+ Thursday October 24th, 2019

Yes, I know. At least half of the people who read this will be able to list the reasons they don’t want a smartwatch, a Wear OS device, or don’t even wear a watch. Some of us, though, are interested in smartwatches and some of us would like a truly excellent Wear OS device. This is for them – thanks for stopping by.

This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at Wear OS and wished it was better; we really do want a great smartwatch platform for Android, but we’d settle for a good one. For now, we can’t even get that.

This is where things get really sticky, as with all consumer hardware what’s great to me just won’t be great to all of you. If I say I want 1 GB of RAM, some of you may yell but why not 4GB, if I say 42mm is the “perfect” size (for me) that would leave out everyone else who wants a smaller or larger watch.

We all know the hardware is hard, and it’s arguably the difficulty of hardware which is so much more exaggerated for smartwatches. Why? Firstly there’s undeniably a smaller market for Android smartwatches compared to most consumer electronics. Secondly, we are used to traditional watches which come in an almost infinite range of configurations, the market seems to want the same from a smartwatch. That’s something that can’t be readily achieved with such a small market.

So, if we can’t agree what makes a great smartwatch with the specifics, what about discussing what we want from a Smartwatch from the perspective of user features.

What should a good Wear OS smartwatch do?

Where to start? A battery that lasts all day with the screen always on and has a good reserve at the end of the day, wireless charging to make charging easier and reduce issues caused by magnetic pogo pin chargers, NFC for Google Pay, 3 buttons and a digital crown for improved navigation, these all fee like table stakes for me.

What I really want is a device that feels smooth to use; all too often my Wear OS experience is tapping and waiting, tapping and waiting and not uncommonly tapping and waiting for nothing to happen. Most of the time you can work around the slowness of the platform by anticipating your needs and opening the app a few seconds early, unfortunately, some 3rd party apps have a time out so it becomes a bit of a game of timing to open it ready for when you need it but not have it close before you use it.

Why is Wear OS so bad right now?

A smooth user experience is the result of well-developed software running on hardware tuned to the task. It’s hard to know where my Wear OS experience is coming up short, but if I was a betting man I’d say it’s both – the hardware isn’t tuned, and the software isn’t well developed.

Both the Snapdragon 2100 and 3100 are based on the same SD 400 processor. This is already an underwhelming starting point, and it’s old – very old. Unfortunately, from all accounts, the newer SD 3100 processor has done little to address Wear OS’s lag issues, so either we need a more powerful chip or better tuning for the use of the ones we’ve got.

On the software front we keep hearing how the next version will address the known lag issues, well, I’m still waiting. Wear 2.0 is undeniably a better user interaction experience. Everything about 2.0 is better, watch face selection, notifications, settings and app short cuts, all better.

Unfortunately, Google has just hasn’t delivered a smooth experience despite  updates apparently addressing this. Is this because they can’t with the hardware available or is it because they just aren’t dedicating the development resources? We may never know.

What can Google do?

If Google was a startup that would be a harder answer, but as one of the 3 largest tech companies on the planet they have options, and the bank account to pay for it. In a pie in the sky world Google has engineering resources to design a new wearable SOC dedicated tailored to the needs of the platform.

It wouldn’t be the first time Google has designed processing components with Google designing multiple AI chips for both data centers and mobile devices between their Tensor and Pixel Core hardware. They also were intimately involved in the development of the OP1 processor developed for use in Chromebooks.

Now, designing a processor specifically for smartwatches may not have good financial returns, however with the need for edge processing increasing, and other wearables like smart glasses still in the background, a dedicated low power SOC designed to run these types of devices may just find a home in multiple devices, or at least inform their development.

While they’re making that processor Google needs to bring their own vision of a Wear OS Watch to market. We’ve speculated before that one reason they don’t do this is because it may “suck all of the air out of the room” for their current hardware partners.

