Wear OS: Ultimate guide to the smartwatch update

Everything you need to know about Google's OS

Android Wear 2.0 represented the biggest update to Google's smartwatch OS in its four-year history. The revamped smartwatch OS originally launched on two Wear OS watches back in February of last year, and it spent the rest of 2017 working its way onto a wide range of Wear watches.

Essential reading: Check our best smartwatches roundup

The Wear 2.0 upgrade (and the Wear Oreo update) added a whole host of new features, has an emphasis on custom watch faces, fitness and standalone apps. iPhone users are also in line for a much better iOS/Wear OS experience.

That's a thread that will continue as Android Wear has now been rebranded to Wear OS to make it a little less confusing for iPhone users who wanted to jump into Google's world of smartwatches.

Read on to get up to speed with everything you need to know about Wear OS…

Wear OS: Standalone apps

Standalone apps are the biggest change for the Wear ecosystem to date. You don't need your phone nearby to use apps on your Wear OS device. Using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or cellular instead of depending on a tethered phone or cloud syncing, your smartwatch now remains much more functional away from your phone.

Most Wi-Fi enabled smartwatches can already connect up to Wi-Fi, but this is a huge deal for Wear OS watch owners who also happen to have iPhones. It means you can now download apps straight to the watch, making up for the previous lack of app support available when paired with Apple's smartphone.

Worried about security with apps running wild on your wrist? While smartphone-paired watches use secure transfer authentication data via the Wearable Data Layer API, apps will make use of 2.0's new input methods ‚Äď more on those in a bit ‚Äď for username and password entry.

Which leads us to…

Wear OS: Play Store

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

As part of the grand untethering of phone and watch, Wear OS now includes a standalone Play Store, meaning you're able to browse and download Wear apps right to your smartwatch.

This also means you don't need to install the apps on your phone ‚Äď just the watch itself ‚Äď as Wear OS doesn't require the two to be paired.

Wear OS: Material design

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Google's smartphone design language has now made its way onto Wear OS smartwatches. But it's not a simple cut and paste job.

The design has been specifically optimised for Wear watches, redesigning the app launcher and creating something that's more accommodating for round screens. The way you interact with Wear OS has also been changed to fit in with the app launcher. Instead of the usual left and right swipe to find your apps, pushing the side button will display them in a slight arc. You can even put your favourite apps up the top by holding and dragging them.

There is also a new action drawer at the bottom of the display, providing context-specific actions similar to what you'd get on a smartphone.

These new menus and the like are also much easier to control thanks to Wear OS supporting a rotational input. On the LG duo, a moveable watch dial allows you to move up and down menus, zoom in and out and so on, but the new hardware control option doesn't have to be a side scroller; the platform supports any rotational input. Samsung-style rotating bezel anyone?

Wear OS: Watch faces

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Wear OS has been playing catch-up with Apple's watchOS in making its watch faces more useful. You are able to view multiple data from different third-party apps on the watch face. Think complications on Apple Watch. In fact, that's exactly what Google is calling the new watch face widgets ‚Äď complications.

Now users will be able to have data from Spotify and Google Fit, for example, displayed on a single watch face and can also interact with them ‚Äď devs can supply data to any watch face using the API.

The way you can pick and change watch faces is also much better now. You can simply line up your favourite faces and swipe from the existing watch face to access them. For example, you could have three different faces lined-up, complete with relevant complications, for work, running and home-time and access them with easy swiping.

Wear OS: Android Pay

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Android Pay is on board Wear OS, bringing contactless payments to smartwatches that pack NFC such as the Huawei Watch 2, pictured above.

Like its Apple and Samsung rivals, you simply load up your bank card to the device and tap away to buy that coffee or pretzel (other items are available).

Wear OS: Messaging

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Sending messages is limiting on the wrist since the screens are so small, but that should hopefully be alleviated a bit with Wear OS's input methods. A small keyboard can be swiped to let you type out messages, and handwriting recognition will let you draw single letters or join words to send messages.

Google is offering its own native keyboard but is also opening the door for third-party keyboard apps to offer alternatives.

And that's not all. Google is bringing over the smart replies that Gmail users will be familiar with, giving you the option of three possible responses to quickly reply to a contact. These smart replies are generated on the watches themselves, meaning no personal info is shared with Google's servers.

Responding to messages no longer requires swiping to another screen, either, as you are able to tap on the message and view more data before deciding on your next course of action.

Wear OS: Fitness

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Slowly but surely, Wear OS is becoming a better place for fitness lovers. Especially with specialist Wear running sports watches such as the Moto 360 Sport, Polar M600, and Nixon's The Mission. And the LG Watch Sport too, of course.

Google has made improvements with Google Fit integration, including the addition of individual activity counting within Fit ‚Äď think press-up reps and the like.

If you love working out with music, then it's much easier to launch your workout playlist, whether that's from Spotify or another music service, straight from the Wear homescreen. And your phone doesn't even need to be turned on for that, which is definitely very cool.

Talking of music, streaming tunes is now an option. The updated Google Play Music app allows you to stream music not stored on your watch using Wi-Fi or LTE connectivity.

Also, when you work out with a cellular-connected Wear OS device, you can still use the calling and messaging functionality.

This is actually an area Google is looking to double down in, and one of the big takeaways from our chat with Dennis Troper, head of product for Android Wear, is that Google wants Wear OS to be better at proactively coaching and motivating users to be active.

Wear OS: Notifications

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Anyone that has used an Android Wear watch will know how those Google notification cards had a habit of obscuring the watch faces and making the place a feel a little cluttered. Now things work a little bit differently.

When you get the cards, the watch face will display smaller icons instead of huge messages that take up space. They are also be more manageable with a progress bar on the bottom display showing you how many cards are left in the stack.

When you raise your watch to activate it, it pulls up the card notification before it hides away again. You are still able to swipe up from the bottom to go through your notifications as normal, but it gives Android Wear a much cleaner look and feel.

The notification cards themselves have been redesigned as well, to show primarily light text on a black background instead of dark text on a white background. According to Google, this should help save battery life and lessen the intrusion of bright notifications.

Expect Google to make some changes to how notifications work moving forward, as the search giant wants to make notifications even more glancable and give you more information more quickly.

Wear OS: Google Assistant

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Wear OS also adds Google Assistant to your smartwatch, helping you to find answers using your voice. It's like Alexa but less good. Though Google does want this to be a big point for its smartwatch OS, so expect a smarter Google Assistant moving forward.

You can ask Google Assistant about the weather, get it to set timers or remind you to buy a coffee or a pretzel (other items are available) ‚Äď you just hold down the standby button on your watch or say "OK Google."

Wear OS: It's not for everyone

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

Wear OS isn't available for every Wear smartwatch. Older devices such as the original Moto 360 and the LG G Watch miss out. That's not entirely surprising, given that both watches are very long in the tooth now. Google usually stops updating its flagship phones and tablets after a similar time period ‚Äď and both have been succeeded by multiple sequels.

It's the first notable deviation away from the philosophy of a controlled smartwatch experience for all.

This is the official list of existing devices, most of which should now be running the new software: Asus ZenWatch 2 & 3; Casio Smart Outdoor Watch; Casio PRO TEK Smart; Fossil Q Founder; Fossil Q Marshal; Fossil Q Wander; Fossil Q Control; Fossil Q Venture; Fossil Q Explorist; Huawei Watch 2; LG Watch Sport; LG Watch Style; LG Watch Urbane and 2nd Edition LTE; Michael Kors Access; Moto 360 2nd-gen; Moto 360 Sport; New Balance RunIQ; Nixon's The Mission; Polar M600; Louis Vuitton Tambour; Montblanc Summit; Ticwatch S & E; Misfit Vapor; Movado Connect; Skagen Falster; Tommy Hilfiger 24/7 You; Diesel Full Guard; Guess Connect; Gc Connect; and the Tag Heuer Modular Connected.

Wear OS: New smartwatches

Android Wear 2.0: Ultimate guide to the major smartwatch update

The LG Watch Sport and Watch Style were the first to debut Wear 2.0, and after that we saw a wave of updates, with the very latest arriving branded as Wear OS. Recently, we've seen the debut of the Kate Spade New York Scallop, Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 and Skagen Falster. In the future, we have the Hublot Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and the Huawei Watch 3. We expect we might see some new watches sporting the Wear OS branding at Google I/O in May too.

What do you think?

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  • Gadgety·

    It certainly looks like a step in the right direction. I'm missing control over sounds in the complications API, though.

