The Wear OS emulator in Android Studio now includes a preview of the upcoming Android 11 based update for Wear OS.

At I/O 2021, Google began taking the wraps off of a major upgrade for Wear OS, set to incorporate the best of Fitbit and Samsung’s Tizen. While we still have at least some months to wait before watches start shipping with the new Wear OS — and even longer before older watches start to get updated — Google has offered developers an early preview of the new update.

With the latest Android Studio Beta, you can use the built-in emulator to install and run a “Wear OS – Preview” build. The first notable detail we learn here is that, as expected, the new version is built on Android 11. For comparison, the current version of Wear OS — System Version H — is based on Android 9 Pie.

Once downloaded, you can try out the Wear OS update, albeit from your computer rather than on an actual smartwatch. Or, to save you the effort, we’ve recorded a quick overview of what’s changed in the new Wear OS.

The Wear OS homescreen looks and acts relatively the same, with an upward swipe opening notifications and a downward swipe revealing Quick Settings. However, your current Tiles can be found by swiping left or right from the homescreen.

The notifications tray has gotten a revamp, with each notification getting its own card in the Material You style. Similarly, the apps list has been completely redesigned with a new list of “Recent” apps featured at the top. Beneath this, you’ll find the usual alphabetical list of apps, and each app in the list is now shown within a distinct pill shape.

Within the Quick Settings, we find a significant redesign of the Battery Saver page. On the new design, we’re able to see a sizeable green aura in the background of the page, suggesting that the Wear OS Settings app could be getting an overhaul with this Android 11 update. When Battery Saver is enabled, this aura turns red, pointing to a fun, responsive design.

In the Settings app, we find that the Android 11 based version of Wear OS is listed as “System Version I” expectedly continuing down the alphabet from the previous updates. In the same screen, we can also see that the Wear OS preview build is on the “June 5, 2021” Android security patch. This is unfortunately unlikely to be an indicator of when we should expect the new version of Wear OS built on Android 11 to reach real devices.

It’s clear that this is not the full redesign that Google teased, but it’s at least a small glimpse at what’s to come. Based on what we can see so far, what do you think of the new Wear OS design? Let us know down in the comments!

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Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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