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Wear OS buyer's guide: What you need to know about Google's smartwatch platform

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to Wear OS.
By
May 11, 2022
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 on a man's wrist showing the all-apps page.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

This article contains everything you need to know about Google’s Wear OS smartwatch operating system. We walk you through various features and buying guidelines, as well as round up the best Wear OS smartwatches you can find. Strap in, because there is a lot to talk about.

What is Wear OS?

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 rests on a black leather case displaying the watches Welcome screen.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Wear OS is a smartwatch operating system created and maintained by Google. It was announced on March 18, 2014, as Android Wear, and rebranded as Wear OS on March 15, 2018. Wear OS is an Android-based operating system that receives semi-regular feature and security updates, just like the version of Android that powers billions of smartphones around the world.

Google officially announced its flagship, in-house wearable in the form of the Pixel Watch in May 2022, but it won’t be available until later this year. For now, Google allows hardware partners to create their own smartwatches running the Wear OS operating system. A number of smartphone OEMs — including Samsung, LG, Motorola, Asus, Sony, and Huawei — were the first companies to create Wear OS watches. Now, most watches are made by fashion brands and various watchmakers, such as Fossil Group, Mobvoi, Tag Heuer, Montblanc, Casio, and others. However, Samsung is the only company to have access to the most recent version of Wear OS — version 3 — on its latest smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch 4 (more on this later).

See also: Everything we know about the Google Pixel Watch

Why buy a Wear OS smartwatch?

A Diesel Fadelight, a fashion-forward Wear OS device, rests on its colorful packaging.

We’re pretty tough on Wear OS at Android Authority, but there are some good reasons to buy a Wear OS-powered smartwatch.

First and foremost, just like Android itself, the operating system offers choice. You get a similar software experience on any device you buy, but the hardware can vary drastically. That’s because Google’s hardware partners consist of tech companies, traditional watchmakers, fashion brands, fitness companies, and more. This is in stark contrast to the operating system’s biggest competitor — the Apple Watch — which has nearly the same hardware no matter which generation you buy.

Wear OS' biggest strength is choice.

Wear OS watches come in all different shapes and sizes. You can buy a cheap plastic watch if you’re on a budget, a nice stylish watch from a fashion company if you want to wear your watch at the office, or even a top-tier luxury Wear OS watch if money is of no concern to you. Buying a smartwatch for thousands of dollars isn’t recommended, but it represents the idea that the platform is versatile.

The simple fact that Google makes both Android and Wear OS is also a selling point. If you use Android, it’s the obvious smartwatch platform to try out. All of your notifications, (most of) your apps, and your data will all be tightly integrated into Wear OS, as your phone and your watch run on the same underlying Android platform.

What’s the deal with Wear OS 3?

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic on a table.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Wear OS has gone through many iterations in its lifetime, and the biggest change came last year. Google and Samsung announced Wear OS 3, a co-developed operating system that first appeared on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic.

Samsung has exclusive rights to the operating system until later this year when it becomes available for other smartwatch makers and on Google’s own Pixel Watch. While that means Galaxy Watch 4 owners can feel good about the benefits of exclusive software, that also means all new Wear OS smartwatches launched between now and then will have to run the old, outdated software. The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra, TicWatch E3, and Fossil Gen 6 all run Wear OS 2.23 out of the box, with the promise of a Wear OS 3 upgrade whenever it becomes available. Hit the link below for the full list of legacy smartwatches that are slated to get the Wear OS 3 update.

Read: All of the Wear OS 3 watches confirmed so far

Google and Samsung built Wear OS 3 with performance, battery life, and customization in mind. Smartwatch OEMs can now customize Wear OS with a software skin, just like they can with Android proper. A shining example of this is Samsung’s One UI Watch software overlay on the Galaxy Watch 4. It looks similar to what you’d see on a Samsung smartphone. You can expect similar customizations from companies like Motorola, Oppo, and others in the future.

Wear OS 3’s user interface is a bit different from Wear OS 2’s. A swipe up from the watch face pulls up the all-apps drawer, while a swipe down shows your quick settings — just like your smartphone. Swiping left and right will shuffle through Tiles, which are glanceable screens of information from different apps and services. 

Google also claims apps launch up to 30% faster than they did on Wear OS 2.23, and battery life should be improved across the board as well. Speaking of apps, Google has already brought all-new redesigns of some of its most popular apps to Wear OS 3. Both a new Google Maps experience and a new YouTube Music are now available.

