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What Is Wear OS? Everything You Need To Know

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What is Wear OS? In its simplest definition, it’s Google’s smartwatch operating system. Wear OS is more than just a platform for wearables, though. And, for anyone looking to learn more about the platform, this article aims to answer all your questions.

Does Wear OS run on all smartwatches?

No. While many smartwatches do run on this operating system, there are a number of them that don’t. For example, smartwatches from plenty of lesser-known brands run on their own operating systems.

In the same vein, the Apple Watch, smartwatches from Fitbit, and other wearable brands run on their operating systems as well. Even Samsung’s smartwatches use to run on their own OS. Although they now use Wear OS with OneUI Watch layered on top for a unique Wear OS user experience.

Google’s smartwatch operating system is probably the most expanded. There are more available smartwatches that operate on this software than any other. Not too unlike Android with smartphones.

This could be both a good and a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. For the most part, though, it stays true to a core component of Android, which is consumer choice.

With so many smartwatches running on Wear OS, consumers have plenty of options.

What apps are available for Wear OS?

Audible Wear OS 4 Galaxy Watch 6 Series (1)

There are loads of apps that are available on the platform.

Many of them are the same apps that you can download on Android. Apps like Google Fit, Strava, Telegram, and even Uber can be installed. You can even find more obscure apps that are specifically for smartwatches. Facer is one of these apps and lets you customize your watch faces easily. Some other more commonly available apps on Wear OS these days include Spotify, YouTube Music, Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Wallet, and many, many more.

I personally like to use the Calm meditation app for little moments of zen or guided breathing to get a small moment of relaxation here and there throughout the day. Although, you do usually need a subscription for Calm to use most of its features. So that’s worth keeping in mind. Quite a few apps will have subscription fees to use the service. Just like with their smartphone counterparts.

Where do you get apps?

Just like with Android smartphones and with Android TV, apps on Wear OS are downloaded from the Play Store. You can even install apps directly from the watch. In the early days of Android Wear, which is what Wear OS used to be, apps were installed via the phone. If you wanted an app installed on your watch, you’d simply find the app on the phone, install it, and then sync it with your watch to transfer the app

These days, with the Play Store being available on watches, no syncing is involved in the installation process. You just scroll the Play Store on the watch instead and install everything you want. It’s a much simpler, and much more convenient process because it saves you time and effort.

How much do the watches cost?

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 AH 4Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 AH 4

This all depends on the brand you pick and the features it comes with, though most Wear OS watches come with just about all the same features.

What it mostly comes down to is the brand, and whether or not the watch comes with LTE capabilities. Meaning, it can be used with cellular data so you don’t need your phone to be connected to it.

For the most part Wear OS watches will usually run in the range of $250-$400. Some of the high-end watches, like those from TAG Heuer or Mont Blanc, can cost quite a bit more as they use more premium materials and they come from luxury fashion brands. Even some like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 Pro from 2022 were about $500 for the LTE model.

What are the more popular smartwatches on this platform?

There used to be a lot of different models available from various brands. Many of those were under the Fossil umbrella, and once upon a time, Fossil would have easily been one of the most popular if not the most popular brands for Wear OS smartwatches. However, Fossil no longer plans to make smartwatches going forward.

With that being said, Samsung is likely the most popular brand right now and the Galaxy Watch 6 or Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is likely the most popular watch. It has the most up-to-date smartwatch components for the Wear OS platform and the newest features. Not to mention Wear OS 4 which is currently the nest version of the software.

Google’s Pixel Watch 2 is another really popular Wear OS smartwatch since it was only just released back in October of 2023. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Samsung ends up announcing yet another new smartwatch for later this year.

What sorts of features does Wear OS have?

Google Home for Wear OSGoogle Home for Wear OS

Wear OS offers tons of features, and basically all the features you’d expect from a smartwatch including phone notifications, health tracking, and a whole lot more. These days, watches do more than they used to as well. Some will also have unique features that are specific to that brand or model.

