Wear OS Overview Updated May 21, 2021

Wear OS

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1,022 'Wear OS' stories

March 2014 - September 2021

Android 11 Wear OS

What is Wear OS?

Wear OS is Google’s wearable platform which is designed to run on watches. It’s based on a modified version of Android, designed by Google, and used on many third-party smartwatches from companies including Fossil, Mobvoi, and more.

The platform is designed to pair with a smartphone – best with Android but compatible with iPhones – and mirror notifications. Developers can also create apps for Wear OS and submit them to the Google Play Store for users to download. Google Assistant is a key feature of the platform, enabling voice controls and smart home integration. Google Fit is also a core part of all watches using Google’s platform, with most supporting a heart rate monitor for fitness tracking.

In recent years, Google’s focus on Wear OS has allowed the platform to function more on its own compared to in years past. LTE watches have been released, and better specifications have also helped fix performance complaints. Pricing on watches varies from model to model, but some models cost under $200, with most of our favorites being around $300.

Google has teased the next “platform update” as coming later in 2021 with some notable changes, including Tiles from third-party apps. You can read more on that here.

In 2021, Google successfully completed its acquisition of Fitbit. When the deal was first announced, Google teased that it would present a chance to “invest more in Wear OS,” but nothing else has come of that announcement yet.

fossil gen 5 carlyle hr
Google Assistant shown on Fossil Gen 5

When did Wear OS release?

Google first announced this platform in 2014 under the name Android Wear.

In 2017, the platform released its “2.0” update, which was an overhaul to the UI and experience with apps being split from the phone and installed independently from the Play Store. In March of the following year, Google officially rebranded Android Wear as Wear OS to better appeal to more customers.

Who uses Wear OS?

You can find Wear OS on many smartwatches, as Google makes the platform available to many OEMs as an alternative to building their own operating system from scratch. Most smartwatches using the platform are powered by Qualcomm chipsets, with the company’s Snapdragon Wear series optimized for smartwatches.

Fossil is the biggest brand in the space, with its own models for sale around $200-$300. The company’s sub-brands including Skagen, Misfit, Diesel, and many others also use the platform for varying price points, but they all generally have the same feature set.

Mobvoi is another notable contender in the space. Google has previously invested in the Chinese company, and Wear OS powers its TicWatch lineup. Notably, Mobvoi’s TicWatch 3 Pro was the first to use the Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip.

Other brands who have been associated with the platform include Casio, Montblanc, Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer, and countless others. Despite the wide variety of brands, though, market share for Google’s platform has long remained minimal and stagnant. In 2020, the smartwatch market saw gains amid the pandemic, but Google’s platform had less share than Fitbit, which was at 6.2% and shrinking at the time.

What’s next for Wear OS?

At Google I/O 2021, the company announced a complete overhaul that’s coming to Wear OS. In the “biggest update ever” for the platform, Google is joining forces with Samsung to create a “unified platform.”

Much of what’s coming with this “Wear 3.0” update remains to be seen, but there are a few things we do know for certain. Google has said that the platform will focus on better battery life as well as better health features, both areas in which previous iterations have lacked. The renewed focus on health will be primarily powered by the newly acquired Fitbit, and based on early looks, it’ll be a near-complete copy from what’s on current Fitbit smartwatches such as Versa 3 and Sense. The new version is based on Android 11.

As for new hardware running the revamped Wear, there’s a lot that’s not known. Fitbit has committed to making “premium” smartwatches on Wear, and Samsung has pretty much confirmed the Galaxy Watch 4 series will be running the update as well.

You can read the latest news about the platform and its apps below.

Wear OS Stories September 16

Galaxy Watch 4 doesn’t work with Google Prompt 2FA notifications like every other Wear OS watch

Two-factor authentication is an important security measure in today’s digital world, but making the feature convenient is key. Google Prompt makes 2FA easy, but unlike every other Wear OS watch out there, the feature doesn’t work on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.