Wear OS 3 is a major improvement, but there's still a lot we don't know about the future of the platform.

Future iterations of Wear OS 3 will also integrate certain Fitbit staples, such as the Today app (your daily activity summary), exercise modes, Active Zone Minutes, and on-wrist celebrations when you hit a goal. The Google Pixel Watch will seemingly be the first device to showcase this integration.

There are a few major things we don’t yet know about Wear OS 3. How often will Google issue major platform updates? What about security updates? How will OEM software skins affect software rollouts? Google has been quiet on these issues, so keep these things in mind when choosing your next smartwatch. It’s clear Google is trying to figure some things out as it goes along. The problem is, Google’s Wear OS update track record prior to Wear OS 3 was, in a word, atrocious. Without a firm commitment from the company, there will be a lot of waiting and seeing how the software plays out over time.

What experts think of Wear OS products

A Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra rests in a wooden bowl.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

We have lots of Wear OS product reviews on our website. Because there are dozens of Wear OS watches, we haven’t reviewed them all, but we always make it a point to check out the most popular devices.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic are two of the only Wear OS watches you should consider purchasing at the moment. They’re both running Samsung and Google’s co-developed Wear OS 3 software and will be the only watches with the OS until later this year.

In our Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review, we noted Samsung’s excellent hardware and long battery life, especially in the larger-sized models. Plus, Samsung significantly improved its heart rate sensor, making the Galaxy Watch 4 a solid workout device. We’re still waiting on a lot of answers from Google and Samsung regarding software support, though. Also, there’s no Google Assistant support yet, which is quite odd for a Wear OS device. You’ll have to use Samsung’s less-good Bixby voice assistant instead.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
$249.99 at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic
$349.99 at Amazon
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic are the only Wear OS watches you should consider buying right now.

If you’re okay without the latest Wear OS 3 software for now, the Fossil Gen 6 should be on your shortlist of smartwatches to buy. It comes in a ton of colors and styles, as well as two sizes. Its heart rate monitor and SpO2 spot-checks proved accurate in our testing, though the watch can only last about a day on a single charge. Also, some of its other health-tracking features could use some work, such as GPS accuracy and sleep tracking.

Just be prepared to wait for that new software to arrive.

Fossil Gen 6 Smartwatch
$299.00 at Amazon

Another solid Wear OS smartwatch that’s guaranteed to receive the update is the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra.  It builds on the already-great TicWatch Pro 3 from 2020. It’s more durable thanks to its MIL-STD-810G rating, and it comes with the latest internal specs you can get. Again, be mindful that this watch won’t receive the significant Wear OS 3 update later this year.

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra
$299.99 at Amazon

Eric also reviewed the Mobvoi TicWatch E3, one of our top picks for a cheap Wear OS smartwatch. Eric praised the TicWatch E3 for its solid hardware, IP68 rating, and decent battery life. However, this is a cheaper device we’re talking about, so some of Mobvoi’s cost-cutting measures are prevalent in the strap quality. It also may not be the watch for you if you’re looking for a workout companion.

Mobvoi TicWatch E3
$199.99 at Amazon

What our readers think of Wear OS products

We certainly have a lot of feelings about Wear OS, but we’ve also polled you, our dear readers, about your thoughts.

We asked you in mid-October about your thoughts on the new version of Google’s wearable OS. Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in the middle? Out of over 3,000 total votes, ~34% of our readers said they love Wear OS 3 so far, 28% said they like the software overall, and just over 33% said it’s just okay. Fewer than 4% of our readers said they don’t like it at all, while .6% said they hate it.

We’ve also asked you about other smartwatch operating systems. When we polled our readers about which operating system their next smartwatch would run, over 2,500 readers chimed in with their thoughts.

Nearly 50% of the votes went to Wear OS 3, showing that new buyers are very interested in Google’s new take. A not-so-close second went to Apple watchOS with 16.4% of the votes. All the other smartwatch operating systems landed quite low on the scale. Zepp OS, which ships on various Amazfit smartwatches, garnered nearly 7.5% of the votes. Fitbit OS and Garmin’s operating system tied with 5.8% of the votes, Samsung’s Tizen only received 5.2% of the votes, and Huawei’s Lite OS received only 3.6% of the votes.

