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Galaxy Watch 3 won’t be getting Wear OS

Samsung just made its big wearable spiel earlier, exciting Wear OS users of what’s coming next. The next Galaxy Watch will be the first wearable to run Google’s new wearable platform, one that will look more like One UI rather than the Wear OS some have become familiar with. Unfortunately for Galaxy Watch fans, the news isn’t exactly all good, and while Samsung promises it won’t abandon owners of its Tizen-based smartwatches, it is practically leaving them behind anyway.

Wear OS hasn’t been in great shape for years, even after changing its name from Android Wear. The announcement of a collaboration between Google, Samsung, and even Fitbit sparked hope that the wearable platform could finally catch up with its biggest rivals. Based on Samsung’s presentation, its version of Wear OS just might.

The announcement at Google I/O left one important question unanswered, however. There’s still some uncertainty whether older Wear OS smartwatches will get the upgrade. Samsung doesn’t have any Wear OS devices so that question is moot, but it is also putting an end to speculation about its other smartwatches.

In its MWC 2021 stream, Samsung promised owners of its older Galaxy Watches that they would be receiving up to three years of software updates from the product’s availability. While intended to reassure Galaxy Watch owners that they’re not being abandoned immediately, it indirectly confirms something they dread. The latest Galaxy Watch 3 won’t be updated to Wear OS and will remain on Tizen, at least officially.

On the one hand, it isn’t entirely surprising, given these Tizen smartwatches run on a hardware platform not yet supported by Wear OS. On the other hand, it’s still disappointing since those are very capable smartwatches, hardware-wise. It doesn’t help that SamMobile reports rumors that Google is blocking attempts to put Wear OS not just on Samsung’s smartwatches but even existing Wear OS smartwatches as well.

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Mobvoi TicWatch E3 hands-on reveals next Snapdragon Wear 4100 smartwatch

Wear OS smartwatches are a dime a dozen but, unfortunately, most of them are running on rather old hardware. Majority of those, including ones launched just last year, are still using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset that debuted way back in 2018. The chipmaker does have one updated wearable platform but so far only Mobvoi has been using it in the TicWatch Pro 3. Now it seems that it will have a companion and Mobvoi is once again taking the lead with the TicWatch E3.

Running on the latest smartwatch chipset isn’t just about getting the latest and greatest. It also means, for example, better performance and better power efficiency, two very critical elements for a small device. It may also determine whether or not the smartwatch will be receiving a much-anticipated Wear OS upgrade later this year but a lot of that is still based on speculation.

In the meantime, however, Mobvoi seems to be preparing to launch the world’s second Snapdragon Wear 4100 smartwatch. From a brief hands-on shared by Russian Instagram user andrey_koftun, the TicWatch E3 looks a lot like the TicWatch Pro 3 despite its namesake. That can be clearly seen in the two side buttons and the lack of a rotating crown.

In terms of specs, the packaging confirms the Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor, a 2.5D display that isn’t OLED according to the source, IP68 rating, and VO2 Max tracking, among others. The charging cable is also reminiscent of the TicWatch Pro 3 which magnetically attaches to the back of the smartwatch. And, yes, it also runs Wear OS.

Given its “E” branding, the TicWatch E3 is likely to stand lower than the TicWatch Pro 3 on the pricing front. Mobvoi does have an event scheduled on June 16 where it might unveil the smartwatch. Hopefully, it will also have some news on whether it and the TicWatch Pro 3 are eligible to get the “Wear OS 3.0” update later this year, something very few smartwatch makers have committed to yet.



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Fossil’s existing smartwatches won’t get new Wear OS

Given how it has seemingly stagnated over the years, it is understandable that there was a great deal of excitement over the new version of Wear OS coming later this year. That said, the announcement still left a lot of questions open, particularly about which smartwatches will get the update. Laying those questions to rest, Fossil gives its own answer but it isn’t one that its customers might want to hear.

