Wear OS Overview Updated March 24, 2021

Wear OS

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937 'Wear OS' stories

March 2014 - April 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.

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

Wear OS Stories Yesterday

How to install legacy Wear OS apps that no longer appear in the Google Play Store

In recent weeks, Google deprecated the legacy Wear OS app install method for new phone-watch pairings. This means that buyers of new wearables or those that need to reset their devices might not see all the same apps as before. Developers would ideally update and modernize applications to fix this, but end users can still easily install and sideload those Wear OS apps.

Wear OS Stories April 15

Google has unceremoniously revamped the dedicated Wear OS Play Store landing page giving more prominence to featured apps and watchfaces on the wearable platform.

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Wear OS Stories April 13

After years of its loyal community asking for a smartwatch, OnePlus has finally delivered with its $159 OnePlus Watch. We have a full review of the new product in the works, but in the several days I’ve spent so far with the OnePlus Watch, there’s been one major standout in the software; that’s not a good thing.

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Wear OS Stories April 12

Google told developers that it would deprecate the legacy method for installing Wear OS apps in March. Existing users of the Android-based wearable platform have yet to be impacted, but those setting up new watches or repairing are getting hit by this change.

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[Update: Rolling out] Google adds UV Index to Wear OS Weather app and as complication

At the end of last year, Google modernized the Wear OS Weather Tile alongside other updates to the platform. In that vein, Wear OS is now getting a UV Index complication for watch faces. 

Wear OS Stories April 1

Wear OS is now available on Casio’s ultra-rugged G-Shock smartwatch for $700

While Wear OS has fallen out of favor for some, it’s still in use on some of Casio’s rugged smartwatches. Today, the brand is expanding Wear OS to one of its iconic lines, the Casio G-Shock.

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