Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Review: Google’s Wear OS 2.0 can’t fix its obsolete smartwatch hardware

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |

*Glares in Qualcomm’s direction* —

Wear OS gets better with version 2.0, but what are you supposed to run it on?


Hexbyte - Tech News - Ars Technica | Article intro image

Ron Amadeo

Google’s major Wear OS revamp is out today, and soon it will arrive on most devices released in the past year and a half (although Ars has already spent a week with a pre-release version of the OS). In the face of relentless competition from the Apple Watch Series 4 and Samsung Galaxy Watch, Google’s most obvious change in the new Wear OS is a new UI for most of the main screens. There’s not much in the way of new functionality or features, but everything is laid out better.

Google hasn’t done much to publicize the actual name of this release, but it identifies the update as “Wear OS 2.0” on the “About” page, so we’re calling it that. Don’t confuse “Wear OS 2.0” with “Android Wear 2.0,” though, because the latter launched in 2017. When the name change from “Android Wear” to “Wear OS” happened, the version numbers reset. Android Wear started at “1.0” and made it all the way to “2.9;” Wear OS then started over at “1.0” and counted back up to “2.0.” Continuing the old version numbers would have made things a lot easier: Google and terrible branding—name a more iconic duo.

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | The new layout

  • The new Wear OS layout puts Quick Settings, Google Fit, Notifications, and the Google Assistant at your fingertips. Just swipe in a direction.

  • Long-press on the watch face and you’ll get this zoomed-out watch face picker (top). You can scroll left and right to change watch faces (bottom).

  • The app list is unchanged from the old Android Wear 2.0 release in 2017.

  • The settings haven’t changed, either.

The core of the Wear OS 2.0 changes revolves around the new layout, which puts a useful screen at the top, bottom, left, and right of the main watch face. Quick Settings is the top screen, and the notifications panel is the bottom screen, making them in roughly the same spot as Phone Android’s pull-down Quick Settings/notification panel. The left screen is a predictive cards page, just like the old Google Now feed on an Android Phone. The right screen is the new home of Google Fit, which was recently revamped with separate metrics for steps and more intense workouts. Besides the top Quick Settings, the other three directions represent the three pillars of the new Wear OS: Notifications, the Google Assistant, and Google Fit.

Compared to previous versions of Wear OS/Android Wear, this is a big improvement. Quick Settings and notifications haven’t moved, but, previously, Wear used left and right swipes to change watch faces. That always seemed like a waste of premium real estate. On Wear OS 2.0, you can still quickly change watch faces by long-pressing on the watch face. Watch faces are still the only things OEMs are allowed to customize in Wear OS and haven’t changed in version 2.0.

Besides the four main screens that you can swipe to from the watch face, the rest of Wear OS remains unchanged. There’s still an app list you can get to by pressing the crown button, and all the apps are unchanged. There’s a packed-in Google Play Store for apps and a big settings section with lots of options to scroll through. For messaging apps, you can still reply with voice, canned replies, emoji handwriting recognition, or by swiping on the world’s smallest QWERTY keyboard, which is easy to ridicule in screenshots but surprisingly good in person. This is all covered in our Android Wear 2.0 review (which, again, is the previous version of Wear OS 2.0).

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | The notification panel

  • The notification panel is an actual panel now, instead of getting one notification per page. Just scroll from the top to the bottom with no interruptions.

  • Just swipe a notification away to clear it.

  • Tapping on a notification will expand it in-line. Here you can see Hangouts expanded with smart replies, a regular reply button, and a “view conversation” button. The rest of the notifications are still in this panel.

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