Android Wear, now Wear OS by Google, should have taken the wearable market by storm. For one reason or another, however, Android’s wearable incarnation didn’t take off as well as its mobile original, and Wear OS lagged behind Apple’s watchOS and Samsung’s Tizen-based OS in more ways than one. With Android 11 just around the corner, Google is reassuring the remaining Wear OS faithful that all is not lost and that the major update will finally bring much-needed performance improvements across the board.
Despite being able to easily share the same app space as Android on phones, Wear OS has failed to get a massive following. And that’s with actually so many smartwatch choices covering a wide range of prices and brands. One of the platform’s biggest flaws has been its speed and performance, both on the software level and especially the hardware level.
The latter has mostly been due to Wear OS devices supporting only old versions of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear chips. Even when Snapdragon Wear 3100 was announced, it took months before manufacturers actually started using it. Soon, Wear OS will also support the newer Snapdragon Wear 4100 and 4100+ systems-on-chip and hopefully it won’t take forever for new smartwatches to actually update their hardware.
Google also promises speedups on the software side, particularly in simplifying the UI and pairing process so that you can get up and going with minimum fuss. Apps are promised to start up faster, too, by as much as 20%. You will also be able to get to information faster, like with new weather screens. There’s even a new countdown timer for washing your hands.
It is definitely good news but also raises the question of whether it’s enough for the rather stagnant smartwatch platform. While Apple and Samsung are already battling it out in medical-related features like ECG and blood pressure monitoring, Wear OS is seemingly still catching up with the basics.