Wear OS 3 explained: new screenshots, compatible watches and release date

Everything we know so far about Google's big smartwatch software update
Wear OS 3.0 explained
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Wear OS 3.0 is the latest edition of the smartwatch OS – and one of the biggest updates ever to the platform.

Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) has been a hugely frustrating platform. It's available for smartwatch manufacturers to use on their devices – but hasn't evolved at the same pace as rivals.

But now things are changing. Google and Samsung have joined forces for a new Wear OS – with Google-owned Fitbit handling a new health and fitness experience for the platform.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 running Wear OS is already out with Wear OS 3.0 – and reviewed exceedingly well in our in-depth review. And the renewed interest in Wear OS has meant that developers are putting their weight behind making brilliant new apps for the platform. Things are finally moving in the right direction.

But other watches aren't due to get the new OS until later in 2022, which is frustrating. And there are still question marks about how it will perform.

Here's what you need to know and a look at what we can expect from Wear 3.0.

Wear OS 3.0 in brief:

  • Wear OS 3.0 is biggest ever update
  • Unified OS with Wear OS and Tizen merging
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Classic are first Wear 3.0 smartwatches
  • Some existing Wear smartwatches will get the upgrade in H2 2022
  • Longer battery life (2 days) and new app switching feature
  • New and improved apps for Wear OS

Which Wear OS smartwatches will get Wear OS 3?

Wear OS 3.0 update: Guide to the new Google and Samsung OS

Which current Wear OS watches will get Wear OS 3 has been a serious question overshadowing the announcement of the new operating system – and it's not good news for most owners.

Currently, only the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 runs Wear OS 3.0.

Google has confirmed that some existing devices will be eligible for an update to Wear 3.0 - but it will only be a handful of the most current devices, which run the latest processor technology.

For those devices that miss out, Google has announced a big update for Wear 2.0 watches. That includes Play Store improvements and changes to Tiles. And Google will provide two years of security updates for the older platform.

Smartwatches confirmed to get upgraded to Wear 3.0:

These are currently the only devices confirmed to get Wear 3.0 via an update.

At Google I/O 2022 the company announced a handful of updates to Wear OS 3.0 and new features, as well as the Google Pixel Watch. But was tight-lipped on the roll out of Wear OS 3.0 to older watches.

When will Wear OS 3.0 get released?

Wear OS has technically already launched, as it's available on the Galaxy Watch 4.

But the rollout onto existing smartwatches (listed below) is slated for "2022" – and there's no more information than that. Why the wait? Your guess is as good as ours.

A tweet by Fossil revealed that its watches will get Wear OS 3.0 in "mid to second half of 2022" – which would represent a slip from early indications from Google that we'd see Wear 3.0 in the first half.

Google Pixel Watch becomes official

Google Pixel Watch

The existence of the Pixel Watch has widely leaked over the past few months, with some grainy images of the design. And all of the leaks seem to have been proved correct.

The Pixel Watch is a circular smartwatch, with a rotating, tactile crown and sleek design.

Google revealed that the Pixel Watch is made of recycled stainless steel, which should give it a premium feel, and has quick release bands for easy customization.

Google did, however, talk about Fitbit, which unsurprisingly will power the fitness tracking elements of the smartwatch. Fitbit will bring step and activity tracking, 24/7 heart rate and its Active Zone Minutes metric. There is also a heart rate complication shown on many of the press renders.

There will also be a cellular version, and the Pixel Watch will run on an "improved" version of Wear 3.0, with a revamped UI.

New Wear OS 3.0 screenshots leak

Wear OS 3: compatible watches, features and release date explained\

While we've had precious little information about Wear OS 3.0, a leak spotted by 9to5Google shows some of the screens and design of the updated OS.

Remember that while Wear 3.0 is live on the Galaxy Watch 4, that uses the Samsung skin, so this is our first look at how a vanilla Wear 3.0 will look.

We can see Google Assistant, some notifications and, intriguingly, a Fitbit branded tile showing goal progress.

At Google I/O 2022, Google also confirmed that the Google Pixel Watch would run on a revamped version of Wear 3.0 with a revamped UI.

Wear OS 3.0 new features

Google revealed details at its I/O developer conference and beyond its main keynote also dished out more details in its developer sessions to give us more of a flavour of what to expect. You can get a closer look in the video above, but here's some of the highlights:

Performance improvements

The unified Wear OS/Tizen (we suspect the lion’s share of this is Wear OS) will bring a 30% increase in performance, slicker animations and UI and a boost in loading times of apps.

