The most important form factor Android operates on is phones, and yearly updates reflect that focus. Following the launch of Beta 2, Google today hosted an Android 11 AMA where they received a number of questions about other platforms. In talking about Wear OS, the company all but confirmed that Android 11 will be the next major wearable update.
Google starts by reiterating that it’s “very excited about wearable tech,” specifically name-checking smartwatches and fitness trackers. The answer then links to the “Investing in the Wear OS ecosystem” blog post published after the Fitbit deal was announced last November.
Under the hood, Wear OS was updated to Android 9 Pie in November 2018 with “System version H” following a developer preview that began earlier that year. It’s the current release to this day as watches receive security patches.
Android 10 was never discussed for Wear OS, and Google’s AMA responses today suggest that the platform is jumping straight to Android 11.
You’re correct that the current version of Wear OS is based on Android 9, so you won’t be able to target all the Android 11 APIs from a wearable app yet, but we’re working on it.
In addition to “we’re working on it,” another reply explicitly states how developers “will be able to access most Android APIs once Wear OS is based on Android 11.” That question also revealed Google’s interest in smart home and wearables:
Glad to see the interest in bringing Device Controls API to Wear OS!
The intersection of wearables and home automation is super interesting and we’re excited about what can be done here in the future.
Another answer revealed that Google “brought the Android and Wear OS teams even closer together.” One part of that is letting wearable developers take advantage of Kotlin and Jetpack.
More broadly, Google explained how Wear OS — along with Android Auto and TV — are “not tied to the operating system framework at all” to reflect how those markets are different from phones. For example, new features are usually introduced by updates — via the on-device Play Store — to the “Wear OS” app on watches.
That’s a good thing – it allows us to have a different cadence of release cycles that adapts to the automotive, television, and smartwatch industries. Faster release cycles allow us to address new consumer needs that arise.
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