However just like the original Nexus program the industry clearly needs a showcase device to set the path. Of course perhaps the issue is even Google can’t currently make a Wear OS devices that isn’t a laggy mess?

Google could also just throw a team of engineers at the problem and optimism the Wear OS platform. Perhaps indirectly that’s what initiatives like Fuchsia are intended to do. With a new micro kernel optimised from design Google may well be able to improve the performance of wearable and other edge devices as well as have a single code base for their desktop (Chrome) and mobile (android) operating systems.

One thing is for sure if Google doesn’t do something they are going to fade into obscurity. Apple’s smartwatch sales volumes are already estimated to be larger than many Android Phone OEMs. Samsung continues to develop their Galaxy line of devices and has started their own Smartwatch platform, their biggest mobile partners are abandoning their wearable platform.

Google’s well know for having an attention issue and not being able to focus on all of their products. With the future of mobile and ambient computing still unclear it would seem that Google should be focusing more attention not less on these niche areas just in case they become the next big thing.

At the end of this I’d like to have message of hope, but unfortunately I think Wear OS is in danger of continuing to bumble along not becoming what it could be and continuing to be frustrating to use for those of us dedicated to the platform.

Duncan Jaffrey   Associate

Duncan Jaffrey

Duncan has been interested in technology since coding "Mary had a little Lamb" in Basic on his ZX Spectrum. A fan of all things Android, most days you'll find Duncan trawling the web for Android news or quietly editing away on Map Maker.

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Marlon Sinclair
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Marlon Sinclair

I have a Tickwatch Pro and I’m loving it. I use full color ambient mode and always on display and the battery lasts all day with about 50% to spare. I only switch to the secondary display when I’m out in the sun to get great visibility. I use Google Fit for step count/ move points and have light workouts once in a while. The notifications system is very well designed and I think a smartwatch should be a companion to your phone and not a replacement. I do notice lags at times but that would only bother those who… Read more »

Eric
Guest
Eric

Wear OS is not great. Come on people. I love Google but when I use Wear OS I wonder why Google continues to let it be so bad. If this were the first few years it’s been out, that would be one thing, but it’s not. First they need to make what they have work correctly. When I open an app, it doesnt mean put the watch to sleep. Unless I choose an app it should stay open. Not crash or have no way to toggle between apps. Half the apps dont even do what they should. You could wait… Read more »

Aaron Smith
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Aaron Smith

Sounds like a smartwatch isn’t for you. Wear OS is great for me. Just get a Ticwatch Pro. No lag, still, and great battery life

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

My montblanc Summit 2 watch is awesome. definitely faster than my LG Watch Sport. Does everything i need. Payments are just awesome and so convenient. I wish it had better battery life though….

Philip Eddey
Guest
Philip Eddey

Build it, and they will come! If Google puts in the money to make something good then there will be a market for it. I was holding out for a decent watch WearOS on the SD3100 processor, and now it looks like I’ll have to hold out for whatever comes next…

Alesandro Du Canian
Guest
Alesandro Du Canian

Huh? Should have got Huawei 2.

GPS, 4G, All Day, only lag is 3rd party apps.

Google needs to do nothing more right now except allow apn setting.

You all need to get H/W that’s up to the job.

Xavier
Guest
Xavier

Just got a Fossil gen 4 HR with wearOS 2, got all the features I wanted with rotating home button, 2 customizable buttons (although they can only be used as app start shortcuts, software featute that is quite limmiting), heart rate monitor, nfc. The responsivnes isn’t quite where it should be and a lot of apps just hangs or work glitchy. This is a pretty recent product and it is running on an outdated processor Snapdragon 2100. The whole ecosystem needs a hardware boost and more resouces. But knowing Google they might just cut even more costs once they see… Read more »

Starboy
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Starboy

I had a Galaxy watch but just couldn’t keep it as it’s apps paled in comparison to the wife’s Apple watch. She could arm and disarm our home alarm as well as lock and unlock our door all from her watch. Meanwhile the Samsung store is basically just watch faces

Joe Bruin
Guest
Joe Bruin

I love my old ass LG Urbane, great battery life, latest Wear software works fine. Just saying, for $85 it’s a steal.

henucu
Guest
henucu

If apple watch can work with my pixel 3 xo,I don’t even care about Wear OS.

