​Big new Wear OS feature set for spring update – but we want more

Wear OS is having a moment - can it seize it?
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Wear OS is getting a spring update and new features are on the way to Google’s smartwatch platform.

The information dropped on the Android Developers Blog, which outlines new features set to land April or May 2021.

Tiles are set to be opened up to third parties for the first time. Currently, Tiles are accessed by swiping from the home screen and show glanceable data for things like weather, fitness and health data.

But now these Tiles can be used by app developers to bring information to the wrist. This could be your most recent Strava workout or transit information in CityMapper.

This is a decent addition to the platform, which has advanced Tiles over the last year.

“Today, we're excited to announce that the Jetpack Tiles library is in alpha. This library enables developers to create custom Tiles on Wear OS smartwatches."

“These custom Tiles will become available to users later this Spring when we roll out the corresponding Wear OS platform update,” said Jolanda Verhoef, Developer Relations Engineer.

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As usual, an update to the Wear OS platform has got us excited. It shouldn’t – there’s been a number of updates to the platform over the past year such as the Fall 2020 update that brought new heart rate and activity Tiles (pictured above). But none have brought the kind of wholesale changes we crave.

Remember, this is a platform that powered just 3% of smartwatches shipped in 2020.

But Wear OS is having a moment. The Oppo Watch used the platform to great success after Google allowed the company to blend in its own Color OS. And Snapdragon Wear 4100 brings the possibility of longer battery life.

And we have upcoming smartwatches such as the OnePlus Watch and Moto G which are set to run on platform.

OnePlus has said its been working with Google to improve Wear OS and then there’s the persistent rumors that Samsung is building a Wear OS smartwatch for the first time since 2015.

Google certainly seems ready to let its partners take more control over Wear OS – so this juncture seems ripe for a major reworking on the platform. Now we have official confirmation of an update.

But will there be more than just Tiles? Will we see the kind of health and fitness innovations, wellness insights, sensor support and music/smart features that have driven the likes of Apple Watch?

On past form we’re not getting too excited – but we can dream.

TAGGED Wear OS

James Stables

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James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, and worked on Windows: The Official Magazine until becoming editor of What Laptop Magazine. As an editor of technology media titles, James launched Windows 8: The Official Magazine, and TechRadar's iPad magazine edition .tech.

After these launches, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies.

He has provided expert comments to a host of sources and has appeared on BBC News and Sky News to talk about smartwatch releases

James also appeared as an expert on Channel News Asia's documentary on wearable tech.

He has also spoken about wearables at a range of events, and hosts a monthly wearable technology event called Wearables London.

And James has also moderated wearable tech panels at Web Summit, IFA, and The Wearable Technology Show.


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