Wear OS smartwatches are getting a huge Google Maps upgrade — here's what's new

Google Pixel Watch
(Image credit: Future)

Smartwatches that run Google's Wear OS software are becoming more useful for traveling via public transit. Among a handful of Android-related updates timed with MWC 2024, Google announced that the option to follow detailed public transit directions are coming to the Google Maps smartwatch app.

With this feature, users with devices such as the Google Pixel Watch 2 or Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 will be able to leave their phone in their pockets while they take trains, buses, and ferries. They can search up a destination, select public transportation as their travel method, and follow step-by-step directions all from their wrist.

You could already use Google Maps on a Wear OS watch for turn-by-turn walking and driving directions, so this update specifically applies to public transportation.  When you're spending a few days in an unfamiliar city or simply checking out a new point of interest in your own area, easy access to public transit information seems like it would come in handy.

When you search for a destination in the Maps app, the recommended public transit option will appear in your traveling method options. It'll give you an overview of which train lines or bus routes included in the route, as well as your estimated time of arrival. With time comparisons for different modes of travel, you might see that taking public transportation is actually the fastest option to get where you need to go.

If you have a Wear OS smartwatch with LTE (which is an option for both Pixel Watch and Galaxy Watch devices) you could theoretically search up these directions even when your phone isn't with you. It's a great backup for navigation when perhaps your companion phone is dead or you've left it behind (whether on purpose or by accident.)

Using Google Wallet, you could already tap your smartwatch to public transmit pay terminals. So if your smartwatch was the only device you had on you, you should still be equipped for travel. 

Speaking of Google Wallet, the smartwatch version of the app is also getting an upgrade as part of the latest Android feature drop. You'll now be able to access tickets, membership IDs, loyalty cards and more from your wrist. This includes things like boarding passes, event tickets, and gym passes. 

Together, these Wear OS updates will make a few of the best Android smartwatches even better. And by better, I mean more independently functional. The more a purposes a smartwatch can serve on its own, the more reason it's worth investing in a wearable device for daily use.

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.