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Wear OS badly needs to catch up with the Apple Watch's health features

Skagen Falster 2
Skagen Falster 2 (Image credit: Android Central)

Call smartwatches "dead" all you want (and I'll grant that they're not the most exciting topic these days), but I see them on more wrists than ever before — and the vast majority of them are Apple Watches. That's not just because of how many people carry an iPhone, or some dumb generalization about Apple fans, it's because the Apple Watch is genuinely useful in ways that other smartwatches just aren't.

There are plenty of better-looking Wear OS watches, but none of them can match the Apple Watch's health monitoring.

No, I'm not talking about that slightly creepy feature where you can feel someone else's heartbeat through the Taptic Engine. I'm talking about the myriad of health features that have only gotten better with the Apple Watch Series 4.

Both watchOS and Google's Wear OS feature workout routines and heart rate monitoring, but the Apple Watch isn't just about staying fit, it's about staying healthy. That goes beyond the breathing and standing reminders that people have poked fun at for years; the Apple Watch Series 4 notifies you when it detects spikes and irregular rhythms in your heart rate so that you can seek medical attention. It automatically alerts emergency contacts when it detects that you've taken a hard fall. It's the cheapest way to perform an electrocardiogram — even if it's an imperfect test.

For a full rundown of what the Apple Watch Series 4 is capable of, you're better off reading Rene Ritchie's review over at iMore, but suffice it to say, these are things that Wear OS watches simply don't offer. That's not a huge deal for someone like me who's fortunate enough to not have any outstanding health issues to worry about, but for others who do, the Apple Watch could potentially be a life-saving device, regardless of platform preference — if you ask me, Google needs to seriously step up its health monitoring features to compete.

That's not to say that Wear OS isn't still superior to watchOS in a number of other ways. Most people will agree that Google Assistant is far more useful than Siri, and you have dozens of options with Wear OS to best match your personal style — I'm a big fan of the Skagen Falster 2, in particular. Beyond hardware, I prefer the newly revamped minimalist Wear OS interface over watchOS, and you still can't even use a custom watch face on the Apple Watch … is that really asking too much, Apple?

What's your take on the Apple Watch Series 4 and its health-focused features compared to Wear OS? Is this sort of thing important to you, or are you happy to just receive notifications on your wrist — that is, if you even still use a smartwatch at all? Let us know in the comments below!