Platform features

You can receive incoming notifications from your smartphone, and even make and receive calls on some models. Calls can be made through a Bluetooth-connected phone, or completely on their own if the watch has LTE.

Beyond calls and notifications, most or all Wear OS watches come with Google Assistant these days. This will allow you to interact with other smart devices like lights and power switches, fans, or really anything that has Google Assistant integration. You can even ask it questions if you just need an answer to something.

Some of the more common uses for Wear OS though revolve around fitness. Most or all Wear OS watches will have the ability to keep track of things like step counts, distance run or walked, and even your heart rate. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 6 Classic even has an ECG feature for helping to detect Afib and it can track and manage your stress and sleep habits.

There is literally a plethora of fitness-related features, it all depends on how you exercise. Some watch models even have water resistance and can be worn while you swim.

All watches also come with an always-on display, which allows you to quickly glance at information. This feature basically wakes the screen just by sensing your wrist movement, so if you lift it up, the watch knows and wakes the screen up so you can see the information.

Apps

Naturally, since this is a smartwatch platform, apps are available to install on the watch to help augment its capabilities. See the above apps section for an idea of what apps you can install on a Wear OS smartwatch.

How do you use Wear OS?

Like touchscreen smartphones, Wear OS watches are interacted with through the display. They’re touch-sensitive, so using features, installing apps, and managing notifications is all done through touching the screen.

Some watches may have buttons or crowns that can be used to navigate the interface though, and Google Assistant can even add some hands-free functionality depending on what it is you’re trying to do. For example, you have a watch like the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic which has both Google Assistant support and the rotating bezel. You can use the bezel for navigating the user interface for most things, then tap the screen to select stuff. And you can use Google Assistant for some things as well.

When you boot up your watch, you’ll load up to the home screen every time. After unlocking the watch, you can swipe up to view notifications. Swiping down brings up the quick settings menu, which is where you’ll find things like brightness and other settings functions.

Swiping to the left though is where you’ll find all of the most useful stuff. Like apps. This is where you’ll also find tiles, a useful feature that was added earlier this year.

What are tiles?

Tiles is a feature that Google rolled out for Wear OS way back in 2019, and it’s grown since then to include a lot more apps and features. Tiles are basically a way for you to pin key information onto your watch and you can access them to the right of your watch face homescreen. These make details glanceable and readily available for you at a moment’s notice. So if you need to check something quickly while out on a run, you can swipe to a particular Tile and get the information you need or want fast. You can now set up Tiles for all kinds of apps, more recently with Spotify. There are also Tiles for Weather, Wallet, and plenty more features and apps.

Do Wear OS watches use the same batteries as regular watches?

No. All Wear OS smartwatches are going to come with internal batteries that will be rechargeable. Sow when it needs juice, simply toss it on the charger and let it be.

This means you’ll never have to worry about replacing the batteries within it. However, you will be swapping out remembering to replace the battery with remembering to charge it. It’s easy to forget to toss your watch on the charger just as it is with your phone. This is why it’s a good thing more companies have started trying to increase the battery efficiency of Wear OS while also speeding up the charging time.

That being said, if you think about it like a phone accessory, this may help to prevent you from forgetting to charge it when needed. For the most part at least.

Most smartwatch batteries will run on average, 24 hours before you need to recharge them. Though, more often now there are brands claiming watches will last for around two days on a single charge. A good example of this is the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. This would easily last me close to 48 hours or more with slightly more than average use.

What are the issues with Wear OS?

There aren’t too many, but Wear OS is not a flawless system. Its biggest issue is that it’s been struggling to show how useful it can be, and this is a big reason why the Apple Watch has a bigger piece of the smartwatch market.

Tiles has helped with this, making the platform the most useful it’s ever been. And Google and Samsung’s advancements in increasing battery life and performance with Wear OS 3 and Wear OS 4 have been a big help too. Things feel less convoluted and more accessible. Like any piece of tech, it might take a few days to get truly used to it, but that will fade.

