Comment: Wear OS updates are a painfully fragmented mess

Wear OS is far from a popular platform, but I still use it every single day. However, there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past several months – updates on Wear OS are a fragmented disaster.

Major updates don’t come to Wear OS all that often, but in the past year or so, Google has made some important moves. Back in August of 2018, the company announced a pretty big revamp of Wear OS. Then, there was “Update H,” which delivered some overdue features like battery enhancements and a power menu. Most recently, Google announced a useful new “Tiles” feature.

Annoyingly, though, Google and its partners have been very bad at rolling these updates out. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the Wear OS ecosystem is running on the same specifications aside from the display, these updates can arrive on different watches months apart from one another.

Looking back at the Wear OS redesign from last year, for example, it took weeks for Google to start the rollout, and then even longer for some users to even get it. The same applies with “Update H.” Most users have gotten the update at this point, but others are left in the dark seemingly for no reason.

wear os version h

For example, Fossil has already rolled out “Update H” to its Gen 4 and Gen 3 devices and some of its brand watches such as the Skagen Falster 2 and Diesel Full Guard 2.5. An update is “expected soon” for the Gen 2 devices. Meanwhile, the Fossil Sport hasn’t gotten the update, and the company has been giving out mixed messages about whether or not it will get it at all. Part of the reason could be the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset seeing as the Montblanc Summit 2 also hasn’t gotten the update.

The “Tiles” feature is the most recent big change Google has made to Wear OS, and it’s also facing these issues. After being announced in early May, this update has been rolling out with Google Play Services and Wear OS app updates. Google said that the update would roll out “over the next month,” and with just a few days until that (admittedly loose) deadline, plenty of people still aren’t seeing the change that started rolling out on May 2nd.

In my specific case, I’ve noted Tiles arrival on a Casio ProTrek WSD-F30, Skagen Falster 2, and Ticwatch C2 all in the past week or so. Meanwhile, my Fossil Sport still doesn’t have it. I’m not alone either, as just recently a bunch of Wear OS users on Reddit have been using a workaround to force the update to land on their devices in just the past day (which didn’t work for me, by the way).

Wear OS Tiles launch

Wear OS’ new Tiles feature started rolling out in early May

So, I know, not many people actually care about Wear OS. Based on the current situation, an argument could be made that Google doesn’t care either, even if they say they’re “excited” about the platform’s future.

Still, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Those who do buy a Wear OS watch might do so for a new feature or a promise that an update makes, and with how fragmented the current system is, Google isn’t making that easy.

So what’s the solution to this? There’s really no easy fix. A lot of Wear OS updates rely on manufacturers. Google has implemented ways to push Wear OS updates without requiring OEM help, but clearly, that’s not helped all that much.

Plus, these updates barely touch on the larger problem. Google is also not pushing security patches or major system updates in a timely manner either. Emphasizing that point, two current-gen watches sitting on my desk right now have February 2019 and October 2018 security patches. This is bad Google.

If you ask me, this is another sign that Google really needs to rethink basically everything about Wear OS. Maybe it’s time to just go back to the drawing board and start from scratch.

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