At I/O 2021, Wear OS 3 was unveiled as a significant revamp — if not revival — of Google’s plans for wearables. There are three tentpoles to this effort, and it is the company’s best chance in years to be competitive in this market.

This renewed effort comes five years after Android Wear 2.0 was announced as a big leap for the platform. Google reiterated that today with Wear OS 3 when talking about a unified platform, whole new consumer experience, and best of Google on your wrist.

By working with Samsung and Tizen, there is faster performance (up to 30% on “latest chipsets”), longer battery life, and a “thriving developer community” for third-party apps. The unified platform remains available for all device makers and allows them to add a “customized user experience”/skin.

To achieve longer battery life, we’ve worked to optimize the lower layers of the operating system – taking advantage of low-power hardware cores to enable better battery life. That includes handy optimizations like the ability to run the heart rate sensor continuously during the day, track your sleep overnight and still have battery for the next day.

Visually, a new navigation system makes it faster to get things done. For example, a double-press button action lets you quickly switch to your last used app, while Tiles are now open to all developers. However, the big focus of the “whole new consumer experience” is apps.

Google Maps (with turn-by-turn directions) and Assistant “being redesigned and improved.” Google Play will similarly add support for 26 new countries, beyond the current 11. In a big finally, YouTube Music will be available later this year with smart downloads. Offline storage for music has been missing since Play Music’s deprecation.

Lastly, Fitbit is also powering the fitness features on Wear OS, like tracking and on-wrist celebrations, with Google recognizing how “health and fitness tracking is essential for wearables.

These updates, like Wear OS 3, will “begin rolling out later this year.”

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com