Amid the new hardware and the extensive talks about responsible A.I., Google I/O saw the announcement of Wear OS 4 which is now available as a Developer Preview for testing and feedback. The new version of Wear OS is slated for release later this year and with it, some new updates will arrive to address a number of the key issues that have long plagues the Wear OS hardware and its users. More on those updates further down the page. For now, I want to talk about one specific addition arriving in Wear OS 4 that could completely change my watch wearing habits.
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you may know that I am into watches and I don’t just mean smart watches. I have a growing collection of “analog” time pieces that dwarf the four Wear OS devices that I own. It’s not that I don’t like smart watches, I just prefer my daily time keeper to be a traditional watch. If I’m wearing one of my smart watches, it’s usually for a specific purpose.
For example, if I’m taking a swim or going somewhere that I’m going to be doing a lot of walking, I like a Wear OS device to track my steps and keep track of health-related analytics. If I’m playing a round of golf, I like to have one of my LTE-enabled devices on in case I get an important call or message needs my immediate. It works perfectly and allows me to leave my phone in my golf bag or even in the car, if I so choose.
Here’s the only problem. I have four smart watches and which one I wear depends on the activity that I’m doing. I absolutely love my Pixel Watch but I don’t like wearing it on the golf course. There’s a lot of sand and dirt out there and it would be very easy to scuff up my beautiful Made By Google wearable. My Galaxy Watch 4, however, is a great companion on the links and I honestly don’t mind if it gets a little beat up. Sorry Samsung. If you own more than one Wear OS device, you probably already know where I’m headed with this…
Every single time I need to switch from one Wear OS device to another, I have to factory reset the watch I’m moving to and there is no option to restore my settings or anything else. It’s no different than when I took the watch out of the box for the first time and it is extremely frustrating. According to Google, that will soon change.
When Wear OS 4 rolls out later this year, hopefully in conjunction with the Pixel Watch 2, users will have the option to back up and restore their watches which will make switching back and forth exponentially easier. As a matter of fact, it may actually WANT to wear my Wear OS devices on a regular basis which is something I simply can’t bring myself to do at this time. I am ecstatic that this is finally coming to Wear OS. I have high hopes that I’ll have a new Pixel Watch 2 before the end of the year and I am almost equally as excited about Mobvoi’s new TicWatch Pro 5 that may finally add a rotating crown. A feature that I have longed for on every TicWatch I’ve owned.
Maybe it’s just because I’m a bit of a watch nerd but this, to me, is some of the biggest Wear OS news to come out in recent years. The ability to move back and forth between watches is crucial for the success of the Android wearable market.
Along with the new backup and restore feature, Google is touting battery life improvements and improved accessibility features that include better speech to text recognition. Wear OS is also making it easier for developers to create and publish watch faces with the new Watch Face Format. Built in partnership with Samsung, “the Watch Face Format is a declarative XML format to design the appearance and behavior of watch faces. This means that there is no executable code involved in creating a watch face, and there will be no code embedded in your watch face APK.” – Android Developers Blog
There are also some new apps headed to Wear OS. Just this week, WhatsApp finally released a Beta version of its chat app for Wear OS and later this year, Google will bring support for Gmail and Google calendar. That means you’ll be able to “quickly respond to emails in Gmail, and check your schedule, view and RSVP to events, and update task statuses in Calendar.”
This is just one tiny nugget of news from Google I/O 2023. Stay tuned as we bring you ongoing coverage of all that’s new in the world of Chrome, ChromeOS, Android, Wear OS and much more. You can read more about the upcoming Wear OS 4 update here.