Wear OS 3: everything you need to know

Everything we know so far about Google's big smartwatch software update
Wear OS 3.0 update guide
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Google and Samsung have joined forces for a huge update for Wear OS – with Fitbit handling a new health and fitness experience for the platform. It's also set to rename the platform, ditching the OS and just calling it Wear.

All the chatter has been about the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 running Wear OS – and indeed, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 will show off the new combined experience, with a unified platform that brings together Tizen and Wear OS technology. It will be unveiled on 11 August.

The good news is that this unified OS will be open for other manufacturers to use, just like the current Wear OS.

Here's what you need to know and a look at what we can expect from Wear when it lands:

Wear OS 3 in brief:

  • Wear OS to get biggest ever update
  • Unified OS with Wear OS and Tizen merging
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Classic will be first Wear 3 smartwatches
  • Only TWO existing Wear smartwatches will get the upgrade in 2022
  • Longer battery life (2 days) and new app switching feature
  • New and improved apps for Wear OS

Will current Wear OS smartwatches 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. Only two smartwatches will get a pathway to upgrade – the TicWatch Pro 3 and TicWatch E3.

All other current Wear OS devices will get updates such as the recent Play Store improvements and changes to Tiles. And Google will provide two years of security updates for the older platform.

Read Google's full blog post here.

Fossil (and Fossil Brands)

No existing Fossil smartwatches will get the upgrade, which includes Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Emporio Armani, Skagen and more.

However, the forthcoming Fossil Gen 6 and Michael Kors Access 6 devices have been announced – but despite launching in Fall 2021, they will also have to wait for an over-the-air upgrade to Wear 3, and won't run the software from launch.

Mobvoi

The TicWatch Pro 3 and Ticwatch E3 will be the only Mobvoi smartwatches to get upgraded. However, officially Google says the updates won't launch until "early to mid 2022."

Suunto

The Suunto 7 will not receive an update to Wear OS.

Tag Heuer

The eye-waveringly expensive Tag Heuer will remain on Wear OS 2 with no path to get the latest version.

Wear OS 3.0 changes and what's new?

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.

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.

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.