally use the Plus variant.

Then we waited a whole year before we saw a non-Galaxy Wear OS 3 smartwatch hit the market, and they're either way too expensive and/or still sporting fairly outdated chips that work fine but hardly seem optimized to take advantage of the software (we're still waiting on Google Assistant support).

It gives me flashbacks to the days of yore when Nokia would announce a phone and release it something like six months later when everyone pretty much forgot it and moved on to the next big thing. In this case, both the Pixel Watch and Galaxy Watch five have launched since Mobvoi's teaser, and they're both pretty damn good smartwatches. Heck, I low-key forgot Mobvoi had something on the way because I myself ended up buying a Galaxy Watch 5 and I'm quite happy with it. And yeah, the Pixel Watch was teased months ahead of its launch, but Google doesn't care how many of them you buy, as long as you're buying into its ecosystem one way or another. Mobvoi should care, unless it wants to risk its fans jumping ship to other Wear OS OEMs.

It's starting to feel a bit like déjà vu, with Fossil (and other OEMs) still launching new Wear OS smartwatches with the older chip months after the new one was announced. Only this time, Mobvoi is almost nowhere to be seen half a year later, which is a little concerning. Fossil, a staple of the ecosystem, has also been coy about its plans to launch a smartwatch with the new chip, which we expect would arrive on a possibly Gen 7 model, and I have yet to hear anything from other Wear OS OEMs. I just hope we see something soon from someone because I'm tired of always waiting for the next big Wear OS thing to actually happen.

Derrek Lee
Managing Editor

Derrek is the managing editor of Android Central, helping to guide the site's editorial content and direction to reach and resonate with readers, old and new, who are just as passionate about tech as we are. He's been obsessed with mobile technology since he was 12, when he discovered the Nokia N90, and his love of flip phones and new form factors continues to this day. As a fitness enthusiast, he has always been curious about the intersection of tech and fitness. When he's not working, he's probably working out.