Another issue is that not all Android apps are available on Wear OS. This means you find that the app you want to use on the watch can’t be installed. If you think about it, though, that might not be such a bad thing. Wear OS is not meant to be a replacement for your phone. It’s simply there to help you access some of the features so you don’t have to pull it out of your pocket all the time.

Whether that’s checking an incoming message or using Google Pay to buy stuff at the store.

Where can you buy Wear OS smartwatches?

AH Google Pixel Watch 2 Review (2)AH Google Pixel Watch 2 Review (2)

Pretty much anywhere. If the store sells electronics, it likely sells Wear OS smartwatches.

Online

Obviously, you can buy just about every single Wear OS smartwatch online. Some of them can be found on Amazon, some at Best Buy. You can also find the watches from each brand specifically at their own online stores in most cases.

BestBuy & other electronics retailers

BestBuy will be one of the bigger electronics retailers to sell Wear OS devices, and they’ll probably be mixed in with other smartwatch options, or at least close by the same section. You can also find some options at Amazon too, which shouldn’t be surprising since Amazon sells basically everything under the sun.

Buy At Best Buy

Buy At Amazon

Buy At Samsung

Carrier stores

Some carriers will sell smartwatches along with smartphones and other smart devices. Usually, these will be the LTE options, but if that’s what you’re looking for then your carrier might be the best place to look since you can handle other business there at the same time.

Buy At AT&T

Buy At T-Mobile

Department stores, malls, and stores like Target

Believe it or not, some department stores will sell smartwatches too. Especially the more fashion-oriented brands. You’ll also find smartwatch options at places like Target, Fred Meyer, and similar stores may sell these devices as well.

Buy At Target

Does Wear OS only work with Android?

WearOS AH NS 12WearOS AH NS 12

Nope. You can use an Apple iPhone and still use a Wear OS smartwatch, as the platform works with both Android and iOS devices.

That being said, you will probably have a little bit more functionality with Android, but most of the features will be there if you are on iOS.

Is Wear OS customizable?

Both Wear OS and the watches themselves are pretty customizable. With the platform, you can customize the watch with the tiles feature and by selecting the watch face.

Watch faces are already pre-installed and there will be a handful of choices. If however, you use something like Facer, the watch faces are infinitely more customizable, and there are a lot of really cool options out there. This is something you should explore if you like to customize your devices.

With the watches themselves, you can customize the watch case depending on the brand and the model, as many watch options offer varied choices for watch case colors.

Wear OS watches also support removable watch straps so you can choose the one that best fits your style, or simply swap it out based on the activity. For example, silicone straps for when you’re exercising, and a leather or metal option for just about everything else.

Does Wear OS get updates?

It will get updates from time to time. Probably not as often as Android phones, though. That being said Google and Samsung have been updating their Wear OS watches more often these days. You will generally get a notification on your connected phone that an update for the watch is available. And if you’re wearing the watch and it’s powered on, you should get an alert there too. You can also always manually check to see if there’s an available update.

What are the benefits of Wear OS?

There are a ton of benefits, not the least of which is all the hands-free functionality you’ll have. Wear OS also helps you get fit, and it does this with various fitness-related apps. They can also be a fashion statement if you simply like to have a watch on your wrist. It’ll just be more functional than a regular watch too.

Really though, the benefits depend on what you want out of having a smartwatch. If it’s for the voice capabilities, then Wear OS is perfect thanks to Google Assistant. If you want at at-a-glance notifications and other information, this is another big benefit as you won’t have to reach for your phone. Simply lift your wrist and take a peek at what you need to see.

Is Wear OS the right smartwatch for you?

If you use an Android phone, it’s probably the right option, but that will entirely depend on you and what you’re looking for. Since there are so many Wear OS watch options out there, you won’t lack choices. That’s a certainty. You will need to be mindful though, of if you will get any use out of all the functionality.

If you’ll never use Google Assistant or want to use apps, you may be better off with a fitness tracker as many of these also offer heart rate sensors and notifications. If you do indeed want a smartwatch, you may also want to consider whether or not Wear OS would be a better option, or if something from a brand that doesn’t use Wear OS is the way to go.

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