Google has revealed the successor to Wear OS 3, Wear OS 4, which is based on Android 13. Building upon the previous version launched two years ago, Wear OS 4 promises battery improvements and a more reliable text-to-speech experience. The new OS aims to introduce “enhancements to security, user customization, and power optimizations” according to the official statement released at Google I/O 2023.
“We're releasing the first Developer Preview of Wear OS 4, the next version of Google's smartwatch platform arriving later this year”, the official announcement said. It also noted that the new version would enter developer preview via emulator on the same day.
Backup and Restore Support
A much-needed feature, the backup and restore support, is finally coming to the platform. This will allow users to “securely transfer data and settings from an old watch to your new one”, says Google. Users setting up a watch from their phone will find that permissions granted on the phone will automatically carry over to the watch.
Wear OS 4 Watch Face Format and Battery Optimization
In a joint effort with Samsung, Google has developed a new “Watch Face Format” for Wear OS 4, which will contribute significantly to the promised longer battery life. The new format is a “declarative XML format to design the appearance and behavior of watch faces” The format eliminates the need for executable code, leading to no code embedded in the Watch Face APKs.
“Wear OS will take care of the logic needed to render the watch face so you no longer have to worry about code optimizations or battery performance” promises Google. This simplifies the design process, reduces the need for maintenance, and minimizes updates.
Integration of Gmail and Google Calendar
Google is also bringing Gmail and Calendar to Wear OS “later this year”. The integration of these services will enhance the overall user experience, allowing users to browse their inbox, read, favorite, and quickly respond to emails. The Google Calendar will offer a similar schedule view to the phone version, allowing users to RSVP and complete Google Tasks directly from their watch.
Google also highlighted the introduction of third-party apps like WhatsApp and Peloton for Wear OS. WhatsApp entered beta on Monday, while Spotify is soon expected to add tiles that will enable users to access their favorite podcasts, their most listened-to tracks, and a curated lineup of music chosen by Spotify's DJ.
The official announcement concluded by urging developers to download the Wear OS 4 emulator in Android Studio Hedgehog to explore new features and test apps on Wear OS 4 Developer Preview.
Expectations and Future Developments
While these updates represent a significant step forward, there are still questions surrounding the transition to Wear OS 4, particularly given the somewhat rocky shift to Wear OS 3. The integration of Gmail, Google Calendar, and third-party apps promises to make Wear OS more versatile, but the real success of Wear OS 4 will depend on how smoothly Google handles this transition. However, per the official announcement, further details are expected to be released in the coming weeks and months, making the rest of the year exciting for smartwatch users and developers.