    • harshiloh·

      I want to try custom app development in Android wear 2.0.

      Which watch is available in market right now with wear 2.0, please share the details.

  • MaryHinge·

    What's "this fall" mean? Thought this was a UK site.

    • Grydemone·

      It means Autumn

  • Pw1·

    Google fit is still way to basic, it's Needs to integrate heart rate & Sleep monitoring.

  • smatofu·

    I have tried Android Wear 2.0. The only good thing about it is the keyboard. Facewatch and navigation changes are worse than Wear 1.x which is pretty good. 

    If I navigate using swipes, I prefer to do everything with swipes. The 2.0 model is some actions with button, and other actions with swipes. 

    • GeminiPete·

      I totally agree that the hardware button replacing the faster and easier swipe to dismiss/go back is ridiculous and cumbersome in Android Wear 2.0. I have complained to Google about this on their feedback for AW2.0 site, and have pointed out theres near-universal dislike for this "new navigation method". I have no idea if they'll listen, but there's certainly no reason they couldn't at least include an alternative like a 2finger swipe (the OS can differentiate between a single a double finger swipe), the old graffiti undo glyph (swipe right then immediately back without lifting your finger), heck even a loop or some such, just someway to quickly navigate with your finger without having to stop what you're doing and use your whole hand to press a dang button that was never required before. I just don't get why they would go from a perfectly functional and fast, easy method to one that is harder and an interruption to the work flow. My guess is the few articles complaining about swipes from people only used to non touch screen button only things like Pebbles made them think bad things about the far superior touch screen swipes to nav.  Now, if they want to throw in a rotating bezel like the Gear S2&3's then I'm all for that, even additional hardware buttons are fine,  just don't *require* them for navigating around the OS when there's a touch screen!

  • AppleWatchHater·

    So will android wear devices be able to respond to messages now?

  • karthikvpk·

    Will the sony smartwatch 3 receive the 2.0 update?

  • Notrash·

    Please add possibility for user to make screen lit longer.

    It is WAY too short and annoying to use.

    • JohnnyW·

      Download stay lit wear from the play store.

    • VinnyBoomba·

      Wear Mini Launcher solves that problem.  You can choose from 5 seconds to 30 seconds.  I don't have experience with 2.0, but overall it's a better launcher than 1.5

  • osirhc·

    That's super lame that the original Moto 360 won't get Wear 2.0 - guess it's time to start looking for an upgrade.

    • dragon2knight·

      Typical Google, says one thing, does another.....guess a "universal" and "controlled" ecosystem isn't so universal or controlled anymore....there's nothing wrong with either the LG G watch(except maybe no wifi support) or the original 360(seriously? this watch does everything all the new ones do, wifi included...I call BS here...). Sounds like a money grab, the one thing Crapple is great at. Force you to "upgrade" when the hardware is just fine...guess I'm going back to Pebble, at least they give a crap about their customers.

    • dragon2knight·

      Couldn't agree more, Google is turning into Apple, forcing an upgrade where none is needed. Whatever happened to "one platform for all"??? Guess they are as big a liar as Apple as well. The original 360 can do whatever any new one can do, easily and with no struggles, so it should easily be able to handle 2.0. I'm headed back to Pebble, they at least don't lie about what they are doing and their stated goals are always met, even if it's not so great. I prefer a company that at least try's to care.....

      • deeznuts4u·

        There's no way the 1st get Moto 360 could handle Android Wear 2.0.  The original Moto 360 processor is dated and the watch was always laggy.  The battery was horrible. Buy a Moto 360 2nd Gen new for around $150 online. You won't ever go back to the dated 1st Gen 360. 

  • ashishagarwal·

    Will Moto 360 2nd Gen get Android wear 2.0?? Any news?

    • Bob73927·


  • jac101·

    will the beta work with iphone?

  • greniesa·

    Him on the third release of Android wear 2.0 beta, and I wonder if there's still a way to send apps from the phone? I use some apps that have the wear version that was sent from the phone,  but now that the Play Store is there, it doesn't send anymore . 

    These apps haven't send their apk to the new "unreleased"  Android Wear Play Store , so is their a way to force to send from the phone?

  • Kingbingo·

    I got confirmation directly from Sony today that the Sony smartwatch 3 will be compatible with 2.0. and you can buy it for £80 in Currys PCWORLD making a very accessible android wearable. Not prettiest but I don't think that Apple offering is all that.

