We’re mere days away from Google’s big hardware announcements and with the potential Pixel Watch likely not making an appearance, the launch of the latest version of Wear OS might just ease a few woes. This update is available on a wide array of smartwatches and will roll out fully over the coming weeks. Wear OS 2.1 introduces more clear and concise swipe gestures for more intuitive navigation and watch app management.

New navigation in Wear OS 2.1

  • Swipe up – This gets you right into your notifications, which show in a sort of squashed or compressed list — I really like this new look. It’s a shame that stuff like emails and text messages aren’t nested as the Apple Watch has in watchOS 5, but, yeah, it’s way better than what Wear OS used to be and it’s especially noticeable when moving from using an older version.
  • Swipe down – This lets you access the quick toggles section, which has had a slight update to include several new quick controls, including the ability to activate Google Pay and Battery Saver.
  • Swipe left – Depending on your smartwatch, you either get a redesigned Google Fit with motivational activity goal rings and active heart rate-based “heart points” or a first-party health application, like Tichealth on the Ticwatch Pro.
  • Swipe right – This opens up Google Assistant, with the familiar AI-generated suggestions and related search term shortcuts to commonly used requests.

UI Refresh

Beyond that, I’ve noticed little that really differentiates Wear OS 2.1 and the older version of Android Wear. The app drawer retains the exact same layout as before — albeit seemingly snappier — although this could-be due-to the slightly improved hardware on my two Ticwatch models.

The newer sections feel a lot-more cohesive than on previous versions — which is a step in the right direction to challenge the market-leading Apple Watch. I really like the deeper integration with Google Assistant as this gives me more of a reason to chat to my watch to get regular home control tasks taken care of.

Overall it’s a step in the right direction, we’re just missing that killer Wear OS powered smartwatch. Hopefully, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chips for Wear OS will help offer the ‘no compromise’ smartwatch experience that Android is lacking.

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About the Author

Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter: @iamdamienwilde. Email: damien@9to5mac.com