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Comment: Wear OS isn’t ready for LTE, and the apps are to blame

Google’s Wear OS has made great strides over the past several months, and that includes the hardware department. Recently, though, I’ve been using the TicWatch Pro 4G, and it reminds me that Wear OS isn’t ready for LTE, despite Google’s best efforts.

Wear OS as a platform has supported LTE since it was called Android Wear 2.0. Since then, not much has changed. We’ve seen a handful of watches that support the feature, such as the Huawei Watch 2, LG Watch Sport, and the short-lived Verizon Wear24 and ZTE Quartz. Most of these have been considered failures for one reason or another, but the new TicWatch Pro 4G from Mobvoi shows some real promise.

Regardless of the hardware it’s running on, though, the problem with using Wear OS with LTE is that it simply isn’t ready to be used as a standalone smartwatch, and it’s really all because of the apps.

Wear OS has a huge ecosystem of apps, but the vast majority rely on a constant tether to your smartphone. That means on LTE, a lot of them are basically worthless. Google Maps, thankfully, is an exception to this, but even there, GPS functionality isn’t as accurate without a phone.

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Let’s take a look at some examples. Email is something often used on our smartphones, but Wear OS completely lacks an email client. There’s no official Gmail app to access your emails beyond a notification. Third-party clients are available, but it’s almost embarrassing that this core functionality isn’t officially available.

There’s also music, which is in a weird state on Wear OS. LTE watches with a speaker can stream music, but only with supported apps, and the only major service that supports that is Google Play Music. Ignoring that Play Music is set to go away and there’s no YouTube Music app yet, Spotify’s Wear OS app also doesn’t let you stream music. That app can only control music on your connected smartphone, making it worthless on Wear OS.

Messaging is another tough one. SMS works on Wear OS with LTE, although it notably can’t access the messages on your phone, instead relying on the watch’s phone number. Facebook Messenger and Telegram both have proper apps on the platform, but other options like WhatsApp or Slack don’t. Granted, this is something the Apple Watch lacks as well. However, that’s very likely to change for watchOS with upcoming updates.

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Let’s also talk about the obvious. Social media is what most of us are pretty much addicted to on our smartphones. This is an area that Wear OS really can’t handle, at least officially. Twitter would be my biggest ask for this form factor, but there’s no official app to do that. There’s also no YouTube app like the Galaxy Watch Active2 has, but that’s probably not a bad thing.

Personally, none of this is anything I’ve actually wanted from a smartwatch. In my opinion, smartwatches should be an extension of your smartphone, not another device entirely. Still, that seems to be where the industry is heading, probably mainly because that’s what Apple has been doing.

With LTE, a full device strapped to your wrist could be useful, but that depends on the apps you rely on. In its current state, it’s really hard to use Wear OS for any length of time without a smartphone nearby. For that reason, I just don’t think the platform is ready for LTE.

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