The biggest update ever to Wear OS was announced at Google’s I/O developers conference today. Unexpectedly, it comes as a result of deep collaboration with Samsung on a single unified platform! Wear OS 3.0 marks the end of one era in Google’s operating system and the beginning of another. Not to be left behind, the company will also work with Fitbit on new watches.
Google’s operating system has come a long way in the last couple of years, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. It’s no surprise some companies have abandoned the platform.
Watches running the operating system struggle with battery life, there are performance, consistency and reliability concerns. On the plus side users get a huge number of third party apps and customization options to choose from.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
The smartwatch that perhaps best utilizes the platform at the moment is the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3. This is predominantly because of its Qualcomm 4,100 processor. There’s talk Fossil Gen 6 watches will be landing in July and new Moto watches will be arriving soon. These will also probably come with the new Qualcomm chip.
Many have been fearing Google will abandon Wear OS. That fear was intensified when the company’s acquisition of Fitbit went through earlier this year. Fitbit, of course, has a smartwatch operating system of its own. But it seems these fears were unfounded – Google is sticking to its platform, and it has big plans in store.
These were announced at the company’s annual developer conference – Google I/O 2021. The virtual gathering started today and concludes on May 20th. The letters “I” and “O” stand for input/output, along with the slogan “Innovation in the Open”. To remind, Google I/O was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Google Samsung integration
There have been rumors for weeks now that the next Samsung Galaxy Watch will come with Wear OS instead of Tizen. This has been confirmed today as one of the biggest updates.
Samsung’s operating system Tizen fixes a lot of what is wrong with Wear OS. Perhaps its biggest strength is faster performance and improved battery life when compared to the Google platform. It also has excellent health and fitness tracking, along with a simple to use navigation system. Wear OS, on the other hand, has way more third-party app support and a great user interface.
Now the two are teaming up to combine the strengths of their platforms. The result of this will be a unified wearable operating system. We are guessing we will see the first result of this when Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch Active 4 launch in a month or two.
Samsung says its existing watches will continue to run on Tizen and that it will support the platform for a further three years. But going forward, new Samsung watches will use the co-developed Wear OS. The new operating system will also be available to other manufacturers.
Wear OS 3.0 – what is improving?
A lot will be improved. Google says apps will start faster and battery life will be longer. Plus you’ll have more choice than ever before – that includes everything from devices to apps and watch-faces. The resulting software might finally be a worthy opponent to the common enemy – Apple’s WatchOS.
“All device makers will be able to add a customized user experience on top of the platform, and developers will be able to use the Android tools they already know and love to build for one platform and ecosystem,” said Bjorn Kilburn, Director of Product Management, Wear.
“And because of these benefits, you will have more options than ever before, whether it’s choosing which device to buy or picking which apps and watch faces to display.”
Here are some of the upgrades you can expect. They will begin rolling out later this year.
- The new Wear OS will be designed to be more open. It will, for example, have an expanded Tiles feature. This will include third-party apps, such as relaxation timer from Calm and Sleep Cycle, in addition to first-party functions. Plus you’ll be able to customize the carousel of Tiles. The opening up of the platform will benefit wearable manufacturers such as Fossil – enabling them to tweak the software to better suit their watches.
- New menus will let you create shortcuts to switch between apps. A double-press will quickly switch to the last used app.
- Applications and animations will be around 30% faster and they will have smoother transitions. Google says it has learned from Samsung how to optimize performance and run certain processes in the background to speed up things.
- The duo has also collaborated on chipsets and platform-level enhancements. This should ensure longer battery life even with constant heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking.
“To achieve longer battery life, we’ve worked to optimize the lower layers of the operating system – taking advantage of low-power hardware cores to enable better battery life. That includes handy optimizations like the ability to run the heart rate sensor continuously during the day, track your sleep overnight and still have battery for the next day.”
- Maps is getting Turn-by-turn navigation even without your phone nearby
- Health and fitness tracking is being rebuilt from the ground up in collaboration with Samsung and Fitbit. The new Health Services API alpha will be made available to developers at Google I/O. Early access will allow them to become familiar with the features.
- Google Pay is expanding to 26 new countries over the next month to bump the total up to 37. There will also be a Pay redesign later this year.
- Support for downloading music directly to your smartwatch is coming later this year. It will work via YouTube Music and Spotify. Yes, YouTube support is finally coming.
Google Fitbit integration
So far Google has been keeping pretty quiet on plans following its Fitbit acquisition. At Fitbit, it seems as it’s business as usual for now. The company has just released Fitbit Luxe, a more premium take on the fitness tracker concept.
Google, on the other hand, is said to be working on the first Pixel Watch. Yes, we’ve heard similar rumors in the past but this is the first time actual renders of the device have been posted. Nothing has been confirmed by Google at the conference so these leaks should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The news we received today is of a more tight integration with Fitbit. Some of the most popular features that can be found on Fitbits will be available on Google Wear OS watches in the future. Going forward, the two will also co-develop new smartwatches. Fitbit says it is already working on premium smartwatches based on the new software.
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