Buying the right Wear OS smartwatch for your needs

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic rest side by side on a fence.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

When buying a Wear OS smartwatch, it’s important to know what you want and need. Spending extra money on features you don’t need doesn’t make sense, but you also don’t want to buy something that doesn’t have the features you need. For example, if you value long battery life over everything else, you should buy a device with extra battery-saving hardware or software features. If you want a device to track your workouts, consider buying a watch with additional features like built-in GPS and an altimeter.

We have a dedicated article about the best Wear OS devices to get, which you can check out here. Keep in mind that the Google Pixel Watch will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers. But if you’re in a hurry, you can get a general overview of our current favorites below.

  • The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic are the best Wear OS smartwatches you can buy. They’re running the latest software, have decent battery life, and offer accurate fitness- and health-tracking features.
  • The Fossil Gen 6 is the best Wear OS watch for customization. It’s available in two sizes and many different styles, so you’re bound to find one that suits your needs.
  • The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra is the best Wear OS watch for extended battery life. Thanks to its dual AMOLED + FSTN display, the watch can not only last up to 72 hours in “regular” mode but extend its longevity to 45 days in “essential mode.”
  • The Mobvoi TicWatch E3 is the best cheap Wear OS watch right now. It’s available for just $200 and offers many of the features you’ll find on more expensive TicWatch devices.

What smartwatch features do Wear OS watches offer?

A user accesses the Wear OS assistant screen on his Fossil Gen 6.
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Think of Wear OS like an Android phone: each watch comes with a basic set of features that work out of the box. You can then supplement the experience by downloading third-party applications, games, and watch faces. All Wear OS watches offer access to the Google Play Store and the Google Assistant (except for the Galaxy Watch 4), in addition to other Google apps like Gmail, Google Messages, Maps, and more.

Wear OS watches are compatible with Android phones running Android 6.0 and above (excluding Android Go phones). Wear OS 2.23 watches are compatible with iPhones running iOS 11.4 and above, while Wear OS 3 does not support iOS. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but you’ll get the best experience if you use an Android phone.

Without further ado, let’s round up all the smartwatch features Wear OS has to offer:

  • Smartphone notifications: You receive the same app notifications on your device as you do on your smartphone. If a Telegram message arrives on your phone, it’ll show up on your smartwatch too. Same with Gmail, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, or any other app. You can reply to messages from your wrist using either voice dictation (easy method) or using the on-screen keyboard (advanced method). Also, swiping notifications away from your Wear OS device also clears them on your phone. This kind of tight integration with the entire ecosystem separates Wear OS from other smartwatch platforms.
  • Voice assistants: All Wear OS smartwatches offer access to the Google Assistant, again, with the exception of the Galaxy Watch 4, which only has access to Samsung’s Bixby assistant. You can trigger Google Assistant by saying the “Okay, Google” or “Hey, Google” hotwords or usually by a long-press of a physical button on your watch. Wear OS isn’t compatible with Amazon Alexa. Google says Assistant support for the Galaxy Watch 4 is coming at a later date, though we do not have a timeframe for that update. Google also promises that Assistant will be a core part of the  Pixel Watch experience when it launches.
  • On-wrist phone calls: You can answer phone calls right from your wrist on some Wear OS smartwatches. Watches with this feature need to have a built-in microphone and speaker and need to be connected to a nearby smartphone. No matter what Wear OS device you have, you’ll be able to accept and reject incoming calls from your wrist, too.
  • Contactless payments: Most Wear OS watches support Google Pay, the company’s contactless payment system. Google Pay on these devices is straightforward to use and only takes a few minutes to set up. You can learn more here. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 also lets you use Samsung Pay. A revamped Google Wallet will debut on Wear OS later in 2022.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 on a desk showing how to download Spotify music to Wear OS.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
  • Music streaming and offline music playback: Wear OS smartwatches usually come with 4-8GB of onboard storage, which you can use to download music for offline listening. Wear OS now supports music downloads from popular music services like Spotify and YouTube Music. We also recommend an app called NavMusic, which lets you easily download local music files to your watch.
  • Control music playback from your smartphone: You can control the music playing on your phone from your Wear OS watch using dedicated music streaming apps. For instance, the Spotify Wear OS app lets you control your phone’s music, favorite tracks, and more.
  • First- and third-party watch faces: Each Wear OS watch comes with a set of preloaded watch faces. Depending on the company that makes your watch, you might have a huge list to choose from, or you might need to scour the Play Store for something that suits your needs. Regardless, there are plenty of free and paid watch faces to choose from. This contrasts with the Apple Watch, which only allows for first-party (aka Apple-made) watch faces.
  • First- and third-party apps: Many of the applications you already have installed on your smartphone will be on your smartwatch when you set it up. This includes Google Messages, Google Pay, and Google Fit. Third-party apps are also a major part of the Wear OS experience. Some of our favorites include Spotify, YouTube Music, NavMusic, and Strava. You can download apps directly on your smartwatch from the Google Play Store.
  • Onboard maps and navigation: Google Maps is available on Wear OS smartwatches and allows for turn-by-turn navigation. It can be a battery hog at times, but it’s also extremely reliable. 
  • Wi-Fi+Bluetooth and LTE models: Most Wear OS devices come with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you’ll need to have a phone nearby if you want your smartwatch to act… smart. Some support LTE connections, allowing you to leave the house without your smartphone and still have access to messages, calls, and more.
  • Emergency SOS: This feature will let users tap a button to access authorities or contact friends or family in emergency situations. The feature, announced at Google I/O 2022, is landing later in 2022 in limited areas.
  • Google Home controls: Google also announced that the Pixel Watch will feature a dedicated Home app to control smart home devices from your wrist.

