August 31, 2018
Google is readying the release of its new, third version of Wear OS, which has been updated to be a speedy, inconspicuous platform rather than “Android on a smart watch.” It doesn’t feature any obvious improvements to battery life, but that’s an overall problem in the industry, not a Google shortcoming. According to Wear OS director of product Dennis Troper, users who are connected all the time will be able to be more present in the real world, similar to the goals of the company’s Digital Wellbeing initiative.
Engadget reports that, “the new Wear OS is designed to help someone stay on top of important events and people in their lives without having to stay chained to their phones” — in other words, to be able to deal as quickly as possible with minor matters such as quick replies or dismissing notifications. That’s based on Google’s own research that found, “people spend only about five seconds interacting with a watch on average, and the new software should get you what you need in that time.”
The biggest change is a streamlined, rearranged interface, such as a long-press on the home screen to change the watch’s face.
In another change, the system positions user health statistics next to the watch face. The notification cards “are smaller now, so instead of them taking up the entire watch face, you’ll see the beginnings and ends of previous and subsequent alerts too.” Google “also reduced the number of steps it takes to react to these alerts,” allowing the user to tap to expand the alert, “letting you do things like fire off a quick reply from within the notification stream, instead of having to go to another page like before.”
Devices with NFC will show a Google Pay icon, allowing the user to press it to “activate your primary payment method on the watch.” Those without NFC can customize the button into something else such as Find My Phone, “which Stefan Frank, product manager for the Wear OS software experience, said was surprisingly popular.”
The Engadget reviewer adds that, “navigating Wear OS feels markedly faster than before, at least from my brief observation of the demo version.” Frank said that his team is “on the warpath against spinners,” referring to the rotating circles that indicate something is loading. Assistant also “proactively offers information like details about your upcoming calendar events, commute and weather forecast each morning.”
Google plans to “add more content over monthly releases.” When the software debuts in two weeks, all existing Wear watches on version 2.0 and higher will get it, which includes devices on the original Android Wear updated to 2.0, except the Moto 360.