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Wear OS 5 boosts battery life, Developer Preview available now

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Google is launching the first preview of Wear OS 5, which is set to significantly improve battery life for smartwatches.

While there are certainly outliers, like the Galaxy Watch 6 series and TicWatch Pro 5, Wear OS smartwatches are not particularly known for their long-lasting batteries. Google’s own Pixel Watch 2 manages about 24 hours of wear before needing to be recharged, while many Apple Watch owners get a day and a half (or more) on a single charge. Compare that to the Fitbit Sense 2, which manages to go nearly a week without a full recharge.

Year over year, Google and its partners, including Samsung, have continued to drive down the battery usage of Wear OS, and this year’s launch is no different. Today, Google took the wraps off of Wear OS 5, the primary focus of which is improved battery life. As a prime example, Google says that “running a marathon consumes up to 20% less power on Wear OS 5.”

Relatedly, Google is also pushing developers to build apps and watch faces that are innately more power-efficient. On the watch faces front, Wear OS 5 will include a newer version of the Watch Face Format that arrived with Wear OS 4. The format is designed to let Wear OS itself optimize the performance of the watch face so developers can focus on design. The new version of the Watch Face Format enables easy access to weather information and adds new styles of complications.

So far, the Watch Face Format has been a great success for Wear OS, having been adopted by 30% of the watch faces in the Play Store. Google is hoping to keep that momentum going by gradually pushing developers away from the older style of building watch faces. Starting with Wear OS 5, some complications will no longer be available to those older watch faces. Google Play will also stop accepting new watch faces that don’t use the format, beginning in “early 2025.” The company will have an exact date on that deprecation toward the end of the year.

Another highlight of Wear OS 5 is that it’s built on Android 14, potentially marking the beginning of an annual major update cycle for Google’s smartwatch platform. In years past, Wear OS has typically gained every other Android version. Alternatively, Google could simply be trying to align Wear OS with its other non-mobile variants of Android, like Android TV which also got an Android 14 preview today.

If you’re interested in getting started with developing for Wear OS 5 (or just trying it for fun), the developer preview is available today via Android Studio.

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