Marcus
Guest
Marcus

I have a Ticwatch Pro. I never worry about battery life but it’s at the cost of the 2 displays. Some might not like that but it’s more of a work/daily watch for me. I’m light on the fitness side but when I’ve used GFit I had no problem. I also enabled developer mode to disable all animations and removed unused apps and disabled some Ticwatch apps.
I’ve done all of this and get the best out of a WearOS watch.

Steven Pugliese
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Steven Pugliese

I think you’re a little too hard on Wear OS. I’ve had the LG Watch Style and now the Ticwatch E2. I wish the Tic was thinner but the battery, with the watchface always on in full color, lasts at least 36 hours on a charge. The LG barely got 15 at first and that declined over time. So I’m happy to have thick if it means long life. There is a lag but not much. I love the variety of watch faces available. Once you become familiar with the layout, I think the OS works fine. It’s all eminently… Read more »

u30085042
Ausdroid Reader
u30085042

Maybe I need to try a newer smartwatch, to see what all the fuss is about…
I’m still using my moto360 1st gen from 2014. I still get about 2 days battery life. Mirrors all the notifications from my phone, and looks great! what am I missing out on?

Tibb So
Ausdroid Reader
Tibb So

Simple solution – Google pays Samsung a half billion dollars to take the best of Tizen and Wear OS and make them work together.

The only thing Samsung’s Galaxy Watch needs is more apps that work with Google offerings such as Google Play Music. Wear OS is just mess, and the play store on it is crap.

Some people like to say the Galaxy Watch is the best non-Apple smartwatch but I am seriously not an Apple fan nor a fan of square watches so I reckon the Galaxy Watch is the best smartwatch.

NatCat
Guest
NatCat

I’ve had a a Moto 360,a Huawei original, a Vapor Misfit. I’m now on my second Huawei (found a “like new” online).

Wear OS. Check. Speaker. Check. Battery life, ok. (The Vapor is terrible.) Size OK. Why won’t anyone do it again?

JASON CAWTHRON
Guest
JASON CAWTHRON

I loved my Nixon Mission but it kept breaking. I had 4 of them… I have a Samsung Frontier now. It works but there user experience is horrible compared to Wear OS. I just want a Nixon Mission that doesn’t break. 😢

Bill Peckham
Guest
Bill Peckham

Number 1 requirement: be a good watch. This means I can glance at it and tell the time in any lighting environment from bright sun to a darkened room without having to perform wrist gymnastics or touch the screen or a button to turn it on. Number 2 requirement: last all day, even on the busiest days. I don’t mind charging my watch every night, but I don’t want range anxiety. Let’s say I have to wake up earlier than usual to catch a fight, and I’m going to get home via another flight late tonight. I’d like to end… Read more »

Another Mike smith
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Another Mike smith

I have the Galaxy watch, and it is very fluid,fast and reliable. I read countless reviews and almost everyone said wear OS isn’t quite there yet. Tizen on the other hand has the hardware and software down pat. It’s the perfect extension to my note 9. Alot of people complain about the lackluster apps, which I agree to a point. There’s plenty of apps to do what you need. Battery life is steller. Always on display gives me a full day of use, and lasts through the night. Usually by the next morning it’s down to 40 or so.

Gabe
Guest
Gabe

My needs (and issues) are far simpler. I want to receive texts. Not get 90% of texts, not get the first one but then not get any others, not get the last one and not be able to scroll back up for the others (like you could in wear 1.0), not get a text that says “image”. I want to be able to send texts by voice. Worked nearly flawlessly in wear 1.0. Now it works precisely 0% of the time. I want to be able to set and receive reminders by voice. Worked fine in wear 1.0,now setting reminders… Read more »

Joshua Hill
Ausdroid Reader

Thought I was the only person here who still considers AndroidWear 1.0 Google’s best attempt at a smartwatch OS.

