The wearable software refresh was announced as part of Google I/O 2023, aptly shared with developers in attendance. Google is launching the developer preview and emulator for Wear OS 4 as part of the annual conference, so that app makers can begin tailoring their products to the updated Wear OS experience.
Compared to Wear OS 3, Wear OS 4 promises to deliver improved battery life, restore support and new watch face tools. It will also have better accessibility features, with a new text-to-speech engine that should be faster and more reliable.
These upgrades could help make some of the best smartwatches even better. Though they might not sound as major as say, the rumored watchOS 10 overhaul, things like a longer battery life and a greater accessibility focus offer refinements that Wear OS still needs.
In fact, it's possible Wear OS 4 will become fully available alongside the launches of the Google Pixel Watch 2 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, which are both believed to arrive this fall. That's just a bit of speculation, but it would surely make a statement for the next-generation of Android smartwatches.
All Google had to offer in terms of a Wear OS 4 release date is that there will be more shared in coming months.
Wear OS 3 upgrades to hold us over
In addition to announcing Wear OS 4, Google shared some news about app experiences for Wear OS 3 at Google I/O.
The biggest news is probably the arrival of WhatsApp to Wear OS watches. Using the smartwatch app, users will soon be able to use the messaging service directly from their wrist.
Finally, Wear OS users are getting a couple of Google app improvements. Google Home smart home controls will expand to include smart locks, Gmail is getting updated "inbox triaging" features and Calendar will offer more information that before.