Google’s new Wear OS gets backward compatibility from Qualcomm.

But will companies ship the software updates to make that matter?

Google is revamping Wear OS. I feel like this sentence should’ve been written years ago, and years ago it was when the company changed the name from Android Wear to Wear OS. But this time, it’s a total overhaul of the system and how it works thanks to a new partnership with Samsung who’s merging its Tizen OS for watches with the software.

This is a huge deal for Google as it tries to gobble up whatever market share is leftover from Apple’s absolute dominance of the smartwatch world with the Apple Watch. If Google wants Wear OS to be a success in the future, it’ll need to rely on vendors to support the new software and ship as many devices with it onboard as they can. That’s the recipe for any open-source operating system, after all.

Fortunately, it looks like this will be all Google has to worry about since the technology will be there. Qualcomm, the manufacturer behind the Snapdragon Wear line of wearable-friendly chipsets, told XDA-Developers that past chips like the Snapdragon Wear 3100 and 4100 will work with the new Wear OS whenever it’s shipped.

We are working with Google on bringing Wear OS 3.0 to Snapdragon Wear 4100+ and 4100 platforms. Snapdragon Wear 3100, 4100+ and 4100 platforms are capable of supporting Wear OS 3.0, but we are not discussing any specifics at this time.

Since the Snapdragon 3100 will be supported by the new Wear OS, it seems plausible to assume the Snapdragon 2100 will also be supported since the 3100 only offers minor improvements over that chip. In Qualcomm’s statement, they clearly don’t mention the 2100, so there is a chance watches with that processor will be out of luck for any major updates in the future.

All of this being said, as I mentioned earlier, it’s still up to companies to actually ship a software update with Wear OS 3.0 onboard to their watches. So far, that effort doesn’t seem to be going well. Fossil has already confirmed it’s not updating past watches to the new Wear OS, and Mobvoi can’t make up its mind right now.

It’s unclear what other OEMs like Misfit, Skagen, and even Samsung will do in terms of long-term support, but their silence on the topic could mean they’re trying to figure out a proper release strategy. At the moment, the only company definitely not updating old watches to the new system is Fossil which seems like a minor blow to the market given the potential Google and Samsung’s new software has.

However popular Wear OS 3.0 becomes in the future, it looks like we’ll have a ways to go before it happens; manufacturers are still focusing on releasing watches with the old Wear OS, like the TicWatch E3. It’s still running the old version of the system, but at the very least has a Snapdragon 4100 for future-proofing (y’know, assuming TicWatch cares about software updates.)

Will Google’s new Wear OS finally offer a viable alternative to the Apple Watch and watchOS? Will Samsung and Google’s partnership crash and burn due to low adoption rates and poor support from manufacturers? Is it possible that Google should just give up on smartwatches?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I can tell you that there are some companies who want this to succeed, and that includes Qualcomm.

In the news…

Mobvoi

Since I briefly mentioned it above, I thought I’d give you some extra details on that new TicWatch E3. It comes with a 1.3-inch 360×360 AMOLED display, a gigabyte of RAM, 8GB of storage, and a 380mAh battery. It’s got that new Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor, and it’s rated for IP68 certification.

TicWatch throws in a bunch of extras like its suite of fitness apps, blood oxygen readings, and more. There’s also support for Google Pay and voice interactions thanks to a built-in speaker and microphone. It costs $199 and is available now.

Honor

Honor unveiled its new Honor 50 series destined for China, but that wasn’t the headline I walked away with after the announcement. What caught my eye and the eyes of other tech journalists was the fact it comes with Google apps, something I haven’t been able to say about an Honor phone for a long time. That’s because the Honor brand was sold by Huawei who remains on the United States’ entity list and, therefore, not allowed to work with other U.S. companies. This new independence has allowed Honor to work with Google and get the latter’s services built right into these new flagships.

The phones don’t look too shabby, either. Both the Honor 50 and 50 Pro have huge 120Hz OLED displays, Snapdragon 778G processors, and huge camera sensors on the back. They also have pretty sizable batteries (up to 4,300mAh), fast charging, and sleek designs.

Obviously, the addition of Google Play services in a country like China won’t matter to users, but when/if the phones expand out of China, there will be much more incentive to at least consider them.

Oppo & OnePlus

The Verge got its hands on a prototype unit of Oppo’s ultra-futuristic X 2021 rollable smartphone. Sensors on the side of the device allow you to expand the size of the display simply by having the OLED roll out from inside the phone. it’s a wild concept, one that LG was working on before it left the smartphone market. Right now, Oppo says durability isn’t up to its standards, so don’t expect the phone to hit the market any time soon.

What you can see hit the market are more frequent and reliable software updates from both Oppo and OnePlus. The two companies are merging more of their teams together under the direction of OnePlus CEO Pete Lau. The move is seen as nothing but positivity for both companies as they struggle to produce timely software updates nowadays. Hopefully, this means nearly day-one major Android updates in the future, but I suppose we’ll need to let time be the judge of that.

Google

Google has confirmed its first retail store, located in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC, opens today to the general public. Flipping through some photos Google has shared with the media, you can tell the company lean into an organic aesthetic for the space which is a stark contrast to the glaring white and metallic aesthetic of Apple’s stores. Here’s a video worth watching that’ll show you around the store.

Amazon

If you try to buy a RavPower accessory from Amazon, chances are you won’t be able to. That’s because Amazon has taken down the company’s page and removed all of its products from the website. Scammy cards being given to customers promising a nearly complete refund for a review on Amazon.com is likely to blame for the suspension. This also seems to be the case for why you can’t buy Aukey or Mpow products on Amazon.

The suspension now instead of weeks ago is likely thanks to Nicole Nguyen who ran a story on The Wall Street Journal about the cards being handed out to paying customers. It’s all part of Amazon’s broader effort to crack down on scammers performing such behavior on its platform. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more details on this story in the months to come so stay tuned.

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