I even prefer the name to WearOS now I think about it haha

rusty
Guest
rusty

Great article, you hit all the points. It’s simple to me, if they won’t find a better cpu, they continue to fail. I have found a watch that does it all! Gear S3 Frontier! I use it a lot, nfc & mst pay. gps tracking my walks, and find my car. Listening to music to find new songs I hear, changing faces all day and have 39 to 28 % battery at 11pm. I start my day at 5am. I’ve bought three wear watches, and I’d buy more, if they get it fixed. Until then I’m using the gear and… Read more »

James
Guest
James

I have a Fossil Q 4th Gen and I honestly can’t complain. 3 buttons, rotating crown, lasts me all day (depending on use, the lowest I’ve seen it go after a day was around 30%), and I’ve never had issues with it being laggy except under rare circumstances where it decided to randomly wig out on me forcing me to reset it (which is definitely a minus, don’t get me wrong) but that’s a very rare situation. I see where the basis of the complaint is, but it’s been everything I wanted- except it doesn’t have a case readily available… Read more »

shanelord
Ausdroid Reader

I’ve owned a Moto 360, Samsung and even a TAG Heuer Android Watch. This may open me up to ridicule, but just give me everything the Apple Watch can do but native for Android. In fact if they (Apple) made the Apple Watch work with Android (like they did with iPods and Windows) I’m pretty sure their sales would go through the roof. Love or hate Apple, love or hate the look or certain aspects of the Apple Watch, but ultimately it is now a fantastic wearable platform that keeps getting better with every iteration. I’d prefer a Google developed… Read more »

Howard Holder
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Howard Holder

Shanelord I agree with you all the way, actually that’s the same thing I was thinking of. That if Apple had made a Smartwatch for Android it would make a killing. I actually was looking to see how to hook Apple watch to Android phone or just use an Apple watch. I love android, i have about 10 smart watches i’m not happy with any of them. The apple watch is light years ahead of any of the android watches. Google please give us a good smart watch, i can’t believe that you’re letting Apple walk all over you in… Read more »

Gary J. Lavin
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Gary J. Lavin

Must have GPS, heart rate and LTE also which means you only have the LG, which I dumped as the battery was dead by 2pm. I have the Ticwatch Pro now and aside from no LTE it is sluggish, constantly waiting for the screen to load. The Apple Watch is light years ahead.

Hozan Kader
Guest
Hozan Kader

I have a Ticwatch pro the won with the dual screen its lasts me 2 days if i am carful wat the hell its a new watch may old Samsung Geas 3 lasts me 3 days and its outdated bay now and my Ticwatch pro is so lagy way is it lagy Google just wonts to make a profit this is google in 2019.

Dale Huhtala
Guest
Dale Huhtala

I have a Ticwatch Pro because I was concerned that none of the Wear OS watches could reliably get me through a long day with some sort of always on screen. Ticwatch fixes that problem. However, it cant address the slowness issue. Just touching the screen to turn it on takes a couple of seconds. Loading Google Play on the watch takes 15-20 seconds sometimes. Checking settings is frustrating…tap the fear icon…wait…tap the display option…wait…tap the brightness setting…wait…tap the brightness setting you wanted…wait. Try loading Google Play Music and it has a melt down. I continue using it because it’s… Read more »

Shannon Fiene
Guest
Shannon Fiene

In the meantime, allow us with watches to control whether the crown button activates assistant. As of now the crown button always activates assistant (cramming it down my throat). This is annoying and ruins the user experience. A simple update could fix it, are you listening Google?

