Wear OS by Google lets iPhone users pair a Wear watch and get an experience almost as good as those treading the pure Android smartphone-pairing path.
Of course, those of you who previously ran an older version of the software will know that most Wear watches already worked with iOS, but the experience was very limited. Since Wear 2.0 landed in February 2017, many more features have been rolled in, and although Android smartphone users will still have a few exclusive extras, it's definitely much better now for the iPhone.
So, if you've thought about avoiding the Apple Watch and instead buying a Moto 360 2, Polar M600 - or like the look of the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style - but are tied to Apple's mobile operating system, Wear OS now brings you closer than ever to getting the best of both worlds. In fact, the recent rebranding from Android Wear to Wear OS was, in part, to make the platform more appealing to those with iPhones.
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Explore below to find out what you can and can't do with Wear on your iPhone, as well as what devices will work and how you set everything up.
Wear OS on iOS: Which devices work?
First thing first: you need an iPhone 5 or newer with at least iOS 9 installed in order to use your Apple phone with a Wear watch.
Second, obviously, you need an Wear watch that works with iOS. Over time, Google has expanded compatibility out to just about every model, and even some of the oldest ones that didn't 'officially' get support have still worked when we tried.
However, if you have your smartwatch running Wear 2.0 (and you really should have by now), that's a different matter. Here's a list of the current Wear 2.0 update status.
Wear OS on iOS: Initial setup
Pairing your Wear watch with an iPhone is a fairly straightforward procedure, but if your device is already linked to a different phone, remember to give it a factory reset first. To do this, head into System and hit Disconnect & Reset.
Once you're ready, first download the Wear app on your iPhone (at the time of writing, Wear OS by Google hasn't yet replaced Android Wear on the App Store, but expect this soon). Then simply fire up the smartwatch and select to pair a new Wear device.
You'll need to select your watch from the list in the iOS app and verify the connection on both devices. Once that's done, the app will update the watch's software to the latest version and ask you to select the Google account you want to copy over.
After a minute or so of preparation, your watch should start running, presenting you with an Wear tutorial that walks you through the basics of notifications and using Google Assistant. It's short and definitely worth paying attention to.
Wear OS on iOS: What it does
Wear OS now lets iOS users do a lot more, and in time, with updates and more third-party apps, the experience will get even better.
Probably the biggest change for iOS users since Wear 2.0 was introduced is the fact it puts a Google Play Store on the watch itself. This is actually huge for iOS, as it lets you run all the same standalone apps you would with an Android phone. You'll be able to load up the store, browse and download apps onto the watch just as people paired with an Android smartphone can.
Google told us it's keeping the catalogue of apps it already has that work with Android, which means there will be a somewhat smaller collection of apps available for iOS users. However, the Wear apps are consistently rolling in - along with updates of existing apps to make them 2.0-ready - so there is certainly no shortage for iPhone users.
Google Assistant is also built into Wear as a standalone app, which means iOS users are able to use this on the watch (just don't make Siri jealous). With the Assistant and Play Store now on the watch, it's a good idea to get it connected to your Wi-Fi as soon as possible.
But maybe the biggest surprise is that Google Pay (previously Android Pay) also works for iOS, giving iPhone users an alternative wearable payment option to Apple Pay. How far we've come.
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When it comes to notifications, the experience is also pretty good with texts, emails, calendar reminders - plus all third-party apps too, whether it's WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. And when you dismiss them on the watch, they'll disappear from your iPhone notification screen, so the two really are working in unison.
Watches like the LG Watch Sport come with LTE and a built in speaker/mic, meaning you can make and take calls on them. Carriers such AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile let you share your number across both devices (which makes more sense than having a separate one just for your smartphone, unless you're actually Dick Tracy). This also works on iOS, handily.
Music controls work with Apple Music and third-party apps like Spotify, too, and you even get album artwork on your wrist now.
Your Wear device will count your steps and provide the basic activity metrics of Google Fit while you're paired with iOS - but on the smartwatch only. It's not transferred across to Apple Health, sadly, but then we'd be surprised if Apple were so generous to open that gate.
Wear OS on iOS: What it doesn't do
There are still some limitations in using iOS with Wear OS. For example, iMessages won't come through, as these are only supported on iOS. Integration with the calendar and emails is also a bit more limited.
When we tried asking the Assistant to mark reminders in the diary we were simply directed to the phone, while doing this when paired with an Android phone meant Assistant actually scheduled it for us. Also, the Settings button for Assistant currently doesn't work in the iOS Wear app. On an Android phone this takes you to a menu where you can configure Wear with smart home devices, something that iOS currently can't do.
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However, you can switch on rich Gmail cards, which allows you to archive and reply to Gmail messages directly from the wrist, including with voice. In fact, when you link your Google account during setup it also links your Gmail account. This means Gmail messages come straight from a built-in app rather than any smartphone app you may usually use on the iPhone.
Wear OS on iOS: The iPhone app
As we mentioned earlier, the App Store hasn't yet switched over from Android Wear to Wear OS yet, despite the rebranding. We imagine this will be coming sooner rather than later, and for the app to be much the same as the current Android Wear iPhone app.
And while you do have more options than previously through the Wear app, there's not a whole lot going on here. The home screen will show you your paired devices and this is where you can add more smartwatches or disconnect them. You can also change your watch face here, but that's it. No Play Store link - you have to go directly to that on the watch or install via the browser.
Tap the cog icon at the top right and you'll be met with a list of configurations to make your iOS experience more suited to you. This includes changing the types of notifications you want to see and choosing whether you want your email and calendar updates to come from your Google or Apple account. That last one is important, so make sure you've set it to the one you normally use. There's also the aforementioned option to switch on/off rich Gmail cards.
Aside from that, there's not an awful lot else to see, especially as Wear now handles a lot on the watch itself. You can change a couple of screen configurations, and there's a settings option for Google Assistant that allows you to manage smart home control and set a whole host of Assistant prompts, including setting alarms, playing music and asking Google questions.
Really, beyond the initial setup, you're probably not going to be coming back in here too often, but that's fine. Wear is still limited in some ways, but iOS users who plump for a Google-based wearable are now getting a much more feature-rich experience.
Got any questions about using Wear OS on an iPhone? Let us know in the comments section below.
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