Google is ready to break things with Wear OS 3

The next version of Wear OS has a name: Wear OS 3. In an announcement yesterday, Google confirmed it’ll simply add a number to the end of the name they’ve been using since 2018. That’s not really a bad thing, but it does take away a bit of the new update’s significance in terms of branding. It’s certainly more than just an improvement on Wear OS 2.

Google recognizes this despite the name. Back at I/O 2021, the company said it was merging with Samsung’s watch version of Tizen OS to create a unified platform that would offer faster performance, better battery life, and improved apps. It’ll be Google’s most ambitious effort against the dominance of the Apple Watch and watchOS and, hopefully, tell the tale of redemption instead of a so-so attempt at gaining marketshare.

With such a big shift, it’s expected that some things might go haywire in the process. It’s a complete uprooting of the underlying groundwork of Wear OS, after all. Something’s gotta go in a direction that some might not like.

This direction seems to consist of two different parts: one involves when Wear OS 3 will be available, and which devices will be upgraded to it.

Google confirmed that it plans to ship Wear OS 3 in the second half of 2022 for devices that will receive the upgrade. This does not mean you’ll have to wait until 2022 to see the first smartwatch running the OS – that should come on August 11th with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. Rather, updates to existing watches will need to wait until then to get all the fresh OS goodness.

That’s the other thing. So far, we’ve got an extremely short list of support smartwatches. It includes “Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, TicWatch Pro 3 Cellular/LTE, TicWatch E3 and follow on TicWatch devices, as well as Fossil Group’s new generation of devices launching later this year,” according to the company. That’s not very many smartwatches, so only a select few won’t have to buy new hardware to get the new software.

There’s also a pretty big sacrifice you have to make in order to upgrade to Wear OS 3: you have to completely reset your watch. This is likely required since it’s a completely rebuilt OS, and Google can’t guarantee it’ll run all that well on everyone’s watches. Still, when this new software comes out, I assume not very many people will be rushing to upgrade.

All of this combined, it’s clear Google’s willing to let things get loose and break a bit before Wear OS 3 goes mainstream. After years of failed attempts at reclaiming market share lost to Apple, Google’s willing to go big or go home with this update, and they don’t seem to care how bumpy the road ahead will be.

As The Verge points out, it’s also worth mentioning that it’s a bad idea to upgrade to a new Wear OS watch for the foreseeable future. Until Wear OS 3 is more widely available, you really shouldn’t invest in a watch for your Android phone. It likely won’t get updated to the new system when it’s released, and if it is, Google can’t promise you’ll have a smooth experience.

Growing pains are to be expected with every new venture, and Wear OS 3 is no different. This is all new territory for Google as it scrambles to becoem a dominent competitor in the wearable market. Whether Wear OS 3 can help with that remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: they’re going all in.