How to use Google Maps on Wear OS: Get directions and traffic info on your wrist

We explain how navigation from the wrist works in Wear OS 3
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Getting directions from Google Maps is one of the simplest and most effective uses of your smartwatch, and the experience is especially strong on Google's Wear OS devices.

There's simply no better option if you want to avoid pulling your phone out for turn-by-turn directions, and the watch app is also much-improved since relaunching for Wear OS 3.

It now even comes pre-installed on devices packing that new Wear software, meaning the possibility is there to use it independently from your phone. However, there are a few things to know before you dive into wrist navigation. 

That's where this guide comes in. We'll list the requirements to run the app, as well as note the things you can and can't do from the Google Maps app for Wear OS 3.

Google Maps on Wear OS: Requirements

It's not necessarily as simple as just firing up the app from your Wear OS smartwatch and gaining navigation skills. 

If you don't have a cellular-enabled watch, you're going to need to make sure your device is connected to your smartphone - and can therefore tether the cellular connection. Alternatively, if you do have a smartwatch with LTE support, you'll be able to access the app without issue.

Whichever camp you fall into, you're obviously going to have to enable location tracking, too, either on your watch and phone or just your watch, depending on your cellular configuration.

Using Google Maps on Wear OS

To get started with Google Maps on Wear OS, you'll obviously have to open it up. Though this will vary slightly from watch to watch, all you need to do on Wear OS 3 is bring up the app list and scroll down to 'Maps'. 

To make things a bit quicker, there's also a Google Maps Tile (widget) available - and this lets you jump immediately into directions to saved locations like home or your workplace.

Search for directions using Google Maps for Wear OS

Once inside the app, you're immediately met with three tabs to pick from - a list of recent searches you've made linked to your Google Account, as well as the option to search through an on-screen keyboard and or by voice.

Whichever you select, step two will see estimations pop up for walking, cycling or driving - and you'll select one as you typically would. Once you do, route guidance will begin.

Following directions using Google Maps for Wear OS

If you're connected via your phone, the Google Maps Android app will automatically fire up, while the wrist will show you the next three direction prompts.

You also have the option to 'Show Map', with your blue location indicator then automatically updating as you move. 

If your smartwatch is set up to support cellular, and you're not in range of your phone, the app will simply begin route guidance individually.

Depending on your watch model, you can use the crown to zoom in and out of the map, too, which is handy when you're walking.

Google Maps on Wear OS: How to end navigation

1. Make sure your screen is showing the Google Maps app.
2. From there, scroll down the screen and tap 'Exit'.

Stop Google Maps automatically opening on your Wear OS watch

While having directions on your wrist is handy sometimes, there are also times when you're happy to use your phone and leave your watch for other tasks.

To stop the auto-launch of Google Maps directions on your Wear smartwatch, follow these steps:

1. Open the Google Maps app on your smartwatch.

2. Scroll down to the bottom and tap 'Settings'.

3. From here, select 'Auto-launch'.

4. Then, switch the auto-launch feature for driving, cycling or walking to your preferred state.

TAGGED Wear OS

Conor Allison

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Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 


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