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Wear OS is getting a fall update focused on ‘more intuitive controls’ & speed, new weather app

To cap off “Android Beyond Phones” week — following TV, Auto, and Chrome OS developments, Google today is talking about its wearable platform. A Wear OS OTA update this fall will improve performance, while a new weather app was previewed.

Google says performance, power, and other “fundamentals” are the focus of this update. It starts with “CPU core improvements” that will speed up app startup times by 20%. This OTA is not based on Android 11, though the company briefly mentioned the new OS in today’s blog — more on that below. Rather, Google told us that it dedicated a team to making performance optimizations to the core platform without reducing battery life.

There will also be support for the new Snapdragon Wear 4100 and 4100+ chips that Qualcomm announced at the start of July. The first watch running the new chipset — which sees a significant process size shrink (28nm to 12nm) and touts 85% faster CPU performance — will be from Mobvoi later this year. Overall, Google says it is “excited by the kinds of wearable experiences that can be enabled in the future.”

The initial pairing process will also be simplified to make “onboarding easier.” Google also hints at a broader UI refresh that will make it “faster to access your info,” with two specific areas cited:

You’ll see improvements to our SysUI for more intuitive controls for managing different watch modes and workouts

This Wear OS OTA update is coming in the fall to all watches with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip.

Meanwhile, Google also announced a new weather “experience” for Wear OS that’s already been spotted in testing and officially coming later this year.

With large iconography and numbers, it will be “easier to read while on the go.” It starts with a large icon for the current condition, while there’s an equally big temperature readout that also notes your current location. High/low temperatures round out the tile, with this serving as an example of Wear OS providing “more helpful experiences.”

On the developer front, Google says it is “working to bring the best of Android 11 to wearables.” However, while confirmed, it did not share any details on when exactly Android 11 is coming to Wear OS.

The focus today is on how developers can use modern practices from other form factors to build wearable apps. With “System H” in 2018, the company de-emphasized the Android version as new features are now delivered without requiring full OS updates.

Many of the things you’ve seen in modern Android development — from Android Studio, a great language with Kotlin, and Jetpack libraries to make common tasks easier will be part of what you can expect as a developer building wearable apps. 

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: