The Apple Watch 6 could arrive as soon as next month, and it figures to usher in new features aimed at reinforcing Apple’s dominance of the smartwatch market. And the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 just landed with a big splash, delivering long-awaited health features within a stunning design. But would-be rivals aren’t standing still, with Google announcing an upcoming Wear OS release that aims to boost its own software for watches and wearables.
Specifically, the changes announced via the Android Developers Blog mean that this fall’s Wear OS update will deliver better controls and performance, along with a new weather app. These features will arrive on Wear OS devices via an over-the-air update.
- Best smartwatches
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Which should you buy?
- Just in: Google Pixel Watch design reveals a gorgeous Apple Watch 6 killer
In terms of performance controls, Google promises to speed up the ability of users’ to access their info and apps. The update is supposed to boat app startup times by 20%, while more intuitive controls will be available for managing watch modes and workouts. People upgrading their Wear OS device will appreciate an improved pairing process.
Besides performance changes, which will include support for the upcoming Snapdragon Wear4100 and 4100+ chips announced earlier this year, Google will change up its weather experience on Wear OS. Larger numbers and icons are intended to make weather data easier to read from your wrist.
The upcoming Wear OS update is the latest sign of Google’s interest in challenging Apple's dominance with health and fitness features. Earlier this year, Google sent out a survey asking user about the type of features they're looking for in a smartwatch; health tracking dominated the list of possibilities. These updates will benefit some of the best smartwatches, including the Fossil Gen 5 and TicWatch Pro.
Google has a lot of ground to cover if wants to catch Apple, though, and that gap could widen in the fall. Apple’s has already previewed watchOS 7, the operating system for the Apple Watch platform. In addition to new watch faces, the fall watchOS update adds sleep tracking features, a new Fitness app to replace Activity, and a new Mobility section in the Health app to track walking speed and stair-descent speed among other metrics.
That’s all in advance of the Apple Watch 6 release, which we know less about. Presumably, the new watch will take advantage of watchOS 7’s sleep tracking capabilities, and there’s also rumors of a potential blood oxygen monitoring system. The new watch could also improve its current methods of all detection as well as a system to help users monitor their mental health.
That would seem to keep Apple well ahead of anything Google has come up with, but the fact that Google continues to fine-tune Wear OS raises the hope that there may be more competition in the world of smartwatches.