Wear OS is making a comeback with the Oppo Watch and TicWatch Pro 3 impressing in our reviews – but Fitbit's health and wellbeing smarts would really make Google's OS a true contender.
I've spent the last month wearing the Oppo Watch and TicWatch Pro 3 for Wareable's reviews – and for the first time in years, I was impressed by smartwatches on running Wear OS.
That's because both of these Google-powered smartwatches don't feel like they run Wear OS at all.
Both have ditched elements of Google's UI, in favor of their own software, particularly with regards to health and fitness tracking.
Criticizing Wear OS
I've been critical in the past of Wear OS's lethargic approach to fitness tracking.
It's a key feature people look for when choosing a smartwatch, and the leading devices such as Fitbit Sense, Versa 3 and Apple Watch Series 6 are increasingly becoming health watches with features like ECG, SpO2 tracking and heart rate arrhythmia alerts.
Compared to this, Wear OS feels years behind.
While Oppo and Mobvoi's own health and fitness apps weren't perfect from an accuracy point of view, there were still a lot of positives. They felt easier to use than Google's, there was less faffing about in the set up process, and it was straightforward to check on your progress for the day or during exercise.
TicWatch Pro 3
Fitbit - the missing piece of the puzzle
But how different these watches would've been with Fitbit's fitness tracking features.
Even relatively basic data step tracking and sleep monitoring could be made so much more compelling, let alone more complex elements.
And the use of Fitbit's algorithms could solve these persistent accuracy issues, too.
Things like resting heart rate, 24/7 heart rate, active minutes and calories burned. These are just so unmotivating in the current Wear OS setup, and we're sure that Fitbit's involvement would bring these elements to the fore.
And the analysis of data would just make the platform so much better. Sleep scores, sleep stages, stress – these are the types of features Fitbit could add to the Wear OS platform. It's the missing piece of the puzzle and it must be extremely frustrating for Google that progress with the acquisition is still being held up.
Fitbit Versa 3
And there could be other benefits too.
What Fitbit has shown in its relatively short time making smartwatches is that it can better handle the strain of power hungry features like continuous heart rate monitoring or using GPS without severely depleting the battery life.
A lot of this technology came from its acquisitions of Pebble and Vector, and it's certainly something Wear OS could benefit from.
This ability to better optimise software is as important as the actual presence of Fitbit's own software on Google-powered watches.
As things currently stand, Google is still seeking the appropriate regulatory approval to complete the acquisition. It could be edging closer to a resolution and it may be all done before the end of the year if it gets the green light in the EU and US.
Both Google and Fitbit will no doubt be eager for it to be finally done. It's a deal that will fuel both company's ambitions to further explore the role of wearables for serious health monitoring. For smartwatches, it's going to be crucial to pulling Google closer to the likes of Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Garmin who dominate the space.
How long or quickly it will take for Fitbit to be integrated into Google's smartwatch ecosystem is something that will be intriguing to see. Let's hope it's sooner rather than later.
Wear OS feels like it's finally finding its feet and Fitbit's presence won't just fix major issues with its fitness and health features, it could potentially solve other major problems that have plagued the smartwatch platform for far too long.
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