See also: All the new Wear OS features announced at Google I/O 2022

A Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 resting on a wooden fence displays the new Google Maps application.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The Wear OS user interface is quite simple. Your main screen is your watch face. Swipe over to the leftmost page to find your notifications. For an all-apps drawer swipe up, or swipe down from the watch face to access your quick settings.

Swipe to the left, and you’ll find tiles — a basic version of Android widgets, which give you quick, glanceable access to your most-used apps. Google recently opened up the Tiles API to third-party developers, so you should see more tiles from your favorite apps show up on your watch in the coming months.

Don’t miss: The best smartwatches you can buy

What fitness tracking features do Wear OS devices have?

A Suunto 7 displays its heat maps function, a niche fitness-tracking tool on this Wear OS device.

Because there is so much variation in Wear OS hardware, fitness tracking features vary depending on the smartwatch. Below is a list of health metrics Wear OS devices track. Some devices track all of these metrics, while other watches only track basic things.

  • Steps: Every Wear OS smartwatch tracks your steps taken throughout the day.
  • Distance: Wear OS watches track your distance traveled throughout the day, as well as during exercises like cycling, running, and swimming. Some watches have standalone GPS, which enables them to track distance accurately without a phone nearby. Some less fitness-focused watches have connected GPS, which uses a connected smartphone’s GPS to calculate distance.
  • Floors climbed: Using a barometric altimeter, most Wear OS watches can track your floors climbed or elevation throughout the day.
  • Calories: Wear OS watches track your caloric burn during rest and during exercises. 
  • Heart rate: As long as your device watch has an optical heart rate sensor, it will track your active and resting heart rate. Many of these watches can also alert you to high/low heart rate readings during periods of rest.
  • Sleep: Wear OS watches can natively track your sleep duration, stages (light, deep, and REM), and disturbances. Some watches will also give you a sleep score based on how well you slept on any given night. You can also download a sleep tracking app if you’re not a fan of tracking in Google Fit.
  • Snoring: In very specific cases, your Wear OS watch can even keep track of your snoring. This feature is among many additional sleep tools available on the Galaxy Watch 4.
  • Blood oxygen saturation (SpO2): Pulse oximetry is all the rage nowadays, and various Wear OS watches can keep track of it. Usually, watches allow you to perform SpO2 spot checks throughout the day, as opposed to them continuously tracking the metric. The Galaxy Watch 4 is also able to track SpO2 levels throughout the night while you’re sleeping.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 on a man's wrist showing the nighttime SpO2 monitoring screen.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
  • Move Minutes and Heart Points: Google Fit prioritizes two metrics that you won’t find anywhere else: Move Minutes and Heart Points. “Move Minutes” are basically the number of minutes you’re active, and “Heart Points” are earned when you perform activities at a higher pace. Google worked with the American Heart Association (AHA) to create these two goals based on the AHA’s recommendations.
  • Stress: Certain Wear OS watches can track your stress levels, usually by utilizing a metric called heart rate variability.
  • Body composition: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 has something called a bioelectrical impedance sensor (or BIA sensor) that will take a snapshot of your body composition. In this snapshot, your Galaxy Watch attempts to determine metrics like your skeletal muscle, basal metabolic rate (BMR), body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and water retention.
  • Sinus rhythm (ECG): The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 comes with a built-in ECG monitor for performing electrocardiogram tests, whenever you need them.
  • VO2 max: Some Wear OS watches estimate your VO2 max, or your cardio fitness level. This is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use at maximum performance during exercise.
  • Guided breathing: Using Google Fit, all Wear OS watches offer guided breathing exercises in case you need help calming down throughout the day.
google fit home screen
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Every Wear OS watch (except for the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, which uses Samsung Health) uses Google Fit as its primary method to track fitness and activity data. All of your steps, workouts, heart rate, and more are automatically uploaded to Google’s fitness app. You can view this data on your watch or download the Google Fit app for Android or iOS to dig into the numbers even more.