    • jacobfrostholm·

      Would you mind posting their exact reply please.

  • joshbatt93·

    Will the Nixon 'The Mission' watch recieve the update?

  • Xfoneguy·

    I'm confused - when I search for the Android Wear App in the PlayStore, the version number is listed as  I thought this doesn't arrive until next year??

    • nazhussain·

      The Android Wear app is not the same thing as the Android Wear OS, the latter of which is being upgraded to version 2.0 in the new year. 

  • Abranda·

    So does this mean that a smart watch paired with an iPhone will now work on wifi?  I got a beautiful Fossil Q Wander for Christmas but it constantly disconnects from my iPhone SE and drives me crazy.  

  • Kemshadows1103·

    Will sony smartwatch 3 get an update of android wear 2.0?

  • Juang3d·

    Now that CES2017 it¬īs done, is there a release date for this??¬†

    And when that release is done, how much time usually takes to motorola to update the Moto360 Sport?

    (I¬īm new to Android Wear from this christmas)


  • yogibimbi·

    Graffiti for Wear 2.0 please!

  • jeffie2·

    Been playing with last dev preview on my huaweis for a while now and so far I like 2.0 very much. New dark theme, design changes, complications and especially the new play store with "standalone" apps so i can finally look install indepently from my phone. Not too many apps there yet (i like new runtastic, ezride, of course many apps from google...), but hopefully we'll get there soon

  • shaunMcmahon·

    Looking forward to getting this on my moto360sport. Have found its functionality a bit limited. Hoping one of the running apps gets audio cues and predicted finish times. This is the 2 features i miss most from the smart phone running apps. All the hardware is there just need someone to program in the functionality.

  • GlobalLive·

    I have to installed on the Urbane 2 and have to reboot the phone about every 30 minutes because it drops connection.

  • jjjmmm·

    how can I tell if my watch has been upgraded? 

  • jjjmmm·

    how do I know if my watch has been upgraded to 2.0?

  • shawndrahorton·

    I am so confused about how to use this watch. If I look up another video I am going to scream, wheres the manuel on how operate the apps.

    The one app that wont work on my watch is Google Fit... PLEASE tell me that this was not a mistake to have purchased..... - Michael Kors

  • jimmy01·

    not enough. need a document with details on how to set up watch and phone. It took me hours to make my watch/apps work mediocritly.  Also all the setting on my android phone.  No, Android wear does not turn on/off the settings on phone correctly. 

  • Kshultz·

    How do I send a text message on the new 2.0 wear? My messages option is not in the apps? I can respond to a text, but I can't send a new message. 

  • Omnibus34·

    where's the owners manual?.  Major upgrade has me guessing.  Took a while to find "timer" for instance.  LG urbane.

  • Dynamize·

    Yuck, yuck, yuck....

    What an utter ball of s**t. I hate Android Wear 2.0, so much so that I have gone back to my dumb watch.... Anyone want an LG Urbane with Android Wear 2.0 on it? I don't want this garbage anymore.

    Android Wear 1.5 had some big problem but I was hopeful that Wear 2.0 would solve a lot of those.... It did not and it introduced soooooooo many more. I have something on my wrist that is worse than a dumb watch because it keeps randomly buzzing on my wrist, sometimes it is a notification, sometimes its' a hidden notification and some times its just to see if it can p**s me off. Well it can. Oh GOD I hate it. Did I mention that I hate it. It's horrible, nothing works and when it does, rarely i'll add, they took away all the functionality that I like. All of it and I am left with balls, a sack of puss that is infecting my feeling for tech.....

    Google what were you thinking and why can't I just go back to 1.5 I mean it had its problems but in comparison to Wear 2.0 it was a golden egg.

  • dares·


    I update my android ware to 2.0 (LG GR watch). in this update i have major issue. their is no call answer option when watch getting a call, its only have call busy option. please looking to this matter.