There’s also improved battery life, but there’s no firm details on how long – but it seems it will be two days max. However, Google used the example that "includes handy optimizations like the ability to run the heart rate sensor continuously during the day, track your sleep overnight and still have battery for the next day.” We told you to temper your excitement.

App switching

App switching

New features of Wear also mentioned include quick app switching with a double tap of one of the physical watch buttons letting you switch between apps. The apps not in use can continuously work in the background letting you go back and forth between them. You'll be also be able to see most recent apps at the top of the new app launcher.

More third party Tiles

More third party Tiles

Something Google had already announced for the platform was the move to open up the API for its Tiles widgets to enable more custom tiles that work on all watches that run on new Wear.

Google has already confirmed it has been working on third party tiles with Calm, Hole 19, Adidas Running and others pictured above.

Watch face creation powered by Samsung

Wear OS 3.0 update: Guide to the new Google and Samsung OS

Google has revealed that one of the features brought over from Samsung's smartwatch platform that will benefit users is the ability to make it easier for designers to create watch faces for Wear smartwatches. Fitbit's influence will be felt here too with its Bitmoji watch faces, which are also set to be integrated into the new Wear experience.

Health services

Along with Fitbit's role in Wear, which we'll go into below, Google announced a new Health services platform that's designed to help developers build simple health and fitness services for Wear.

This aspect of the new Wear has been created closely with Samsung. A big focus is to create this new apps and tap into onboard sensors like heart rate monitors while aiming to preserve battery life.

Google Wallet

There has been a host of improvements to Google Wallet, announced at I/O. That means storing match tickets, boarding passes, vaccine details and payment cards on the wrist.

Improved Google Assistant

Google Assistant enhancements outlined at Google I/O mean you can configure the Assistant to work without the 'Hey, Google' wake-word, and have it listen for common commands instead.
Examples could be “turn downstairs lights on” or playing your favourite music – things you’d never just blurt out mid-conversation.

SOS

A new feature heading to Wear OS is an SOS feature, that can quickly call a contact in the event of an accident or emergency.

Wear OS 3.0: Fitbit to provide fitness tracking

Wear OS 3.0: Fitbit to provide fitness tracking

James Park, CEO of Fitbit which was acquired by Google, announced that Fitbit would be powering the fitness tracking experience on the new Wear OS. He highlighted “tracking health progress and on-wrist celebrations for motivation”, which leads us to believe the experience will be simple at first.

Google has offered a glance of what to expect and it looks heavily inspired by the UI already used on Fitbit's Versa and Sense smartwatches. So you'll be able to see a snapshot of your day including heart rate data and and Active Zone Minutes.

Park also announced that Fitbit would be launching “health watches based on Wear using Google’s ambient computing capabilities,” which means we should see Wear OS Fitbits in the next year.

And there was news of revamped Wear OS apps, which by all accounts has been the driver for Samsung to jump back in with Google for Wear OS.

Wear OS 3.0 apps

There will be a bunch of “rebuilt apps” from the likes of Strava, Adidas Running, MyFitnessPal and Facer. A new Spotify app will also be launched and will include the offline playlist syncing support recently added to the Apple Watch Spotify app. You can get a closer look at what's in store in the video above.

Read our full guide to the best Wear 3.0 apps.

Confirmed Wear 3.0 apps for Wear 3.0

  • Spotify
  • Adidas Running
  • Deezer
  • YouTube Music
  • Google Maps
  • Calm
  • Sleep Cycle
  • Strava
  • LifeSum

Google is also seeking to improve its core apps including Google Maps, which will let you navigate without your phone when it launches on watches later in 2021. It's also improving Google Pay with support for 26 more countries and offer support to pay for transit on metro systems in the US.

Google's new Strava app for Wear OS 3.0

Google's new Strava app for Wear OS 3.0

It's also planning to revamp Google Assistant (about time) and there will also be the arrival of offline syncing for YouTube Music and Spotify.

In addition to bringing us more apps, it's going to offer a new way to install apps too. Google has revealed that you will soon be able to download and install apps directly from the Play Store phone app. It is also improving the way you can find those apps on the Store, which currently isn't a very easy thing to do.