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Without audio clips, messaging on a smartwatch is useless to me
There are three reasons I use a smartwatch: to get step-by-step directions on my wrist when going to a new place, to control my music without unlocking my phone, and to be notified of new messages. My Galaxy Watch 4 — and Wear OS watches in general — is pretty good at handling the first two tasks, but it’s almost abysmal at the last one. Messaging on a Wear OS smartwatch is simply far below par, and one indication of that is the lack of voice message support.
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Messaging nowadays is richer and more complex than sending simple text-only blurbs. We share images and videos; we intersperse our texts with emojis; we rely on stickers and GIFs to show exactly how we feel. And for millions of users, especially those living in non-English-speaking countries, messaging is also simpler thanks to audio clips.
Seven billion voice messages are sent on WhatsApp every day. That's only one platform.
Talking is faster than typing, less error-prone than multilingual keyboards or transliteration, and it makes your intonation clearer than any impersonal characters on a screen ever could. For those reasons and many others, voice notes have been widely adopted. This one metric tells you the full story: WhatsApp says that seven billion voice messages get sent every day on its platform — that’s billion with a B. Imagine the number when all messaging apps are combined.
But despite their popularity, voice notes still aren’t supported by Google’s smartwatch platform. It can’t play them back when you receive them, nor can it record them to send them. In that regard, it’s as “smart” as a simple fitness tracker with on-screen notifications. Even if a Wear OS smartwatch has a speaker and a microphone (like the Galaxy Watch 4, for example), even if it’s connected to a Bluetooth headset, it doesn’t support audio clips. This is a problem with both the official Google Messages app and any third-party messengers that send notifications to your wrist, like WhatsApp and Telegram.
Even if a Wear OS smartwatch has a speaker and a microphone, it can neither play nor record voice messages.
At least five times out of ten, when my Watch 4 vibrates, I look at it and see that I received a “Voice message” from a friend or relative. Tapping that doesn’t do anything. I have to unlock my phone to hear the message and reply. If my watch is as useless as a notification ping half the time, and I constantly have to pull out my phone, I might as well not wear the watch to begin with.
Inconsistency and unreliability ruin the entire messaging experience for me. It’s bad enough that I’ve grown accustomed to ignoring notifications on my wrist because they’re adding time, not shaving it off. It’s just faster to go straight to my phone.
Inconsistency ruins the entire smartwatch messaging experience. It's just faster to go straight to my phone.
That’s why most days, when I’m working from home, I rarely bother to wear my watch. My media can be controlled from my computer or Google Home speakers, and I don’t need step-by-step directions. Messaging would be enough of a use case to make me wear the watch, if Google supported it. Apple does, so what’s the hold-up, Googz? We can only hope we’ll get this with the upcoming Pixel Watch.