Wear OS Stories September 9

Samsung brings its slideshow controller app to Wear OS for the Galaxy Watch 4

Samsung’s transition to Wear OS left behind a few apps on Tizen, but slowly, the transition is happening. This week, Samsung has quietly released its PPT Controller app for the Galaxy Watch 4 series.

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 is now out on the market, and it’s getting its first update since landing on customer’s wrists. This week’s update is for the Galaxy Watch 4 specifically and delivers improved performance of the touch bezel.

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Wear OS Stories September 8

Google Pay for Wear OS is now available in 10 more countries for grand total of 37

With the launch of Wear OS 3 on Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4, Google announced a wearable redesign of Pay as well as expanded international availability. Google Pay on Wear OS is now coming to 10 more countries.

Wear OS Stories September 7

Fossil smartwatches have long been some of the best you can get on Wear OS, in part because their styling is traditional and looks great. That’s an element only enhanced by the built-in watchfaces, but a recent update to the Fossil Gen 5 series has stripped away quite a few watchfaces.

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Wear OS Stories September 2

The next version of Google’s wearable platform has now properly arrived and it will be experienced by more users in the coming months. Ahead of that, Google is introducing updated app quality guidelines for Wear OS 3.

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Here we are, a week after Samsung has started selling its first Wear OS smartwatch in years, the Galaxy Watch 4 series. These two smartwatches are flagships by almost every definition, but as we’ve had the chance to use them for a few weeks, there’s one thing that’s very clear. Samsung isn’t going to “save” Wear OS, that’s very much on Google’s shoulders.

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Google Messages now rolling out overhauled Wear OS app

The new Wear OS revamp is coming with a lot of new and improved Google apps. Next on the list? Google Messages, which is now rolling out its revamped Wear OS app to users on hardware both new and old.

Wear OS Stories September 1

The next generation of Wear OS demands more power than previous versions, which means new chips are also in order. Qualcomm is supposedly bringing the “Snapdragon 5100” to market in the not too distant future, but some new details hint that it might be a relatively minor upgrade.

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Google has so far confirmed that only a handful of current and upcoming smartwatches will be upgradeable to Wear OS 3 in 2022.

Update: Fossil has revealed which of their smartwatches are confirmed to get Wear OS 3.

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The popular messaging service Telegram just released its 8.0 update today with a few new features, but there’s an unfortunate loss for Android users. Unfortunately, it seems like Telegram has quietly killed off its Wear OS app.

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Wear OS Stories August 31

Fitness tracking service Strava has updated its Wear OS app this week, and in doing so, it’s decided to leave Wear OS 2.0 watches behind.

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Galaxy Watch 4 gets a ‘Walkie Talkie’ Wear OS app, doesn’t work on other devices

Samsung has a more complete smartwatch experience out of the box than any other Wear OS watch that’s ever hit the market, and now that it’s available for purchase, that experience is only expanding. This week, Samsung launched a new “Walkie Talkie” app for the Galaxy Watch 4 that’s now available for download.

Wear OS Stories August 30

The biggest update to Wear OS in years is out now, albeit with a heavy skin on Samsung’s new hardware. Still, it brings with it some app revamps, including a brand new Google Maps app for Wear OS. Here’s how the updated app works.

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As teased, Fossil unveiled its Gen 6 line of Wear OS smartwatches today. Besides the latest stylings, the exterior is mostly unchanged, but there are a handful of internal upgrades.

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Wear OS Stories August 27

Fossil says its Gen 6 Wear OS watches will be revealed on Monday

It’s not a secret that Fossil has new smartwatches incoming, but until this point a release date was unknown. Now, Fossil has started the countdown to a launch for the Fossil Gen 6 Wear OS watches with the release date set for next week.

Regardless of the size of your smartwatch, inputting information on it can be a pain. Text input is done best by voice, which makes that tech crucial to get right. On Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4, the default is Samsung’s engine, but it’s easy to switch over to Gboard for some big improvements.