Google Fit has received mixed reviews from long-time users. Some cherish its simplicity and ease of use, while others feel the platform is too light on features. Google rolls out new feature updates to the platform every few months. However, the app is still far behind other fitness app staples like Fitbit, Strava, and MyFitnessPal. You can read more on Google Fit in our comprehensive guide linked below.

Read: What you need to know about Google Fit, Google’s fitness platform

While Google Fit is the de facto fitness app for Wear OS, some companies ship their watches with additional fitness apps. Suunto’s watch uses Google Fit for basic activity data, while workout data is sent to the Suunto app. It’s not a seamless system, but it works. Mobvoi’s watches ship with a handful of basic health apps for tracking exercise and health data, again in addition to Google Fit.

If you’re not all-in on Google Fit, remember, this is Android we’re talking about. You can always download a third-party fitness app or workout app to use with your device. Many of the most popular fitness apps on Android support Wear OS, so odds are you’ll find something that suits your needs.

Generally speaking, Wear OS watches are fine for tracking basic activity metrics and the occasional workout. We’d suggest you look at devices from Fitbit, Garmin, or other health-focused companies if you’re looking specifically for a fitness watch.

The Wear OS app

wear os app on google pixel 5
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

You likely won’t use the Wear OS app on your smartphone very often after the initial pairing process. Aside from pairing your watch to your phone, the app is basically a giant settings menu. It lets you change watch faces, add/remove tiles, edit barebones notification settings, and enable things like the always-on display or tilt-to-wake functionality. You can also check your connected watch’s battery and storage amounts.

Keep in mind, you can do most of these things right on your watch.


Fitbit and Google: What’s the deal?

A Google Logo stands out on a wall during CES 2020.

We have covered this topic extensively in our detailed Fitbit guide. To avoid repeating ourselves, we’ll give you the “greatest hits” of what’s going on now that Fitbit is officially part of Google.

Google officially purchased Fitbit, one of the world’s biggest health and wellness companies, for $2.1 billion on January 14, 2021. Google intends to utilize Fitbit’s hardware portfolio to bolster its bigger wearable ambitions. As Google’s Rick Osterloh said in the announcement, this deal is about “devices, not data.”

For now, Fitbit will continue to make wearables with Fitbit OS — the operating system that powers devices like the Versa line, Sense, and various fitness trackers — but that might not be the case forever. 

Fitbit plans to launch a Wear OS-powered smartwatch sometime in the future, though we don’t know when. We also don’t know if Google’s grand ambitions are to get all Fitbit smartwatches running the operating system in the future, or if Fitbit OS will continue to be developed as it has been. Expect new Fitbit devices to run Fitbit OS, until they don’t.

That said, it seems Fitbit could play a crucial role in Google’s future wearable plans. The Pixel Watch will feature health and fitness tracking integration borrowed from Fitbit. This includes heart rate tracking and basic activity metric smarts. Such integration could also do wonders to bolster Wear OS’ sleep tracking credentials, too. The extent of Fitbit’s involvement should become more apparent ahead of the Pixel Watch’s launch later this year.

Related: The best Fitbit fitness trackers and smartwatches

What is Google Pay?

fossil gen 5 smartwatch review google pay

Google Pay is Google’s contactless payments service. You can use the Google Pay app for many things such as paying or requesting money from friends and managing your funds. On Wear OS, the primary use is to pay for things in stores without the need to pull out your phone or your actual credit card.

Google Pay requires your device to have NFC. Most modern Wear OS devices do indeed have an NFC chip, but for some reason, there was a period of time where not all watchmakers included NFC in their devices. If you’re using an older or a cheaper device, you might not have access to Google Pay.

Once Google Pay is set up on your watch, using it is a breeze. You simply select the Google Pay app on your watch, ensure the correct card is selected, then tap your watch on the NFC terminal. It really couldn’t be any easier.