  • Sackings22·

    Hello, this is my first time on this site and I have learned a lot from the comments and the responses.  I have a question which I am hoping someone can help with.  I have a iPhone 6 with software release 10.3.1.  I purchased a new TAG Heuer Connected watch and have downloaded, several times, Android Wear2.0    The compatibility of the watch and the phone is limited at best, or in reality not very good.   The watch looks great but most of the app's do not work, or have very limited functionality.  Even those app's that are listed as "compatable" are in fact not fully compatible and while they do appear on the watch they have almost no ability to work properly, and in all cases the "interactive" function does not work.  Spotify does not load properly, Nest does not load properly, Android Pay does not work to name three.  I have tried to call the TAG Heuer  help number and, not trying to be negative, they just are not up to speed on this stuff.  I am very frustrated and disappointed with the watch, needless to say is was not cheap.  I have or at least think I have tried everything   I uninstalled and installed Android wear 2.0 on my iPhone and reset the watch   Maybe there is a problem with the watch  Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.  Thanks 

  • Mitts64·

    Asus announced awhile back that Zenwatch 2 and 3 were getting Android Wear 2.0...This past week they did I believe a bug patch (the security patch level is still April 1/2017) and did the same for the Android Wear app on my  IOS Apple phone. Is Asus still commited to releasing AW 2.0 in May?

  • doua·

    this watches looks amazing i wonder if they work well 

  • Gadgety·

    Got Android Wear 2.0 and while the ability to pin apps makes the watch more useable, there's something that's a huge step backwards which is not reported in the media: Android Wear 2.0 voice and text input in other languages than English. Previously voice entry could be done in non-English and be correctly registered, say of a shopping list. This no longer works, making the watch English only. Nowhere was this advertised by Google or in reviews of Android Wear 2.0. Furthermore the keyboard is predictive, and wants to make all words into English. So the watch has lost features it had, and makes it more of a toy than a useable tool, unless one only uses English.


    Please help... I have the LG Urbane 1st edition and the brand new Samsung galaxy S8 Plus. My watch pairs with my phone just fine and Almost have all functionality. I can't draw Google Play Store over to my watch so I'm unable to download other apps new watch faces and so on. I periodically reset my watch back to factory settings and unpair my on the phone as well as delete the app from my phone and start fresh. I'm never able to get the Play Store app to copy over to my watch. Please... What can I do.... What am I missing 

  • MaggieGaggie·

    Such a mistake to assume only the under 50's use modern technology. The $200 so-called 'smart' watch I bought just a couple of months ago is now relegated to a drawer as useless. For those who are age-afflicted (78) and have fingers that have aged at the same rate, pressing that little button on the side to get the apps is a pain - in the fingers! When my son tells me that and the other foolish mistakes like having that useless black box that does nothing much, have been corrected and I can go back to swiping, I'll take the watch out of the drawer and put it on. In the meantime it's useless junk! It would be nice if the young techno whizzes, instead of making life difficult for those old folk who have taken the trouble to keep up, remembered that the young are not the only people on the planet.

  • MaggieGaggie·

    A little story in illustration of my comment about the elderly.  The day after I bought my smart watch and had spent time learning how it worked, I went to a local jewellers to have the buckle-on strap (too difficult for my arthritic hands) replaced with an expansion bracelet.  While the young man was fitting it, my phone rang and, rather than fumble in my purse for my cell, I took my watch from the jeweller and answered the call on it instead.  There were two young women sales clerks in the store and all three of those under 40's gaped in amazement and, after I said goodbye to my caller, I then had to explain in detail everything I had managed to learn in one day about how a smart watch works and demonstrate its capabilities.  None of them had any experience prior to that of smart watches which presumably meant none of their under-40 friends had either or they wouldn't have needed a little old lady to bring them up to date on the latest techno goodies. Just because the bodies, unavoidably, have aged, doesn't necessarily mean the minds have deteriorated too. Some do; some don't and when the young look at the old, 'old' shouldn't be all they see.  There's more to us than meets the eye.

  • TrinadhSuri·

    gear s2 is compatible with samsung s8 or not can u please conform me please

  • Lee303·

    NONE of the features offer anything that your phone can't do, which makes it all kinda pointless as your phone has to be in range (ie: already in your pocket), unless you have a standalone 4g model, in which case you need two plans which makes having a smart watch a stupidly expensive exercise in pointlessness, considering no one is gonna ditch their phone & use only a 4g watch. Basically, the only advantage of "smart" watch over ordinary watch is for people who are too lazy to take their phone out of their pocket. Google have even taken away some of the enjoyment by crippling file management & custom ringtones in Wear OS.

    Poor effort.