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We went hands-on with the long-awaited release of YouTube Music for Wear OS earlier week, and while the app certainly gets the job done, it comes with the requirement for Wear OS 3. Unfortunately, that’s a restriction that can’t be easily overcome, either.

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Wear OS Stories August 25

It’s been nearly a year since Google pulled the plug on Play Music in favor of YouTube Music, and in the time since, Wear OS has been left without an official way to tie into Google’s streaming music service. Now, YouTube Music is finally available for download on Wear OS.

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Wear OS Stories August 24

Spotify offline playback is now actively rolling out to Wear OS users

We’ve known for a while that Spotify has been working on offline storage for Wear OS smartwatches, but it’s taken some time to hit everyone’s smartwatches. This week, Spotify is actually rolling out offline support to Wear OS, the company has confirmed.

Wear OS Stories August 18

Following a tease last week before the unveil of the Galaxy Watch 4, a leak of the Fossil Gen 6 smartwatch lineup today reveals a rather straightforward successor.

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Wear OS Stories August 16

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 is very clearly still a product that favors Galaxy smartphone owners, but it seems like the product is opening up a bit more compared to past generations. Not only does the Galaxy Watch 4 support charging from Google’s Pixel 5, but it even seems to work on some standard Qi charging pads.

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Wear OS Stories August 13

After a few years of neglecting the platform, Google is putting effort back into Wear OS in a huge way this year, and that starts with the Galaxy Watch 4. Samsung is the first company to bring Wear OS 3 to the market, and it comes with a custom skin on the platform that, as you’d probably expect, has an agenda different from Google’s.

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Samsung products have always been a bit tricky when it comes to voice assistants since the company has its own Bixby offering but usually is required to still support Google Assistant alongside it. With the Galaxy Watch 4 series, the Wear OS-based smartwatches will be lacking Google Assistant entirely when they launch and might have to wait for Google Pay.

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Wear OS Stories August 12

At the start of this month, a revamped Google Play started appearing on Wear OS. Google today officially announced this Material You redesign of the Play Store and that the ability to install Wear OS apps to your from your phone is rolling out.

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Wear OS Stories August 11

Smartwatches have long been neglected by Spotify, offering only controls instead of offline listening. Following a launch on Apple Watch earlier this year, Spotify is now rolling out its revamped Wear OS app with support for offline downloads, and it works everywhere.

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While Samsung’s past wearables have always offered great hardware and software, one reason I’ve been hesitant to call them “the best” is the frustrating act of using them with a non-Samsung phone. Despite the new Galaxy Watch 4 using Wear OS, I’m sad to see that the pairing process is just as rough.

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Third-party Wear OS apps can start releasing custom Tiles

Amid the flurry of other wearable announcements, Google today informed third-party developers that they can start releasing Tiles for their Wear OS apps.

Google Pay for Wear OS gets a facelift, works on Galaxy Watch 4; Messages app rolling out

While Google is moving on from older Wear OS products with the debut of its revamped platform, it’s not abandoning it. Today, Google has revealed that it is bringing a new Google Pay app and a new Messages app to Wear OS that will be present on Galaxy Watch 4, but also available soon to older Wear OS products.

The future is much brighter for Wear OS thanks to revamped software and much better hardware, but current watches are left in a weird state of limbo. Today, Google has revealed that its new apps for YouTube Music and Google Maps on Wear OS are coming out very soon, but they won’t come to older models.

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Following its reveal at Google I/O earlier this year, Wear OS 3 is officially making its debut today with the return of a major name. Samsung is launching the Galaxy Watch 4 series on Wear OS. Here’s what you need to know.

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Wear OS Stories August 10

Tomorrow will hopefully mark the beginning of the Apple Watch getting a serious competitor in the form of Samsung hardware running Google software. The wearable space is in serious need of competition, but it’s unfortunate how the two competing efforts are fundamentally the same. That similarity has deep ramifications for how we will experience technology for the foreseeable future.