Sassan
Guest
Sassan

So i really love wristwatchs as mens jewelry, nobody needs a whatch on his wrist to know the time everybody got smartphones. This tiny screens called Smartwatches are not smart enough to do your daily use of a phone and not fashionable enough to consider as a whatch.
I am as busy as i cant pick up my phone to see whats going on so i should be notified by my watch? I dont believe

Rob Teich
Guest
Rob Teich

Samsung watch and tizen is what wear os should be. Qualcomm, one of the largest chip maker in the world can compete with Samsung so the 2100 and 3100 chips these days are inexcusable. Google is much better at software than Samsung. Wear OS lagginess is again inexcusable. Tizen has only 2 flaws, lack of apps and some Samsung phone only apps. However it’s superiority is so great that I think it’s worth suffering those drawbacks. I have owned the Moto 360, LG Sport, Galaxy watches, and ticwatch e and pro. The pro is so slow that using Google pay… Read more »

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

How many journalists have written this same article over the last 3-4 years? Hundreds by now. Nothing can fix this except Qualcomm, and they have no motivation to do so. Probably only Intel and Samsung could create a suitable replacement SoC. Intel had no motivation to enter this market, and Samsung are doing their own, incompatable SoC thing.

Knight Lore forever. With apologies to Manic Miner.

Joshua Hill
Ausdroid Reader

I think it’s just as much the OS’s fault, if not more. How has apple managed to get good hardware for their smartwatches oft hats the issue. They design chips but they do not manufacture them. They are just as beholden to the hardware chipset manufacturers as other smartwatch makers.

Mason
Guest
Mason

I think Wear OS is well on it’s way to being dead. I never wear my Wear watches any more, they are just crap compared to my Garmin, Samsung, and Apple watches (I have multiple models of each).

I was rooting for the Android watches early on but Google has failed miserably with them and I see no signs that this is going to change.

Daniel Cheong
Guest
Daniel Cheong

I had a Huawei Smartwatch 2, 1 day and a halt battery life, after 1 year using it I found out was only using it as a fitness tracker, was never interested to use the other smart functions like answering messages, answering a call. A few days ago I bought the Huawei GT Watch which is not really a smartwatch but more a fitness tracker in a smartwatch design. I have been using it for 4 days continuously tracking my heart rate, sleep, workouts, jogging (with GPS), getting multiple notifications from my apps on my phone, I still have 50%… Read more »

Shaun Dunphy
Guest
Shaun Dunphy

After my Moto 360 developed weird issues that made it un-Wear-able I seriously thought about going back to a non-smart watch. As you say, there is more choice in terms of design. Then I saw an article on the TicWatch Pro and was tempted enough to buy it. The LCD overlay screen is inspired. It will run for several days if all you want is time and date, then when you need smart features it switches over to the full Wear experience. Having used it for a couple of months I think they’ve got the balance just about right. It… Read more »

Les
Guest
Les

We know that Google is working on the Pixel watch.

Google could have easily released something. But Google is taking more time on the project, which suggests the company wants it to be something very good. We also know that Google has its own processor division, so at some future stage it won’t have to rely on Qualcomm.

My guess is that Qualcomm is at the heart of the problems, as processors affect both battery life and lag. Google needs to get its processor to market. Quick.

Joshua Hill
Ausdroid Reader

I assume apple uses similar hardware in there watches and Google keeps a tight grip of wearOS much like Apple and iOS as opposed to google and Android. My guess is Google’s software is at the heart of the problems. Lower down someone replied to me saying 768mb of ram eliminates virtually all lag and makes a huge difference which sounds like bloated coding to me.

Rich
Guest
Rich

You just described the montblanc summit 2. Expensive watch but will last me longer than my Moto 360 gen 1, 2 and the zenwatch 3 put together (I hope). I get 1.5 days battery with always on display, other reviews I’ve seen that quote less Matt have been on an earlier firmware that didn’t best utilise the 3100.

