Google says Wear OS’ time in the doldrums is over and, two years after it approached Samsung to help bail out the platform, it’s now the world’s “fastest-growing” wearable ecosystem. At its I/O 2023 keynote on Wednesday, the company laid out the roadmap for several improvements arriving in the coming months. That includes tighter integrations with Google Home and Nest, the long-awaited launch of a full Gmail and Calendar app, and the first news about the next-generation of Wear OS.
Probably the most asked-for feature coming to Wear OS is access to Gmail and Calendar from the wrist. At some point “later this year,” users will be able to access key features on their watch including triaging and offering quick responses to the missives in their inbox. Similarly, in Calendar you can check your schedule, RSVP to invites and update tasks and to-do list items. And if you’re ensconced within Google’s smart home ecosystem, you’ll soon be able to use your watch to see who rang your Nest doorbell, and remotely unlock your door.
As part of today’s keynote, Google also wanted to highlight the big-name third parties that have thrown their weight behind Wear OS. That includes WhatsApp, which recently started beta testing its app for the platform which will offer standalone messaging support. Similarly, Spotify is launching new tiles to trigger a new podcast episode or start a DJ session, while Peloton has recently updated its own Wear OS app to enhance tracking support and let users view their weekly workout progress from their wrist.
Google also wanted to show off its Watch Face Format, built with Samsung, in order to make it easier for developers to create watch faces for Wear OS devices. The key selling point is that the system itself will handle the hard work, making it easier for less-experienced users to use. That includes optimizing the face for rendering and battery performance, letting designers focus on the actual design part of the job.
Of more interest, however, is the news that Google is launching the emulator and developer preview for Wear OS 4. The company says that, when it launches “later this year,” users should expect to see improved battery life and performance. In addition, there’s a promise of new accessibility features including a faster and more reliable text-to-speech engine. There’s also new backup and restore support to make it easier to swap their watch (or phone) without a lot of awkward fiddling. We can expect to learn more about this, and everything else Google is showing off, in the coming months.
Follow all of the news from Google I/O 2023 right here.