Wear OS 3 is the biggest update to Wear OS smartwatches yet. Built in partnership with Samsung, it offers faster app load times, fitness tracking powered by Fitbit, a redesigned interface and more.
It’s a major update that could breathe new life into the operating system – if consumers and smartwatch makers alike adopt it.
Below you’ll find full details of everything Wear OS 3 offers, along with information on when, where and how you can get it.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The latest version of Google’s smartwatch operating system
- When do you leave? Now – but currently only for select wearables
- How much does it cost? It’s free
Wear OS 3 release date
Wear OS 3 was announced at the Google I/O developer conference in May 2021 and first became available in August 2021 or so. It’s available now, but only on an extremely limited number of smartwatches. Full details of the wearables that are available now and coming soon can be found below.
Wear OS 3 compatibility
Despite being available since 2021, there are currently very few smartwatches that actually run Wear OS 3. In fact, at the time of writing, you can only get it on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, and the – too expensive – Montblanc Summit 3.
No previously available smartwatch has received a software update to Wear OS 3, but some will; with the Fossil Gen 6, Michael Kors Gen 6, Skagen Falster Gen 6, Razer X Fossil Gen 6, TicWatch Pro 3, TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra, and TicWatch E3, all theoretically being updated before the end of 2022.
Some of the current vintages of the best smartwatches may also be updated, but no other devices have been confirmed yet.
We also expect new smartwatches to be released with Wear OS 3 soon, including the Google Pixel Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 range.
Please note that in order to use a Wear OS 3 watch, you also need a supported operating system on your phone. In theory it works with iOS and Android, but at the time of writing only the Montblanc Summit 3 includes iOS support – the Galaxy Watch 4 line does not, and neither the Pixel Watch nor the Galaxy Watch 5 line should.
Wear OS 3 features
There’s a lot to see in Wear OS 3, but it’s worth noting that not all features will be available on all watches. Notably, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 lineup runs One UI Watch on top of Wear OS, which changes the look and feel of the UI.
Below you’ll find a rundown of Wear OS 3’s stock features – functionality you can expect to find on the Pixel Watch and any other Wear OS 3 wearables that haven’t been extensively customized, like Samsung’s current Galaxy Watch series, where you can expect to find more variation.
Faster and longer lasting
Google partnered with Samsung to build Wear OS 3, and the result is a combination of Wear OS 2 and Samsung’s Tizen-based wearable operating system; with some new features added for good measure.
Key improvements resulting from this collaboration include up to 30% faster app load times (than Wear OS 2) and longer battery life. This latest improvement makes it more feasible to do things like run your heart rate monitor all day or track your sleep without needing a charge first thing in the morning, every morning.
An updated interface
Wear OS 3 also brings UI changes, with Google focusing on making it faster and easier to operate your wearable. Nobody wants to spend a lot of time scrolling through menus on a relatively small clock screen, so there’s a focus on shortcuts and gesture controls; along with the ability to use Tiles (basically, mini widgets) to customize your watch’s home screen carousel in more ways than ever before.
You’ll also get quick access to smart home controls on Google Home and be able to quickly switch between apps in use with a new task switcher.
A custom overlay
Just like Android smartphone makers can add a custom interface on top of stock Android, smartwatch makers can now do a similar trick with Wear OS, so the platform doesn’t necessarily look or behave identically across all smartwatches. .
This should give shoppers more options and more opportunities to find an interface and features they really love.
One UI Watch, found in the Galaxy Watch 4 line, is an early example of this; offers several Samsung apps and services in addition to Google’s, and draws more parallels with Samsung’s smartphone interface design.
New and Improved Google Apps
Google took this opportunity to redesign and improve Google Assistant and Google Maps, as well as adding support for more countries in Google Pay (soon to be replaced by the return of Google Wallet) and bringing YouTube Music to your wrist.
Fitness powered by Fitbit
Since Google now owns Fitbit, it’s no surprise that part of the latter company’s experience has made its way to Wear OS 3. That includes features like wrist goal celebrations and various tools to track your health progress throughout the day.
The exact fitness tracking features will depend on the hardware your smartwatch offers – most, but not all, include GPS and heart rate monitors, for example – and there are less common features like ECGs and blood oxygen monitors.
Best third-party apps
Google is also pushing for better support for third-party apps in a few ways. On the one hand, the company is making it easier for developers to build great apps in the first place; with tools like a new Tiles API and a clock face design editor.
In addition, Google also intends to reward developers for high-quality apps – and penalize low-effort ones – by adjusting their Play Store search ranking.
Google has guidelines on what good Wear OS apps should do, such as ensuring they are formatted for square and circular screens, having clear, easy-to-read text, and making the app work without a smartphone or tablet.
All the top smartwatch things you’d expect
Above, we’ve detailed the ways in which Wear OS 3 deviates from and improves on Wear OS 2, but also retains all the core functionality of that earlier platform, like notifications, timers, alarms, and more.