There is definitely a lot to look forward to with the next upgrade to Wear OS. Developed in collaboration with Samsung and Fitbit, Wear OS is promised to get fresh new UI and a renewed focus on health and fitness, among other things. And as with some newer and more sophisticated software, it might also require newer and better hardware.

Wear OS smartwatches, unfortunately, don’t exactly fit that description and Fossil was only too happy to share with CNET that it is working on a premiums smartwatch that will. That most likely means Qualcomm’s most recent Snapdragon Wear platform, larger batteries, and more biometric sensors. Unfortunately, that also suggests a higher price tag, which the “premium” description implies anyway.

Sadly, the company’s execs also confirmed that existing Fossil Wear OS smartwatches won’t get the new Wear OS upgrade. That may be because their hardware is too old or because Fossil just doesn’t want to incur the maintenance costs of upgrading all those older hardware to new software and the bugs that it might incur. Either way, it’s not going to happen.

This does suggest that it would be the same story for all existing Wear OS smartwatches in the market, many of which are running on older hardware components. Most of those are also manufactured by companies that are not that well-versed in maintaining smart devices and may not have the resources to push out what may be a breaking update to their wearables.

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Apple Watch leads the smartwatch market but Wear OS still has hope

Given the increased attention to personal fitness and health in the past months since the pandemic hit last year, it’s really no surprise that smartwatch sales have considerably risen during that period. Given its focus on health and fitness as well as its track record in saving lives, it is also no surprise that the Apple Watch continues to lead that market all the way to the first quarter of 2021. It isn’t too late for Google’s Wear OS, however, and it might finally catch a break in the coming quarters, presuming its partnership with Samsung bears good fruit.

Compared to the same first quarter last year, the smartwatch market grew by 35% year on year. Counterpoint Research doesn’t point out the cause but it’s easy to see the trends given world events within those 12 months. People have become more conscious of their personal health and smartwatch that can detect irregular heart rhythms or arrhythmia and blood oxygen levels are particularly popular among consumers.

Counterpoint Research does focus on which brands and platforms are leading that market. Again, it’s no surprise to hear that the Apple Watch still leads the race, even increasing its share of the pie by 3%. While Samsung’s shipments did grow, it still ended up losing a portion of its overall market share. Huawei is still in second place above Samsung but its figures continue to decline as expected.

In terms of platforms, Wear OS barely has a presence but that could be changing soon. The market research firm points to the recent announcement of Wear OS integrating Samsung’s Tizen OS for smartwatches, suggesting that such a partnership could help increase both interest in and shipments of Wear OS smartwatches. Samsung can also benefit from this since its future Galaxy Watches will have access to more Android phones in the process.

Google is definitely playing a lot of cards here, especially as it is still in the process of finally acquiring Fitbit. The latter, best known for its fitness trackers, also uses its own custom OS, even on some of its smartwatches. Whether those will eventually run Wear OS still isn’t certain but if they do, Google’s section of that chart could very well increase significantly.

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The New Wear OS is still uncertain for old Wear OS smartwatches

A lot of excitement was generated over the renewed attention that was given to Wear OS by Google, including collaborations with Samsung and Fitbit to grow that platform in ways it should have years ago. With all the buzz and hype, however, comes the question of when this new Wear OS will actually launch. It’s a given that it will be available on new models launching later this year but it is not yet known whether older smartwatches will be treated to the same features when the time comes.

There is, after all, a lot to look forward to with this upcoming version of Wear OS. After what feels like years of stagnation, Google finally rolls up all the much-needed features into one big release. From third-party Tiles to Samsung’s UI and watch face maker, Wear OS seems poised to feel completely new.

Unsurprisingly, there is a great deal of excitement among Wear OS smartwatch owners, but the certainty of them getting those updates aren’t yet written in black and white. In fact, Google’s plans and schedule for this upcoming Wear OS version are still so vague that a lot can happen between now and then to change the platform’s course.

Google tells 9to5Google that it will have more to share when the new Wear OS releases later this year. This could coincide with the launch of Android 12 itself but Wear OS often times lags behind that schedule. This also leaves the door open that some of those older smartwatch models may not get the update at all.

