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Why I feel Wear OS has failed to catch up to Apple, Samsung and Garmin.

Many of you know that I purchased a Huawei watch a couple of years and loved it. It was my first smart device and I didn’t want to pony up for an Apple watch as I expected they were going to innovate on the Apple Watch 4 (now 5) and I really wanted a round watch face.

For me, the designs of the Huawei, Fossil and Samsung watches of the time were just way more attractive than the Apple Watch with its square design and soft edges.

Huawei Watch with Google Wear OS on it.
Huawei Watch running Google Wear OS | Make Life Click

My personal favourite watch is my SEIKO 5 SNZF17J1 but it’s not very smart and my intention, as a big data fan, was to use the data from the new smartwatch to get fit.

I thought I’d keep the SEIKO 5 for going out to dinner but then I realised the benefits of leaving my phone in my pocket on date night but still know if the baby sitter needed me I could get the message on my watch. Needless to say, my Seiko hasn’t had a lot of action in the last couple of years.

I chose the Huawei as it had LTE (with micro-SIM card) as my desire was to be able to leave my iPhone at home and still be contactable.

So, after 2 years of persisting with the Huawei with Wear OS I have the following thoughts. This will also explain why I’m done with Wear OS.

Processing power

Let me say upfront that one of the most frustrating parts to this story is the lack of processor power in most Wear OS watches (and more smartwatches) that were sold around that time.

With the development of the Qualcomm 3100 chip, Wear OS finally starts to get a chip that can work harder for it. The Qualcomm 2100 just didn’t have the oomph needed to run the watch sufficiently.

There is little point in having Google Assistant on your smartwatch if when you press the button to activate it you have to wait so long for it to initiate you’ve almost lost the will to live.

If Google Assistant does start up you then start to look like a failed Mr Bean skit shouting in to your watch hoping that she’ll hear you and answer your enquiry.

So, Google Assistant is a waste of time.

This is one example of many things that are slow due to a lack of processing power.

Fitness Features

Google Fit itself isn’t terrible and the built-in Huawei Health app on the watch is actually great. So, if it was only a glorified fitness tracker I’d be happy.

If I’m honest it’s probably the fitness abilities of the watch that have made me persevere for so long with it. It works and does what it needs to do, but only if that’s all you want it to do.

Another big part of my buying an LTE smartwatch with Google OS was that I wanted to go running and be able listen to music without needing my phone = running watch with offline music to be phone free.

I just wanted Bluetooth pair of earphones like the Apple AirPods Pro (my current go-to) and the watch and off I go. But, this idea fails with an old Wear OS watch.

The main reason it fails relates to the processor speed again. If you’re just using the watch and you click the side button and it brings up fitness options, then you choose the running option. From there it finds the GPS quickly and efficiently and off you go.

The failure is when you want to then listen to music. So the process changes, you want to start with music as that is the processor hungry part. Turn on your Bluetooth earphones and they auto-connect. Success. Then open the Google Music app and wait….and wait….and wait Eventually you’ll be able to find an album you want to listen to. Once you start listening to music it’s fine from there – it plays consistently but it was a mission to get it started.

Then you exit out of the music app and go to the fitness app, select running and wait for the GPS and off you go.

There are times when the headphones don’t connect well, or the music just won’t load fast enough. By the time you get it sorted yoru 10 minutes in to your run time and it’s as frustrating as all get-out.

What you want it to put your Bluetooth running earphones in, Select some music and start your run all within about 1-2 minutes.

So, that frustration has worn me down too.

Other apps and features

I honestly don’t feel there is a lot to contribute here as the other apps are so slow they are almost not worth working with. There is also a big lack of apps worth installing.

The recent announcement that Google Music will go away and Youtube music will replace it has a big impact on anyone like me who is trying to use the watch for phone-free exercise. At the time of posting this, there is no replacement app planned at this time for Wear OS and Youtube music.

The rest of the apps on the Wear OS are limited. Agenda is functional but the weather apps etc are limited.

The available Watch faces are fine but nothing like the level of complications that Apple Watch offers.

Finally, Google Pay is an option here but again, the latency on activating it can be a little slow.

General thoughts and a way forward

Google is in the process of buying FitBit bit it’s not a done deal yet. There are complications. Regardless of this, Google will have to figure out what they want to do with this transaction. Is it a hardware acquisition, a software merger or a user data buy?

The concern is this will just continue to leave Wear OS feeling like a confused mess.

Personally, I’ll be making the move to the Apple Watch 6 (September 2020) when it is released next month and I’ll let you know how that goes.

I really want to like the Google Wear OS software as I like Google. They’ve made good progress with Android and their phone hardware has come forward progressively through the years. I think they will get there just by the sheer amount of budget they can point at this project, and they need to and should.

Sadly Wear OS had not kept up with other brands and mobile OS options. Whether this is because the hardware limitations prevent any really exciting innovations from happening. There have been some good software updates but just not fast enough.

The range of Wear OS hardware is great. Really attractive watches from lots of brands which makes it easy to choose from the range available. They are also most often very affordable. This is one benefit of Wear OS.

Garmin has just launched solar-powered smartwatches including the fenix 6x Solar, they’ve also added great Spotify integrations (with offline music options). Fitbit has produced more than just fitness watches. Samsung have just released the Galaxy Watch3 which has been met with really great reviews, it also includes Blood Oxygen level monitoring which even beats Apple to it and, it’s stunning. Apple Watch 4 and 5 both have the operating power and apps to make it just work well.

So, sadly, my time with Wear OS will soon come to an end and I’ll migrate to Apple Watch for the next season at least. I think the Samsung Watch3 is stunning but prefer Watch OS for my Apple life and trust the chip speeds of Apple right now – don’t want to be burned again. The Apple Watch 6 will be a lot more money but I know it will do what I need. My list is really:

  • Offline Music
  • Efficient smart assistant (Siri) that answers without any latency
  • Wallet (Apple Pay)
  • Good fitness tracking with excellent GPS

I’ll continue to watch the Wear OS progress and believe that they will eventually sort themselves out and release hardware and software that offer a foundation they can build on.

Wear OS watch face with complications
Wear OS Free Watch Face with Complications | Make Life Click

They need to have better watch faces, faster-operating speeds, integration with Google Assistant that is smooth and seamless and offline music options that are also frictionless. That means they’ll have to have a good YouTube music app with offline as an option.

Here we go.

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