Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Google announced the third iteration of its smartwatch operating system, called Wear OS 3, in its I/O keynote in May 2021. We finally experienced it firsthand with Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 last month, and it did not disappoint us. It’s not perfect, but Wear OS 3 undoubtedly provides Android users with the richest smartwatch experience to date.
However, if you are not interested in Samsung’s products, then you do not have many other options now.
Not only will most existing devices never receive Wear OS 3 updates, we also see new watches like Fossil Gen 6 being released alongside the old Wear OS 2. Needless to say, this makes smart watch shopping a little complicated.
Even if you don’t care whether your smartwatch gets the latest update, you should proceed with caution. Before you buy a Wear OS 2 device, you need to consider some considerations, regardless of whether there are any promised updates.
The biggest feature of Wear OS 3: Fragmentation?
Fragmentation was once a controversial topic in the Android smartphone ecosystem. Fortunately, the situation has improved in recent years. Project Treble-and later Mainline-modularized the operating system. Today, the Play Store provides many small updates and security patches.
Google did a similar thing for wearable devices in its previous platform soft restart, called Android Wear 2.0. At the time, a senior developer on the Wear OS team stated that users do not need to wait for a complete OTA update to get incremental fixes and features. In the now-lost Google Plus post, he also stated that Android Wear 2.0 will allow “new features through the Play Store.”
However, nearly four years later, Google has done incredible things, after all, its closed smart watch ecosystem is fragmented.
Wear OS 3 introduces fragmentation into the Android smartwatch ecosystem.
If you buy the Wear OS smart watch market this holiday, you should know that the Galaxy Watch 4 series is the only fully functional choice.
The few lucky smartwatches that contain the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset do meet the requirements of Wear OS 3, but will not receive the update until “mid to second half of 2022”. Even so, Google warned that when users choose to receive updates, “in certain limited circumstances, the user experience may be affected.”
Since most brands only mention Wear OS on the product page without mentioning the exact version, this problem has become more serious. Naturally, people will assume that they have the same software and application support.
However, application support is quickly becoming one of the main differences between Wear OS 2 and 3 watches.
App support on Wear OS is a mess
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Soon after the Galaxy Watch 4 was released, Google announced that the YouTube Music app will be exclusively launched on Wear OS 3.
This is shocking, especially because Google Play Music has been at sunset in September 2020. Existing subscribers to Wear OS 2 watches have been unable to access their music library or playlists for the past year. This will not change in the future-unless they take out a shiny new Wear OS 3 device from their pocket.
To make matters worse, Wear OS 3’s YouTube Music application cannot even play music. This means that it has fewer functions than the previous Play Music app.
To make matters worse, Spotify, a direct competitor of YouTube Music, recently added the ability to download tracks for offline listening on Wear OS. the only difference? Spotify introduced this feature to Wear OS 2 and 3.
By the way, Samsung’s Tizen platform-which has long been criticized for its lack of third-party application support-has provided a Spotify application that can download songs a few years ago. In addition, this feature can even be used on the 2016 watch Gear S3.
read more: The most suitable Wear OS app for your watch
YouTube Music is not the only example. Some feature updates of Google Maps will not appear in Wear OS 2. Needless to say, Google’s partial abandonment of support for its own watch platform does not bode well for the future. We have already witnessed the loss of third-party application developers from Wear OS 2.
Google has done little to keep Wear OS 2 alive.
Strava is the first notable application Phone exit In Wear OS 2 development, choose to focus only on the next generation. The Telegram application also disappeared shortly afterwards, although its developers have not yet committed to developing Wear OS 3 applications.
Is Google picking favorites?
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
If the vast majority of Wear OS devices receive an update at some point, the reduction in application support won’t be so bad. However, this did not happen.
Even 2021 watches like Casio GSW-H1000 are not eligible, let alone 2019 or 2020 watches like Suunto 7. Keep in mind that we are talking about these expensive devices, the retail price of the former is still around $500 today. You want full support to last at least a few years.
read more: All Wear OS 3.0 watches have been confirmed so far
Of course, it’s not Google’s fault that these devices do not meet the performance standards required by Wear OS 3. Google claims that many changes have taken place between the two operating system versions, including some brand new APIs. Of course, the Tizen foundation of Wear OS 3 from Samsung may also bring challenges to cross-development.
But unless Google maintains application support for Wear OS 2, which has not done a good job, the old watch will eventually become obsolete earlier than expected. Given the low market share of Wear OS, one might argue that the search giant absolutely needs its user base to maintain loyalty.
The whole situation is full of poor communication and disregard for existing Wear OS users. Perhaps as part of the operating system development partnership with Google, as part of a secret transaction, Samsung now enjoys a year-long first mover advantage in the Wear OS 3 ecosystem. OEMs who have delivered Wear OS devices for five years seem to be as clueless as their customers about the update schedule.
Samsung now enjoys a year-long first mover advantage on Wear OS 3.
when Android Authority The company said that it contacted Fossil and asked whether their latest Gen 6 smartwatch can be compatible with iOS after the Wear OS 3 update. “These details have not been finalized by Google or shared with us.”
Although Google wants us to believe that Wear OS 3 seems to be still under development.
Bitten once, shy twice: How many restarts are too many?
As mentioned earlier, this is not the first time Google has tried to soft restart Wear OS. In 2017, almost all existing devices are eligible for the Android Wear 2.0 update. However, it still takes months to a year to launch, especially for some unfortunate devices. You would think that Google had learned its lesson at the time, but obviously this was not the case.
Just like the smart phone industry, Google’s biggest competitor in the smart watch field is Apple. You might guess which company has a better track record of software updates. The Apple Watch Series 3 released in 2017 will be equipped with this year’s WatchOS 8.
Knowing all this, why should anyone believe that Google will keep Wear OS 3 watches up to date in the next few years? After all, we see the same pattern reappearing, YouTube Music is released in a half-baked state, and Google Assistant is obviously missing at the time of release.
read more: Apple Watch Buyer’s Guide
Unlike the neglect we have seen in recent years, will Google now increase the development speed of Wear OS? In addition, if another major Wear OS overhaul comes in a few years later, will existing users upgrade their hardware again?
Google has done a lot of work on how Wear OS 3 becomes a “unified platform.” But if this unity only extends to Samsung, it is likely to eventually build a bridge with everyone else.
So, if you buy a wearable device in the market, what should you do?
Well, if Wear OS is important to you, then the best choice is undoubtedly the Galaxy Watch 4. Otherwise, the aforementioned Fossil Gen 6 or Ticwatch Pro 3 are your only valuable options-provided that you are patient and willing to endure the issue of potential early adopters.