Google Wear OS hands-on at Google I/O 2018



Here at Google I/O 2018, all eyes were placed squarely on Google's recent efforts with its mobile platform, Android P. In other areas outside of its smartphone operating system, its smartwatch platform got very little attention during its keynote, but the latest build was shown off in detail at a smaller event on Day 2. We managed to spend a little bit of time checking out Google's Wear OS, previously Android Wear. The name switch seemingly happened because the smartwatch platform isn't exclusive to Android anymore, as many iOS users have adopted it – so the name change was necessary.

It's been a while since I've personally used Google's smartwatch platform, but after checking out the latest build of Wear OS, there's more emphasis placed on its integration with Google Assistant. That shouldn't be much of a surprise, seeing that Assistant is increasingly the foundational support for many smart devices. The integration is deeper than ever before, as Wear OS powered smartwatches can now be leveraged to control smart devices. Yes, you can still use Google Assistant to provide relevant information to your questions and requests, such as asking for the weather, but now you can use it to turn on the lights, tell your vacuum robot to start cleaning, and much more!

Now, in order to do this, you'll obviously need to connect supported smart gadgets as a home control device using the Google Assistant app on your smartphone. From here, you can personalize how you can initiate certain commands to provide detailed actions – much like what you can do with other smart home products. If you're used to using something like a Google Home speaker to tell commands to Google Assistant, then you'll find its implementation here with Wear OS to be no different.

Most of the new features with Wear OS are merely tweaks to enhance the overall experience, much like how notifications feature larger fonts to increase the readability on the screen at a glance, or how there's now the touch lock function that disables the touchscreen while using certain workout apps, and other intelligent actions based on contextual commands.

Beyond those aspects, it's tough to gauge whether or not Wear OS has enough gas in the tank to really make a significant impact in the smartwatch industry – one that's largely dominated by the Apple Watch. While Google Assistant's deeper integration is a welcomed addition to the platform, we're more eager to know whether or not the platform can provide a diversified portfolio of apps support. Even though there were several smartwatches on hand to check out, they all only offered the core native apps of the platform. However, we're curious to know if Wear OS can match Apple's watchOS in terms of its apps support.

Sure, it's cool and convenient to control certain smart devices through your smartwatch, but what about being able to check out your Facebook or Instagram feeds, instead of having to rely on your smartphone. Or how about being able to fetch a Lyft or Uber ride directly through your smartwatch? There's no denying that Google is putting some serious effort in deepening the experience with Wear OS, but we're crossing our fingers that it'll continue to provide that condensed smartphone experience through smartwatches.

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4 Comments

1. Feanor

Posts: 1341; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

I strongly feel that Wear OS is under a sycophantic attack by tech journalists everywhere. Things where Wear OS is still better than Apple Watch: -Always on display to show the time always like a normal watch (this is connected to the battery life too; Contrary to public belief, once you switch this feature off -which is the only mode available on an Apple Watch and thus the real comparable status- battery life on Wear OS watches is double the battery life of Apple Watch). -Better Assistant comparing to Siri. -Better notification system. -Keyboard (believe it or not I use this to answer to messages much more than voice dictation). -Support for both rotating bezel or crown but also wrist gestures (nobody uses them, nobody remembers that they exist, but they are much more useful for checking notifications than rotating elements because they don't occupy the opposite hand. Try it and you'll see). -Displaying picture attachments on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. At least from my experience, my Wear watches can display pictures, my friend's Apple Watch cannot. -Extra watchfaces to download from Google Play. And let's not forget that Wear OS had LTE support some two years earlier than Apple Watch. Also I'd argue that round displays common for Wear watches look much more elegant than the mini-calculator-pasted-on-a-strap design of the Apple Watch.

3. ssallen

Posts: 168; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

And god, I can't stand all the magenta Apple is using.

4. LiveFaith

Posts: 388; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

Excellent points. It's just like how hardly anyone in tech media dares to compare an iPhone to Android device based on software interface. I know there are a handful. But almost all just "act" like it's all personal preference and doesn't matter. Same with Samsungs new skin vs stock. Or the Note's extra pen functions and sw experience. Ignored for fear of backlash it seems. Media chasing $$$ and acceptance it appears.

2. surethom

Posts: 1635; Member since: Mar 04, 2009

Will assistant on Wear OS now let you ask what in the inside temperature when not at home or increase nest temperature?

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