From Google Fit to teased next-generation chips, Wear OS has seen a flurry of news in recent weeks. However, those developments were all in the periphery of the smartwatch platform. Today, Google unveiled a redesign focused on providing quicker access to Assistant and health, while notifications have again been revamped.
Since the original iteration of Android Wear, Google has tried a number of notification schemes. All — along with the latest revamp — are accessible by swiping up from the watch face. However, instead of individual cards, multiple alerts are now viewable at the same time thanks to a new “notification stream.”
A miniature icon, app name, and the receive time are noted at the top of every notification. The full message then follows, with apps able to tint some colors like Android Messages producing a blue highlight and Hangouts a green one. Meanwhile, tapping a notification does not open a new screen, but rather slides down text and emoji smart replies to quickly respond.
A swipe down from the watch face still opens quick settings, but Google has tweaked the design to be more compact and fit additional controls. The 3 x 2 grid features shortcuts for airplane mode, ringing your phone, battery saver, Google Pay (on supported devices), Do-not-disturb, and theatre mode.
All are placed in circles, similar to Android Pie’s Quick Settings. Settings is not one of the icons and has been moved to the very top of the screen, while battery percentage and connectivity status remain at the bottom.
Starting with Android Wear 2.0, a left or right swipe switched watch faces. A swipe right now opens a Google Assistant feed that is similar to the visual redesign recently rolled out to phones. A time-specific greeting, date, and weather is below a shortcut to launch voice search at the top of the screen.
Below are reminders like your next event, commute details, flight status, hotel reservation details, and more. Each features a button to view more information, including a full list of upcoming appointments, an hourly forecast for the weather, and nearby locations with details. It will additionally suggest Actions like setting a timer and other new ones that are added to Assistant over time.
Lastly, a swipe to the left brings up the just redesigned Google Fit. Users immediately get access to rings that note Heart Points and Move Minutes progress, as well as a shortcut to quickly start a workout.
This major redesign is rolling out as part of a Wear OS update, with watches receiving the new features over the next month. Google notes that some functionality will vary by phone OS, watch, or country.
Amidst other news like a Wear OS app review process on the Play Store and Google Coach, there has been little about any changes to the actual operating system itself. Today’s update changes that and very clearly reiterates that Wear OS is focused on notifications, Google Fit, and Assistant.
The latter two tenets are universal with all wearables, while Google has a chance to make this current take on Assistant more like the original vision of Android Wear as essentially a Google Now smartwatch.
Meanwhile, as a result of focusing on the operating system, Google is making it faster to access everything. Four swipes on the watch face should provide users with almost all the features they’ll ever need on a wearable. That focus on speed is also evident in adding more quick settings, and replying to notifications without having to jump to another screen.
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