Wear OS is in a period of transition. We know that Google is working to make its smartwatch operating system smarter, better at fitness and more compatible with iPhones. But it's been lacking a hero smartwatch to rival the likes of the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch. For the first time, it feels like that hero smartwatch could actually be coming.
Multiple reports have said Google is prepping a Pixel-branded smartwatch for this year, but what will it look like and what features will it host? That much is still up in the air, but we can certainly start the speculation. Here's what we think we know so far plus we share what we're hoping to see from a Pixel watch.
A smarter smartwatch
After Google rebranded Android Wear to Wear OS, two of the goals it outlined for the newly minted operating system this year were to make it smarter and better at health.
Smarter seems like a safe bet, especially as Google has made small moves toward this recently. Google has been on a tear, putting Assistant into as many devices as possible. The critical success of the Pixel line of phones is partly built on how it utilizes Assistant in features like Google Lens, and how AI is used to help take better photos.
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A smartwatch with a better Google Assistant means a more proactive assistant. Dennis Troper, head of product for Wear OS, told Wareable that Google wants Assistant on Wear OS to anticipate how it can help before a command is issued. Think of this like the Pixel's song identification feature. If there's a song playing in the background, the song and artist will pop up automatically on your homescreen - no need to Shazam it.
You can likely expect a Pixel Watch to show off how helpful Assistant can be on the wrist, setting an example for the rest of the Wear OS partners. It'd be nice if Google could use Assistant, Google Maps and a new health focus to do things like track runs, or recommend running spots or food places or whatever else from your wrist.
Fit for deeper health tracking
Another thing Google really wants to improve is how Wear OS handles fitness. Troper says we can expect more on this from the Wear OS team this year, and we're willing to bet a Pixel Watch is where these features will get their big debut.
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One of the things Google is working on is proactive coaching, helping with wellbeing and motivating users to stay more active. You can likely expect a Pixel Watch to have at least a heart rate sensor.
Google has a lot of avenues into the world of deeper health, especially with Verily Life Sciences also under the Alphabet umbrella. We saw Google and Nest come closer together to better improve Assistant in the smart home world, perhaps we could see more collaboration between Google and Verily.
Works with iPhone?
Wear OS is called Wear OS because Android Wear was a little confusing. The name made iPhone users feel like Android Wear smartwatches weren't for them, when the opposite was true.
The big question for the Pixel Watch is whether it'll also be compatible with iPhones, or whether it'll come with a range of features that just work better with Android phones. We saw a little of this with the Pixel Buds, which aren't as interesting or useful when you pair them with an iPhone rather than a Google Pixel.
Powered by new Qualcomm chips
Qualcomm's next-generation smartwatch chip is the first it's built from the ground up for smartwatches. There'll be several variations, and many will also include LTE and GPS. The chipset maker has announced an event for 10 September where we expect to see what it has in store for the next generation of Wear watches.
The goal is to be able to better suit the needs of the next generation of smartwatches, and that's what this chip is set to do, with more power, extended battery life, a better fitness experience and chips that allow for slimmer smartwatches.
WinFuture reported that the upcoming Pixel Watch will run on Qualcomm's new chip, so we can likely expect to see the benefits of the new Snapdragon by the end of the year.
Three Pixel Watches?
While reliable leaker Evan Blass was the first to report that Google would be launching a Pixel-branded smartwatch alongside other Pixel-branded products at the end of the year, WinFuture followed up with its own report saying that there wouldn't just be one Pixel Watch, there'd be three.
The three smartwatches are codenamed Ling, Triton and Sardine, though it's difficult to know what the differences between the three are. Seeing as how Google debuts two smartphones every year in the Pixel and Pixel XL, it's likely two of the smartwatches are in different sizes, while the third may be more focused on sports and fitness - but that's just our guess.
Alternatively, we could see Google adopt Apple's approach and debut three smartwatches in different styles. Perhaps there's a more affordable one, then one in better materials and a third luxury version.
When will the Pixel Watch launch?
That's the big but not terribly difficult question to answer. Google tends to hold its big Pixel event in October, so we can likely expect it to do the same this October. While much of the focus will probably be on the Pixel phones and second-generation Pixel Buds, it seems like we can expect the Pixel Watch to carve out some space for itself during the event. Rumors that Google's next generation Pixel phones will launch on 4 October could mean we should mark our calendars for that first week of the month too.