What is Wear OS? In its simplest definition it's Google's smartwatch operating system. Wear OS is more than just a platform for wearables, though. And, for anyone looking to learn more about the platform, this article aims to answer all your questions.
Does Wear OS run on all smartwatches?
No. While many smartwatches do run on this operating system, there are a number of them that don't. For example, all of the smartwatches available from Samsung run on the company's own wearables operating system.
In the same vein, the Apple Watch, smartwatches from Fitbit, and other wearable brands run on their operating systems as well.
Google's smartwatch operating system is probably the most expanded though. There are more available smartwatches which operate of this software than any other. Not too unlike Android with smartphones.
This could be both a good and a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. For the most part though, it stays true to a core component of Android, which is consumer choice.
With so many smartwatches running on Wear OS, consumers have plenty of options.
What apps are available for Wear OS?
There are loads of apps that are available on the platform.
Many of them are the same apps that you can download on Android. Apps like Google Fit, Strava, Telegram, and even Uber can be installed.
You can even find more obscure apps that are specifically for smartwatches. Facer is one of these apps, and lets you customize your watch faces easily.
Where do you get apps?
Just like with Android smartphones and with Android TV, apps on Wear OS are downloaded from the Play Store. You can even install apps directly from the watch.
In the early days of Android Wear, which is what Wear OS used to be, apps were installed through the phone
If you wanted an app installed on your watch, you’d simply find the app on the phone, install it, and then sync it with your watch to transfer the app
These days, the with the Play Store being available on watches, no syncing is involved for the installation process
You just scroll the Play Store on the watch instead and install everything you want.
How much do the watches cost?
This all depends on the brand you pick and the features it comes with, though most Wear OS watches come with just about all the same features.
What it mostly comes down to is the brand, and whether or not the watch comes with LTE capabilities. Meaning, it can be used with cellular data so you don’t need your phone to be connected to it.
For the most part Wear OS watches will usually run in the range of $250-$400. Some of the high-end watches, like those from TAG Heuer or Mont Blanc can cost quite a bit more.
What are the more popular smartwatches on this platform?
There are a lot of different models available from numerous brands, such as DIESEL, Michael Kors, and more. But when it comes to more popular options, Fossil's watches might be some of the most popular out there. The Fossil Sport in particular is probably the most popular out there right now.
As mentioned the Fossil Sport is one of the most popular Wear OS smartwatches out there right now. One of the main reasons was its use of the Snapdragon Wear 3100.
While a lot of the more recently announced watches will be coming with this processor, the Fossil Sport was one of the first watches to offer it, and this gave it a boost in popularity. In addition to the newer processor it's also fairly sporty making it great for exercise.
What sorts of features does Wear OS have?
Wear OS offers tons of features that can be useful to your everyday life.
You can receive incoming notifications from your smartphone, and even make and receive calls on some models. Calls can be made through a Bluetooth-connected phone, or completely on their own if the watch has LTE.
Beyond calls and notifications, all Wear OS watches come with Google Assistant these days. This will allow you to interact with other smart devices like lights and power switches, fans, or really anything that has Google Assistant integration. You can even ask it questions if you just need an answer to something.
Some of the more common uses for Wear OS though revolve around fitness. Most or all Wear OS watches will have the ability to keep track of things like step counts, distance run or walked, and even your heart rate.
There is literally a plethora of fitness-related features, it all depends on how you personally exercise. Some watch models even have water resistance and can be worn while you swim.
All watches also come with an always-on display, which allows you to quickly glance at information. This feature basically wakes the screen just by sensing your wrist movement, so if you lift it up, the watch knows and wakes the screen up so you can see information.
Naturally, since this is a smartwatch platform, apps are available to install on the watch to help augment its capabilities.
How do you use Wear OS?
Like touchscreen smartphones, Wear OS watches are interacted with through the display. They’re touch sensitive, so using features, installing apps, and managing notifications is all done through touching the screen.
Some watches may have buttons or crowns which can be used navigating the interface though, and Google Assistant can even add some hands-free functionality depending on what it is you’re trying to do.
When you boot up your watch, you’ll load up to the home screen every time. After unlocking the watch, you can swipe up to view notifications. Swiping down brings up the quick settings menu, which is where you’ll find things like brightness and other settings functions.
Swiping to the left though is where you’ll find all of the most useful stuff. Like apps. This is where you’ll also find tiles, a useful feature that was added earlier this year.
What are tiles?
Tiles is the new feature that Google started rolling out to Wear OS back in May. Tiles act as a sort of quick glance at features of the apps you have installed.
As an example, you can have a tile for the weather, your weekly or daily fitness goals and results, timers, and even your next event as well as news headlines you may follow. There aren’t tiles for everything, as Google isn’t trying to make things over complicated. So you’ll still need to open up some apps to access their features.
Do Wear OS watches use the same batteries as regular watches?
No. All Wear OS smartwatches are going to come with internal batteries that will be rechargeable. Sow when it needs juice, simply toss it on the charger and let it be.