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Wear OS Stories August 9

Back in June, the Fossil Group said it was releasing a premium “Gen 6” Wear OS watch this fall. Fossil today sent out an email teasing that “Gen 6 is coming” and that it would be “way faster.”

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Wear OS Stories August 3

Snapdragon Wear 5100 in the works, according to Qualcomm code

Qualcomm appears to be preparing a Snapdragon Wear 5100 chip to power the next generation of Wear OS watches.

Ahead of the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 series, we’re learning that Wear OS will soon be able to support “alternate” assistants, such as Bixby.

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Wear OS Stories August 2

Google’s Wear OS has always been known for its battery life, but in a negative sense rather than a positive one. The platform has been notorious for powering smartwatches that can only last about a day, but Wear OS 3 will seemingly change that. According to a new Galaxy Watch 4 Classic leak, battery life could last as long as a whopping seven days.

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Wear OS Stories August 1

August has arrived, and with it, the countdown to Samsung’s next Unpacked event where we’ll see the debut of new foldables, earbuds, and the company’s first Wear OS smartwatches in years. This weekend, the first live images of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic have hit the web, showing off both colors and a peek at the Wear OS UI.

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Wear OS Stories July 29

Google is leaving behind almost the entire Wear OS catalog for its next big update with very few exceptions. More watches are coming between now and the wide availability of Wear OS 3, and it seems that Mobvoi will be launching more TicWatch models without the new version at launch.

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Wear OS Stories July 28

The latest version of Android Studio, codenamed Arctic Fox, is now out of beta and includes the ability to easily pair Wear OS emulators, as well as a variety of new tools for Jetpack Compose.

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Wear OS Stories July 27

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 will mark the start of a reboot for Google’s Wear OS platform, and so far we’ve already learned a lot about what it will bring to the table. In another leak today, the demo mode from the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic confirms names, shows off watchfaces, and more.

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Wear OS Stories July 26

Ahead of its August 11 Unpacked event, Samsung is teasing its next collection of products in an official blog post that confirms the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will get an S Pen and more.

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Wear OS Stories July 22

At the start of this week, Google made the Material You redesign of the Wear OS Play Store official. Alongside that, Google Play on Android phones was also updated with easier install and search filters. Thanks to the Play Store, along with the latest app update, we get a very quick and minor peek at YouTube Music for Wear OS.

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The best smartwatches for Android you can buy today [Update: July 2021]

Finding the right smartwatch can be very difficult on Android, especially with so many options out there. If you’ve been trying to find the right smartwatch for your wrist, these are the best Android smartwatches you can buy today.

Wear OS is about to see its biggest update in years starting with the debut of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 series next month. As Google clarified upgrade plans today, the company also revealed that the new Fossil Wear OS smartwatches will launch without Wear OS 3 and won’t be upgraded for several months.

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At I/O 2021 in May, Google announced a total overhaul of its wearable platform. We’ve since seen the new OS previewed on an emulator, while Samsung has confirmed that the new Galaxy Watch will be the first to run it. Many questions remain about Wear OS 3, and Google today addressed the update situation for current watch owners.

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Wear OS Stories July 20

Fossil has been the biggest supporter of Google’s Wear OS through all of the platform’s missteps, and now that things are finally headed in the right direction, the company is proud to say that it will debut more Wear OS smartwatches in 2021 with Qualcomm hardware under the hood.

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As Wear OS prepares its huge overhaul, it’s still unclear what the future holds for current Snapdragon Wear chips. Qualcomm, though, isn’t ending its efforts, and today announced that new Snapdragon Wear chips are coming over the next year or so.

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Wear OS Stories July 17

[Update: Fixed] Setting timers on Wear OS with Google Assistant is broken

A big overhaul of Wear OS is underway, but the upgrade path for existing devices is unclear for now. Until then, current owners are impacted by a recent issue that sees them unable to set a timer with Google Assistant on Wear OS.

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