First there was fragmentation on the smartphone version of Android. Now, it looks like the same curse is striking the smartwatch version.
Android Wear 2.0 was announced in 2016 at Google I/O at the Shoreline in Mountain View. Yet, today, over a year later, few Wear watches are actually running the latest OS. Then, in February of this year, Google quietly “released” the shipping version.
While a few watches have received updates, such as the (nice) Huawei Watch, and others like the new line-up from LG released earlier this year including the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport, for the most part Google’s latest wearable OS is MIA.
I’ve been an original fan of Android Wear (And Pebble! Oh poor Pebble!). I picked up an OG Moto 360 back in the day. Very nice bit of hardware, with a large, bright screen. Battery life was far from great. Still, it was not a bad start for Android Wear.
Fortunately, I do have Wear 2.0 on my Huawei Watch. Or is that, unfortunately?
Yes, we always love running the latest OS on our various tech devices. Sometimes, though, that might not always be the best thing in the world.
I’ve discovered that, despite some hype about the Wear UI redesign and streamlined operation, I’ve found 2.0 to be really, really underwhelming. Notifications are spotty at best; often my watch will vibrate, but nothing will pop on the screen, causing me touch it and scroll to see what I was being alerted about. What’s the point then? Isn’t a smartwatch best when it’s there, indiscreetly informing of you of important bits of information with minimal fuss?
Then I picked up an Apple Watch.
Soon, I had swapped my Nexus 6p for an iPhone. The Apple Watch is that good.
In my experience over the past few months Apple WatchOS does just about everything better than Android Wear.
Notifications are absolutely reliable. Fonts and the UI are typical Apple: gorgeous, clean, easy to read. Sleep tracking apps area available if you want. Activity tracking is far better than Android, as are the DND options, complications, battery life (in general), and other things that show a fine eye for UI design such as the weather and music apps.
Apple Watch just works as it should. As a long-time Wear fan it pains me to say it, but the switch was worth it.
So, where is Android Wear 2.0?
It’s out there for some. For others, the wait continues. The hold-ups are likely to what we’re accustomed to hearing about Android updates for our phones: partners are putting the 2.0 release through QA. But, man, is this a long cycle or what?
To be fair, some are running 2.0 on their LG Sports and Styles and other watches and are liking it. My gut feeling, based on checking Reddit and other forums, is that they’re in the minority.
Given that Wear is getting trounced in the market (latest sales figures are abysmal), I wouldn’t be surprised if Google is re-tooling. My hope is they completely redesign their wearable OS from the ground-up, perhaps even killing off the “Wear” brand all-together. Along with it, maybe they should consider reeling in the number of partners. Could a tightly controlled hardware/software combo of a Pixel watch and new Wearable OS help get things back on track? I vote yes. Hopefully we’ll see it sooner than later.