Chris Rowland
Ausdroid Director

Would love to try one

Stu
Guest
Stu

I have both an Apple Watch s3 and the Samsung Watch 46mm as well as a wear os watch from fossil .. I haven’t used the fossil watch for over a year ! That’s down to a battery life of barely a day and also because I can’t take calls on it ! For me , leaving my phone at home is sometimes preferable to carrying g it around .. especially when I’m out on a nice walk ! My Apple Watch and the Samsung Watch both have that facility and also look great and have acceptable 3-4 days battery… Read more »

Sam L
Guest
Sam L

I had the new ticwatch s2 for a few days … And man was it bad, for me personaly this was one of the worst tech experiences for a long time. So damn laggy… I Love Google but that was so frustrating.
Now i have the Galaxy watch and this is day and night.
Google needs to do something asap.

tibo huyers
Guest
tibo huyers

I looked into buying a spartwatch a few months ago and like everyone here says nothing could statisfy my needs. Except maybe the samsung ones. Until i saw somewhere in small letters that not al features are available with non samsung phones. Are you using yours with a samsung phone? If not what are the features you don’t have?

dbareis
Ausdroid Reader

My issues with WearOs watches (including my TicWatch Pro) is mainly:

* They are underpowered so slow to react (needs more RAM, newer chipset).
* Battery life iffy (newer chipset improves, RAM might also).

Another issue I have found is that Google Pay on the watch is cut down and doesn’t support transport.

dbareis
Ausdroid Reader

My issues with WearOs watches is mainly:

* They are underpowered so slow to react (needs more RAM, newer chipset).
* Battery life iffy (newer chipset improves, RAM might also).

Another issue I have found is that Google Pay on the watch is cut down and doesn’t support transport.

Brett B
Guest
Brett B

How about the Ticwatch Pro? I see nothing but good reviews on it.
Ps. There are some grammatical errors in your article that you need to fix 🙂

EndlessTrail
Ausdroid Reader

I miss Pebble. Always on screen and 7 days of better life cannot be beaten. Except by the Amazefit Bip.

Joshua Hill
Ausdroid Reader

In terms of OS 1.0 > 2.0 > 1.5

Joshua Hill
Ausdroid Reader

All day battery is a bit low. 2-3 minimum for me to even consider a smartwatch again, preferably 5-7 days like my original smartwatch could do

Chris Rowland
Ausdroid Director

I’m in the same boat, Josh. I have a couple of Wear OS watches I could wear, but I wear Huawei’s Watch GT – it lasts a week and does (most of) what I want. Notifications, tells me who’s ringing, gives me the time and weather. Tracks heart rate, steps, etc. It’s great.

But I wish Wear OS could do this.

Joshua Hill
Ausdroid Reader

I’ve been giving it some thought lately and i’ve probably forgotten some hopefully not important use cases but all i need out of a mobile device is to call, msg, navigate, music and possibly fitness track and pay for goods. Other users might want/need more out of their mobile device(s). In a few years to a decade I hope a smartwatch can do all of these things and then I won’t need a phone at all. For those use cases having two devices doing essentially the same thing is a waste (sorry Duncan I know you prefaced this article saying… Read more »

Adrian
Guest
Adrian

WearOS does do all that but issue is poor battery life, and the fact that 95% of devices only have 512MB RAM. it’s a far smoother experience with 768MB watches (I have five WearOS watches at moment)

Other issue is that someone did an ADB and found that memory usage of WearOS to be pretty bad. No wonder it lags most of the time cos just about all the RAM is used up.

Joshua Hill
Ausdroid Reader

Once wearOS really does all this my point is I’ll ditch my phone. No need for two devices. Can’t wait for the day to arrive although I think I’ll be purchasing ateast one new phone before smartwatches become a viable replacement.

Thanks for the info about different ram sizes.

Sam
Guest
Sam

I had a moto 360, and it was ok
Reluctantly got a Gear S3 now, cause I did want to stick with wear OS, but it’s fantastic, does everything I could want it to do
Bezel control is a must have

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