This will be a very disappointing turn of events but it wouldn’t be the first time that Google abandoned older generation hardware, whether or not they were still capable of running newer software. Hopefully, Google will be able to ride on the wave of interest in Wear OS and keep the good feelings going until later this year and beyond.

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Google’s Wear OS update for offline audio has me re-hyped about smartwatches

I’ve been turned off smartwatches for a while now. Whether it was their poor battery life and uninteresting design, I’ve found I much prefer the simplicity and elegance of my analogue timepieces. Since the pandemic though, things have changed.

In order to get out the house and avoid screens, I now walk about 10km a day, time I use to catch up on audiobooks and podcasts. Thing is, I’d like to do this while leaving my phone at home. I’ve finally found my reason to get a smartwatch — and Google has just made this decision easier.

The company is working on a major update to its Wear OS platform to make the offline audio experience for wearables far slicker and more useful later this year.

You’ll basically be able to download music and podcasts on apps like Spotify and YouTube Music to your watch, so you don’t need to carry your phone along for your morning stroll. As someone who hates strapping on a 6.7-inch phone to their arm in a sweaty holder thing twice a day, this will be a godsend.

Here’s Bjorn Kilburn, the director of Product Management for Wear, talking about YouTube Music on smartwatches (starts at 2:38):

For those wondering if this sounds familiar, let me clear the air: as The Verge noted, a few pricey Garmin and Samsung wearables supported offline Spotify music storage and playback, and LTE-equipped Apple Watch models can stream tunes too.

This development changes things. It opens up the possibility of listening to your audio on a wider (and hopefully cheaper) range of smartwatches, as well as consuming less power since they won’t need an LTE connection to stream content from the cloud.

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Galaxy Watch 4 with Wear OS to have a custom UI

The rumors surrounding Samsung’s switch from its own Tizen OS for smartwatches to Wear OS just refuse to die and it seems that the final word is in, unofficially, of course. Given all the rumors coming from reliable sources, the likelihood that the next Galaxy Watch 4 series will be running Google’s wearable platform is almost all but certain but, in true Samsung fashion, it won’t be looking exactly like the Wear OS some have grown to know and maybe even love.

Against all odds, Samsung’s Tizen-based smartwatch OS has gotten its fair share of fans, especially over Wear OS whose development was sporadic at best. Along with health-centric features that few Wear OS smartwatches have today, the Galaxy Watch series seemed to be in a position to take on the Apple Watch. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for app developers to invest in Samsung’s wearable OS over Wear OS and it suffered the absence of apps, especially popular ones.

That deficiency could be solved by switching to Wear OS but, just like on Android, Samsung isn’t content with just taking vanilla Wear OS and calling it a day. According to SamMobile, the company will put One UI 3.x on top of it, a first for wearables. In other words, at least in terms of look and feel, the Wear OS Galaxy Watch 4 would be identical to its predecessors.

The difference will, of course, be the software and access to apps which could be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, users will now have access to more smartwatch apps than before. On the other hand, those who have come to rely on Tizen-only apps will have to hope there are WearOS equivalents. Some staples, like Samsung SmartThings, will be there, of course, as well as new functionality that will turn the Galaxy Watch 4 into a walkie-talkie.

As for the smartwatches themselves, the leak claims no less than three models will be available. That includes a “classic” Galaxy Watch 4 with a rotating bezel. The other two will be variants of more sporty Galaxy Watch Active models.

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Wear OS UV Index info wants to save you from the sun

The weather is starting to heat up and summer will be coming up soon. In addition to being cooped up inside most of the time due to the pandemic, that will most likely be an invitation and temptation for some people to go out and about, sometimes going to beaches even. During those times, another enemy of health rears its ugly head but Google is pushing out a new Wear OS update that will at least warn you about those harmful ultraviolet rays even before you step out the door.

