Google has finally given its new unified smartwatch platform a name – and it’s an obvious one: Wear OS 3. That little detail was part of what is perhaps a more controversial set of information about which current Wear OS is. smartwatches will be updated, when those updates will come, and what those updates entail. It’s not very good news on all three fronts.
Google says Wear OS 3 updates will roll out to a limited set of smartwatches in the “second half of 2022”. That’s a long way off, especially as we expect the first Wear OS 3 watches to be announced at Samsung’s Unpacked event next month.
Currently, the list of watches that could receive the update includes “Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, TicWatch Pro 3 Cellular/LTE, TicWatch E3, and tracking on TicWatch devices, as well as Fossil Group’s next-generation devices to be launched later this year.” , according to the report from Google.
That leaves a lot of Wear OS watches, including everything from Fossil and its associated brands. And that list also omits all of Samsung’s Tizen-based watches. They are currently the best option for most Android users, but they seem to have an expiration date officially now.
There is no other way to say this: for Android users, it is not a good idea to buy a smartwatch now. Everything available today will not be updated or will not be updated until the end of 2022. It is the clearest and most direct example of the Osborne effect in recent memory.
And to be even more blunt, it might not be a good idea to buy watches that are on that list, because there are even more complications with that update. Google says that “the user experience may be affected in a limited number of cases,” but declined to elaborate further at this time. That can mean many things, but a common experience with any computer is that new operating systems feel slow on older hardware.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson promised that Google would “provide more details ahead of the update so that users can make an informed decision.”
Additionally, upgrading to Wear OS 3 requires a full factory reset, which will erase all settings and data on the watch. Most of that will need to be backed up to your phone, as Wear OS apps don’t usually stand alone on the watch, but it’s probably still a hassle. And you probably won’t be able to just hit a reset button after the update to bring back your old watch settings.
In any case, Google recognizes that many watch owners don’t want to go through all that hassle, so it offers a way to decline the update, but still receive security patches. The company promises to continue supporting the current version of Wear OS with updates and will offer security updates for “two years from the device’s launch”.
The blog post probably aims to get the bad news out of the way early on, clearing the decks for Samsung’s Galaxy smartwatch announcements — not to mention rumors of a Google Pixel watch that may also be in the wings.
After so many years of wasting away, the next version of Wear OS will have a lot to prove. Although it was announced at Google I/O last May, we still don’t have a full picture of how it will work in real use. We know it takes some elements of Samsung’s Tizen platform like watch faces, but overall it’s more Wear OS than Tizen.
What we’ve seen of Wear OS 3 so far is promising. Google says it will be faster than current smartwatches, while also offering longer battery life. It should also offer a standalone Google Maps app, offline Spotify music and integrated Fitbit activity tracking.
All of this means that if you’re an Android user who wants a smartwatch, the best option you have right now is to just wait for new Wear OS 3 watches to be launched and reviewed.