Related: How to use Google Pay: A step-by-step guide

Google Pay works with many credit and debit cards from the most popular banks. Hundreds of banks in the US support Google Pay. You can pay with Google Pay on Wear OS in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It can also be used at more than 200 transit systems around the world.

Google announced that Wallet is making a welcome return to its list of properties for Android and Wear OS. Although initially supporting payment cards only, Wallet could eventually allow users to store important identification cards on their wrists.

Problems and solutions

fossil gen 5 lte review battery percentage battery modes wear os
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

We’ve alluded to many of the Wear OS issues present in today’s build of the operating system. Since there are so many devices from so many manufacturers, we’ll stick to the main software issues present no matter which device you have.

The main issue most people have is poor battery life. Depending on which device you buy, your watch might last anywhere from 18 hours to two or three days on a single charge. Battery life was a big problem with early devices, which oftentimes had smaller batteries and old processors. Now, companies are getting smarter with battery-saving features.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many easy ways to fix the operating system’s battery drain. You can turn off certain functions like the always-on display, GPS for location, or NFC, but these are system-level features that should be able to be kept on at all times.

Many of the most prevalent Wear OS problems are out of users' hands.

Many Wear OS users also complain about poor performance. Again, this was very much a problem with early devices, but not so much anymore. Remember, your watch is not nearly as powerful as your smartphone, so you may experience an app that takes a few seconds to load every once in a while. We’ve also noticed laggy Google Assistant voice prompts on some of our units.

We polled you, dear Android Authority reader, in December 2020 to figure out which part of Wear OS was your least favorite. Poor battery life and lack of software updates were by far the top choices, followed by nearly a four-way tie between lack of hardware choices, the software interface, the limited app selection, and the overall package.

Wear OS and the competition

One of Wear OS device's biggest competitors, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus rests alongside a Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Left to right: Garmin Venu 2 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Wear OS has a fair amount of competitors from various companies from all around the world. For Android users, the biggest competition is from Fitbit with its Versa 3 and Sense smartwatches and from Garmin with the Venu 2 series. On iOS, Wear OS’ biggest competition is the Apple Watch. We won’t list out every single competitor (there are far too many), but we’ll point you toward the main devices here:

  • The Fitbit Versa 3 and Fitbit Sense are Wear OS’ biggest competitors from Fitbit. Both watches have plenty of smart features, built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and great fitness and health tracking features.
  • The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is the best Wear OS alternative for fitness tracking, thanks to its accurate sensors and crisp AMOLED display.
  • The Apple Watch Series 7 is the best smartwatch you can buy, full stop. If you’re looking for something a little cheaper but still in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple Watch SE is much cheaper and offers many of the same features.

Older Wear OS smartwatches

An older Wear OS device, a Fossil Gen 5, rests atop an open.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

We’ve covered all the current-gen Wear OS devices in this article, but what about older wearables that are no longer available or that we no longer recommend? Check out the list below to learn more about older options.

Top Wear OS-related questions and answers

Q: Can Wear OS track sleep?
A: Yes, sort of. The only way to track sleep is through a third-party application. We recommend Sleep as Android.

Q: Can I use Wear OS with an iPhone?
A: You can use older Wear OS watches, running v2.23 or earlier, with an iOS device running iOS 11.4 or later. However, Wear OS 3 does not support iPhones.

Q: How do I update Wear OS?
A: If you own a Wear OS 3 watch, navigate to Settings, then select Software update. Your watch will check for a software update. If your Wear OS device is running v2.23 or earlier, navigate to Settings, then select System, then About, then System updates. Your Wear OS watch will begin downloading a new update if one is available.

Q: What is the latest Wear OS version?
A: The latest Wear OS version running on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is R870XXU1EVA8. The latest Wear OS version for legacy devices is v2.23.

Q: Will Fitbit get Wear OS?
A: Yes, eventually. Fitbit CEO James Park announced at Google I/O 2021 that Fitbit would launch a smartwatch running the new Wear OS, though we don’t know when. Any existing Fitbit devices (Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, etc.) will remain on Fitbit OS for their lifespan.

Q: When will the Google Pixel Watch launch?
A: Google confirmed a “fall 2022” launch window for the Pixel Watch, but we haven’t received an exact date just yet.

Help other readers out

Would you recommend a Wear OS watch to friends or family members?

227 votes

Do you think Google is doing a good job maintaining Wear OS?

221 votes

How do you like Wear OS 3?

3144 votes

If you had to choose a Wear OS alternative, which one would you go with?

49 votes