This means you’ll never have to worry about replacing the batteries within it. Though you will need to replace that thing to remember with a different one. Which is charging it, as smartwatch batteries won't last as long as regular watch batteries.
That being said, if you think about it like a phone accessory, this may help to prevent from forgetting to charge it when needed. For the most part at least.
Most smartwatch batteries will run on average, 24 hours before you need to recharge them. Though, more often now there are brands claiming watches will last for around two days on a single charge.
What are the issues with Wear OS?
There aren’t too many, but Wear OS is not a flawless system. It’s biggest issue is that it’s been struggling to show how useful it can be, and is a big reason why the Apple Watch and Samsung’s smartwatches have a bigger piece of the smartwatch market.
Tiles has helped with this, making the platform the most useful it’s ever been. Things feel less convoluted and more accessible. Like any piece of tech it might take a few days to get truly used to it, but that will fade.
Another issue, is that not all Android apps are available on Wear OS. This means you find that the app you want to use on the watch can’t be installed. If you think about it, though, that might not be such a bad thing.
Wear OS is not meant to be a replacement for your phone. It’s simply there to help you access some of the features so you don’t have to pull it out of your pocket all the time.
Whether that’s checking an incoming message or using Google Pay to buy stuff at the store. Though the watch will need to have NFC for this feature to work, and not all do.
Where can you buy Wear OS smartwatches?
Pretty much anywhere. If the store sells electronics, they likely sell Wear OS smartwatches.
Obviously, you can buy just about every single Wear OS smartwatch online. Some of them can be found on Amazon, some on eBay. You can also find the watches from each brand specifically at their own online stores in most cases.
BestBuy & other electronics retailers
BestBuy will be one of the bigger electronics retailers to sell Wear OS devices, and they’ll probably be mixed in with other smartwatch options, or at least close by the same section. You can also find some options at Fry’s Electronics, or whatever your big electronics retailer is.
Some carriers will sell smartwatches along with smartphones and other smart devices. Usually these will be the LTE options, but if that’s what you’re looking for then your carrier might be the best place to look, since you can handle other business there at the same time.
Department stores, malls, and stores like Target
Believe it or not, some department stores will sell smartwatches too. Especially the more fashion-oriented brands.
You’ll also find smartwatches options at Fossil stores.
Last but certainly not least, some stores like Target, Fry’s Marketplace, Fred Meyer, and similar stores may sell these devices as well.
Does Wear OS only work with Android?
Nope. You can use an Apple iPhone and still use a Wear OS smartwatch, as the platform works with both Android and iOS devices.
That being said, you will probably have a little bit more functionality with Android, but most of the features will be there if you are on iOS.
Is Wear OS customizable?
Both Wear OS and the watches themselves are customizable to an extent. With the platform, you can customize the watch with the tiles feature and by selecting the watch face.
Watch faces are already pre-installed and there will be a handful of choices. If however you use something like Facer, the watch faces are infinitely more customizable and there a lot of really cool options out there. This is something you should explore of you like to customize your devices.
With the watches themselves, you can customize the watch case depending on the brand and the model, as many watch options offer varied choices for watch case colors.
Most of the watches now also support removable watch straps so you can choose the one that best fits your style, or simply swap it out based on the activity. For example, silicone straps for when you’re exercising, and a leather or metal option for just about everything else.
Does Wear OS get updates?
It will get updates from time to time. Probably not as often as Android phones, though. Updates are also fairly hands-off. When you power on your phone, it will check for Wear OS updates if the Wear OS app is installed.
If there is one available, it’ll send that update to the watch the next time you connect it. If you have an LTE-capable Wear OS watch, then updates will come through to the watch as it will have a constant connection.
What are the benefits of Wear OS?
There are a ton of benefits, not the least of which is all the hands-free functionality you’ll have. Wear OS also helps you get fit, and it does this with various fitness-related apps.
They can also be a fashion statement if you simply like to have a watch on your wrist. It’ll just be more functional than a regular watch too.
Really though, the benefits depend on what you want out of having a smartwatch. If it’s for the voice capabilities, then Wear OS is perfect thanks to Google Assistant.
If you want at a glance notifications and other information, this is another big benefit as you won’t have to reach for your phone. Simply lift your wrist and take a peek at what you need to see.
Is Wear OS the right smartwatch for me?
If you use an Android phone, it’s probably the right option, but that will entirely depend on your and what you’re looking for.
Since there are so many Wear OS watch options out there, you won’t want for choice. That’s a certainty. You will need to be mindful though, of if you will get any use out of all the functionality.
If you’ll never use the Google Assistant, or want to use apps, you may be better off with a fitness tracker as many of these also offer heart rate sensors and notifications.
If you do indeed want a smartwatch, you may also want to consider whether or not Wear OS would be a better option that Samsung’s Gear line of smartwatches, which are fully compatible with non-Galaxy devices, and use Samsung’s own proprietary smartwatch OS.