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.