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

27 Comments
  • I can definitely agree with this, I have atrial fibrillation so I use a Fitbit to track heart rate, my Samsung watch want accurate enough or easy enough to do the task as well. I would upgrade to the Apple watch because of the new heart features but it isn't Android compatible. We need to get other vendors on board with these new features, until then I'll keep using my Fitbit.
  • I don't need a health monitor on my wrist. That seems to me to be more for the geriatric crowd. The "I've fallen and I can't get up!" commercial from some time back comes to mind. Oh, the AW detects that, so I guess that's who they're targeting anyway. I need a watch with smart notifications and with an easy method of responding to them if need be. If anything, the ftness features, not neceasarily health monitors, are what I like but they're more of a bonus. Long battery life is a plus too so all of that considered, it's a Galaxy Watch for me.
  • Exactly this... I've turned off every health/fitness feature on my Ticwatch E. I just want time, notifications, and weather at a glance
  • Lol. Atrial fibrillation and other heart irregularities affect people of all ages. Sure the fallen portion if what Apple doesn't is for that and so what, you won't ever notice it. I had atrial fibrillation since I was a teenager. Played football, hated long-distance running because I was so winded. Thought it was because I was out of shape or something. Didn't find out till I had pneumonia and congestive heart failure due to AF, in my thirties. Had this technolgy been there, in my twenties or earlier, could have been managed earlier. Not just for geriatrics. Don't be ignorant. Technology is used for other things than Snapchat and porn.
  • LOL, I'm not ignorant. I'm aware of cases such as yours. My comment was more for the population in general. Of course there will always be exceptions.
  • So out on a run or bike ride, take a spill and get knocked out. Yup, that's only for old people.
  • Fat chance it'll ever happen. WearOS is one of the top beta products google produces. I loved it so much when it first came out; now they have fallen too far behind. I doubt they care to catch up. They can't sell it as a fashion piece like Apple can so it won't ever get the attention that the Apple watch gets. Samsung is the only true competition and their latest watch is disappointing (This is coming from a current Gear S3 frontier user).
  • Apple watch can't even do sleep tracking, which is something that would probably benefit a lot more people than the fancy ECG features in the iPhone. Sure, the effects of sleep are not quite as acutely life-threatening as cardiac episodes, but people with cardiac problems are maybe 20% of people, and mostly older, whereas everybody needs better sleep. Apple Watch needs to catch up to the features of $25 Mi Band, and drop the price drastically so that more people can afford it.
  • My Huawei watch 2 Sport does sleep monitoring, and just about as well as my Fitbit did. And that watch is over a year old. Doesn't do the other stuff though. I think Google found out what Apple was doing and scratched their own release and will give us something in March.
  • This ^ - If you have heart problems in your family - no watch will save your life. Sleep apnea is blowing up. As a dentist, more and more patients are having to wear masks, anterior positioning devices for snoring, etc to get better sleep and eliminate non-breathing episodes. They still make a great watch, those apple people.
  • If you have sleep apnea, your chances of becoming a type 2 diabetic are higher
  • There are great sleep tracking apps for the Apple Watch. They sync with Apple health too. Works better than the built in sleep tracking on my fenix 5.
  • This is the only area where I am envious of Apple users. I love my Android Wear watch, but Google/Alphabet needs to up their game and compete. I think having information at our fingertips can allow us to monitor our habits and stay healthier, or fix what we're doing wrong.
  • This I agree with.
  • Google Wear and Tizen will have these features soon enough. That said, I don't really care. This is a whole lot of arm waiving over really niche features. 99.9% of Apple watch owners will use the ECG all of once and then forget its there. The heart monitoring and fall protection are really minor for most people, though I commend Apple for doing something interesting. I would much rather have solid fitness tracking and customizable watch faces than any of those features. Also, the Apple watch is BUTT UGLY. I was never really into wearables but I have to say the Skagen Falster 2 is tempting me...
  • Coming from apple and the entire lineup of products I would agree. I have currently a Tic watch E(which will be returned today because apparently they will be releasing a new model soon?) And the one thing I fell In love with instantly was the option to use custom watchfaces... I took part in apples heart study program and didn't have any time when my heartbeat was abnormal enough to be notified (thankfully!) However some people have reported that lives have been saved because of the apple watch. So I'm hoping with the combination of machine learning and hardware either Google or another company will make a watch that can stand with the apple watch. I'm ok with giving Google my information if it will help to create a environment for myself and family to know what's going on with each other... I also LOVE the Falster 2 but will not buy because they didn't add the 3100 chip.. hopefully Fossil group will release another version before the year is out..this would be my "nicer" wearOs watch and the Tic E2(when it's released) will be my work watch!
  • I will stick to Fitbit, for now. Why would I want a wearable that can't connect to any phone, regardless of OS?
  • Because you probably on have one phone, and I doubt you switch operating systems, uh, ever, on your watch... 🤣
  • If you are replying on any watch to help save your life due to your heart, you are already as good as dead. There are real health monitoring devices to be used if you have a heart condition. I'm shocked anybody finds the Apple watches attractive. However, I admit the rectangle is better for notifications and messages. Tiny watch faces are awful for just about every kind of notification, which you can't seriously respond to. The few health tracking features like steps and heart rate are novelties. The argument to buy a $460 Galaxy Watch is very weak when phones are over $1000and decent Chromebooks or tablets cost as much or are cheaper... How many screens does anybody seriously need. No... Watches are solely in the 'want' category, not a need. If you have discretionary income like I do, you will buy a smartwatch 'just because'. I do need a watch for time, and it's fun to track steps. I can't carry my phone at my job... Photos are banned and the fear is explosive potential if a phone was dropped in a gaseous environment (oil and gas plants). You can't take the 'medical device' argument seriously for a smart watch.
  • I agree with these comments 100%. Especially the part about the AW not being attractive. Come on it'a a watch with a hideous rectangular shape LOL. Plus I don't understand why or how some people are saying it's a redesign. It looks just like the previous version even uses the same bands. And editors from this site say it is a beautiful watch. Really?
  • Yep... Cue the iPhone 5 YouTube parodies... Ie. You already have the redisned it watch... You are wearing it right now... 🤣 IPhone Xs parody
    https://youtu.be/Ol3LhKQJC1U The iPhone 5S.... S stands for... Same...
    https://youtu.be/1sIWez9HAbA
  • Why I miss the MS Band wish the 3 was released: https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-band-3 I have been feeling like something has been missing since switching to other fitness tracking products.
  • Well, the are no longer any Microsoft phones. That watch is nearly identical to a Fitbit Charge 2.
  • Well, it's not the hardware that's the limitation. Most smartwatches that have heart rate monitors also have accelerometers, so you basically need an app or a part of the basic software to monitor those parameters and make an analysis. Even my Ticwatch has a heart sensor and accelerometer that work well, and you can change watch faces instantly with a single swipe ;p Now regarding saving lives, I don't think I would put my life in the hands of a smartwatch. Buying a $500 watch to monitor your health, and NOT having normal checkups is not the best way to allay any concerns. See a real doctor on a regular basis. Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well.
    He bought a watch, and thought it swell.
    "This shall keep me as a healthy lad",
    but he died because the sensor went bad.
  • Google in general needs to get better at health than everyone else. Fit can't even read the steps from my Gear S3...not sure who's at fault there, but regardless deals should be made to make data from devices like that available to other apps IMHO.
  • One of the major things Android Wear needs is hardware smaller than a dinner-plate on your wrist. No Android Wear hardware approaches the new 44mm Apple Watch let alone the 40mm Watch with their thin small bodies yet huge screens. Women and men who want something other than the huge thick form factors used by Android Wear manufacturers currently have nowhere to turn.
  • « That goes beyond the breathing and standing reminders that people have poked fun at for years«  By people you mean android fans :) And it’s a matter of preference. In many ways Wear os is superior to watch os