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Where do you want Wear OS to go?

2 months ago 35

As a platform and ecosystem, Wear OS is in a good place right now. That wasn’t the case three years ago before the Samsung partnership. Wear OS 3 reinvigorated the operating system with the Galaxy Watch 4 serving as the flagship device until the Pixel Watch over a year later. The next hardware milestone was the Snapdragon W5 in mid-2022 giving manufacturers a more capable chip to work with. Also, keep in mind how Google and Qualcomm are working on a RISC-V chip for Wear OS.

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During this period, Google finally doubled down on Wear OS applications. This includes new first-party additions like Google Home, YouTube Music, Personal Safety, Calendar with Tasks, and Gmail, while there were meaningful updates to Google Assistant, Maps, Messages, Contacts, KeepPhone, Wallet, and Pixel Camera. The third-party app ecosystem is also doing much better today.

We’re getting more variety with the OnePlus Watch 2, Oppo Watch X, and Xiaomi Watch 2, though Fossil very much did not survive the move to Wear OS 3. 

The next big moment for Wear OS is offering devices with 100-hour battery life due to capable  co-processors allowing common tasks to run in a more efficient manner. This should only improve as Google’s acquisition of KoruLab, which touted “low-power user interface expertise,” gets integrated. 

On the software front, I’d like a few more first-party apps like Calculator and a compass, while a Pixel-exclusive Recorder — even if it just controls your phone — would be nice. I’m very curious how Gemini will replace Assistant since what you want from a watch assistant is not exactly generative AI. Instead, it’s closer to the At a Glance complication slot that shows relevant and contextual information like the weather, upcoming appointments, and traffic. There should really be an At a Glance watch face. 

Besides Wear OS 5 based on Android 14, we’re waiting for Google to announce a grid app launcher and Material You Dynamic Color theming, but otherwise the UI is pretty simple and places great emphasis on Tiles.

In terms of hardware, it’s time for Wear OS to try square and rectangular form factors again. Circles are more traditional, but sharp corners and straight lines can display more information. 

I wonder if Google will ever want to pursue the smart band form factor. Apps would have to be modified and require developer buy-in. That will be easier when Wear OS is a bit more successful and Google proves it can be a capable steward after an extended period. Fitbit already has the Charge form factor as experience, while Samsung looks to be diving back into the category. 

Speaking of health, will Fitbit drop Google exclusivity? It’s a pretty good selling point for first-party hardware, but being able to advertise Fitbit as coming with any Wear OS device would be killer. 

If we want to go a bit wild, will any OEM be adventurous enough to put a camera on their watch? Video calling would be the primary use case, but it’s technically a world-facing camera too. Something a bit tamer would be adding a fingerprint sensor for more secure authentication — Wear OS needs to really increase the 4-digit PIN limit, while Watch Unlock deserves an honorable mention — and scrolling without touching the screen. 

Last on my wishlist is an E-Ink screen for true multi-day battery life, but it would greatly limit how interactive apps can be.

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