It’s good to get some sunlight every day but, depending on the time and intensity, the sun can burn your skin instead. Worse, ultraviolet rays or UV radiation in extreme amounts can also cause certain forms of cancer. A little prevention, like wearing the right clothing or putting on sunblock, goes a long way but only if you’re actually aware of the UV index in your location.

That’s exactly what Google’s small feature update for Wear OS does. With the new feature, smartwatches running Android’s wearable form will soon see a complication that contains the UV Index for your area. That index, which ranges from 0 to 11+, is part of an international standard for denoting the level of harmful UV rays at a given time.

Google says that the Weather app update that brings this UV index indicator is starting to roll out. It doesn’t give any timeline or any other detail about its availability. Just like with most software updates from Google, it’ll just show up when the conditions are right.

This minor but critical feature does, however, once again raise the usual complaints about Wear OS. Although small updates like this aren’t exactly rare, some still feel that Wear OS development doesn’t happen as fast or as consistently as its rivals, both Apple’s watchOS or even Samsung’s Tizen-based custom OS.

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Wear OS could see an explosion of Tiles in Spring

Although it is present on a wide variety of smartwatches from an equally wide variety of brands, Wear OS still seems to have less traction and a weaker hold on the smartwatch market. Some point to the slow adoption of up-to-date hardware, like the most recent Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset, while others blame the seemingly slow-paced development of Wear OS itself. There’s also the disappointing lack of support for third-party experiences, something that Google will finally be addressing this year with third-party Tiles.

Tiles have been available on Wear OS since 2019 and are almost the equivalent of Android’s home screen widgets. This would allow users to simply swipe left or right from the home screen to get quick access to information or basic controls. Compared to having to launch an app to see the weather, control music, or even read messages, Tiles offer a more convenient and faster way to get the information of action they need.

Unfortunately, while Wear OS as a platform has had support for this functionality for almost two years, it has strictly been limited to first-party Tiles created by Google. Granted, these may cover some of the most basic functionality users need and even some exclusive partnerships Google may have with third-party apps and brands but they are far from being enough. The third-party app ecosystem is dying to get their hands on Tiles and Google is finally listening to their pleas.

Starting with a Wear OS update coming in Spring, Wear OS will have support for third-party Tiles. Right now, however, developers can already start testing it out with the alpha version of the Jetpack Tiles library. Google is also providing some documentation and examples to get developers started.

This is definitely big news for the Wear OS platform though it remains how much it will help improve its image both for developers and especially for users. There will most likely be a mess at first with third-party Tiles popping up left and right but that might be a better scenario than the stagnation that Wear OS seems to be suffering at the moment.

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Wear OS “OK, Google” bug is finally getting a fix soon

Smartwatches are rather curious little gadgets that are like miniaturized and watered-down versions of our smartwatches. For better or worse, that means that smartwatches can’t really use the same interaction conventions and UIs that are almost second nature on smartphones. While touch screens and buttons are always an option, Google has been pushing for more hands-free controls on Wear OS using Google Assistant. Unfortunately, an important part of the process has been broken for months before the company committed to working on a fix.

If Google’s vision is to be followed, smartwatches will primarily be controlled by voice with the screen simply providing visual feedback in addition to spoken responses. Google Assistant is perfect for that role and there are multiple ways to call it up on your wrist. The most convenient is, of course, to literally call it up with “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google” but, unfortunately, that is also the most broken method at the moment.

Users have been complaining that the wake words just don’t work on their Wear OS smartwatches, no matter the brand. It has apparently been the case since November last year but there are also claims that the problem was present even back in June 2020. During that period, Google has seemingly been silent, which naturally caused a lot of disappointment among Wear OS users.

The good news is that Google is no longer silent. It told The Verge that it is aware of users reporting issues and will work with its partners to address those. It doesn’t explain, however, why it took so long for it to even respond to the numerous and loud complaints.

Google also hasn’t given a timeline for the availability of the fix, which could still take weeks or even months. Unfortunately, the incident has opened up old wounds about the state of Wear OS and the dissatisfaction users have over its development or lack of it.

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