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New Wear OS eligibility confirmed — can your smartwatch upgrade?

Fossil Gen 5 LTE review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When shopping for a new Wear OS smartwatch, you might check the specs for special features or battery life estimates. But now there's a more pressing reason to read fine print before checkout. 

Google just confirmed that the unified Wear OS — officially called Wear OS 3 — won't be compatible with smartwatches powered by a Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip or older. The aging chipset is found on a number of smartwatches currently available, including the Fossil Gen 5 LTE, Xiaomi Mi Watch and the Suunto 7, one of the best running watches

If you want to benefit from Wear OS 3, a revamped version of Google's wearable software merged with Samsung's Tizen and Fitbit's fitness platform, steer clear of Snapdragon Wear 3100 smartwatches.

Instead, a select collection of Wear OS smartwatches will be eligible for Wear OS 3 when it rolls out to older devices in 2022. Any model running the Snapdragon Wear 4100 can elevate to the new software. Right now that list is limited to the Mobvoi's TicWatch Pro 3 and the TicWatch E3.

There might not be many Snapdragon Wear 4100 smartwatches out in the wild, but the offerings are expected to with future TicWatch devices, as well as the next-generation Fossil collection. 

It's safe to assume any smartwatch debuting next year will ship with Wear OS 3 installed. Existing Snapdragon Wear 4100 smartwatch owners won't be so lucky. Google warns that updating will require a reboot to factory settings, which could cause disruptions to the user experience. 

In other words, you might not want to upgrade to Wear OS 3, even if you have an eligible smartwatch. Although the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 will ship with Wear OS 3, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and earlier Galaxy Watch models will stick to Tizen, if that's any consolation.

Either way, think twice before buying a Snapdragon Wear 3100 smartwatch. You might see Amazon deals or other discounts on these devices as we get closer to Wear OS 3's official rollout. 

You'll also get a preview of the updated Wear OS on the new Galaxy Watch next month, but keep it mind it'll be layered by Samsung's One UI Watch and run an exclusive Exynos 9110 chipset, not the Snapdragon 4100. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.