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WhatsApp comes to Wear OS, instantly makes my Pixel Watch more useful
WhatsApp is finally available as a native app on Wear OS smartwatches like the Pixel Watch and Galaxy Watch 5. The app is still in beta, but those of you who are registered testers will be happy to know that it does nearly everything you’d want from a messaging app on your wrist, including support for voice messages — hallelujah! In an instant, this app has made my Google Pixel Watch infinitely more useful in my everyday life.
- WhatsApp has released a native app for Wear OS smartwatches.
- The app is only available for beta testers for now.
- Listening to and recording voice messages is supported, as well as several other excellent features.
How to install WhatsApp on the Pixel Watch and other Wear OS smartwatches
To install WhatsApp on the Pixel Watch, Galaxy Watch 5, or other Android smartwatches, you need to be a beta tester. Join the WhatsApp beta program, then wait a little bit until the Play Store app on your phone validates your beta status. After that, you can simply search for “WhatsApp” on the Play Store either on your smartwatch or your phone and tap to install it.
Once installed, open the app on your watch and you’ll get a Continue on phone message with an 8-digit pairing code. On your phone, a WhatsApp notification pops up and asks you if you’re trying to link a new Wear OS device. Tap Confirm, then enter the 8-digit code you see on your watch.
The pairing process takes a few seconds, after which you’ll see Wear OS among your Linked devices on the phone and all your chats will start loading on the smartwatch. Check the screenshots below for both the phone and watch steps.
What does the WhatsApp smartwatch app offer?
Until now, we could technically use some WhatsApp features on our smartwatches via notifications, but they were limited. Receive a message and reply to it — that’s it. The native WhatsApp app on the Pixel Watch and other Wear OS watches offers a vastly superior experience, starting from the fact that you can now see all your chats and all your messages, not just new notifications. This means you can consult older chats as well as initiate messages, instead of only replying.
The app’s main view lists your last 10 chats with a quick preview of the last message in each one. Scroll down, and you’ll be able to Load more chats or go to Settings. The latter are pretty meager for now: You can view your profile photo, number, and status, but you can’t change any of them. Then there’s the option to enable or disable Security notifications, which lets you know when people change their phones for example. You can also Logout of the app.
Tap on a chat and you’ll be able to scroll back to read all the messages in it. Emojis, photos, and stickers are supported, but unfortunately, GIFs and videos show up as a Message unsupported bubble. At the bottom of the chat, you’ll find the option to open the conversation on your phone, see who’s in it (handy for group chats), and two icons: one to record a voice note and another to type a text message. The latter opens up Wear OS‘s default text input, which lets you use the keyboard, emojis, or voice-to-text.
WhatsApp brings my most wanted smartwatch feature: voice message support
I’ve already explained why audio clips or voice notes are essential to the messaging experience on a smartwatch for me, but the gist is that in my culture, people use these a lot. We speak Lebanese Arabic, we set our phones to French or English, and we type in the Latin alphabet using transliteration (standard Arabic is too formal for most chats). This creates a confusing situation where recording a voice note is often easier and faster than typing a message. It’s especially true for older people, those who are functionally illiterate, or anyone who’s frequently on the move — and we’re on the move a lot.
In my case, I’d say about 50% of the messages I receive and 30% of those I send are voice recordings, and I know the situation is the same for a lot of people across the Middle East, Asia, South America, and Africa. So you can imagine why support for this feature is crucial for my — and other people’s — smartwatch messaging experience. Without it, I lose access to half of my conversations.
And that’s why the new native WhatsApp app is infinitely more useful than the previous notification-only experience. Now, when I get new messages, I can expand the notification and if there’s a voice message, I can tap to Open on watch. This lets me play the audio clip at 1x, 1.5x, or 2x speed using the speaker that’s built into my Pixel Watch. I can also reply straight from my wrist. Recording is simple and I can always delete the message if I change my mind.
I no longer have to fumble to get my phone and unlock it when I want to listen to or send voice messages. I can do it directly from my watch and, in less than a day, this has elevated my messaging experience on my Pixel Watch. Of course, it works on other Wear OS watches too, like the Galaxy Watch 5.
WhatsApp brings a few extras to its Wear OS app
When I installed the WhatsApp app on my Pixel Watch, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the developers didn’t skimp on features and implemented a few extra Wear OS capabilities too. One of them is complication support. When you tap to edit any watch face, you’ll be able to pick the WhatsApp complication, which shows the app’s icon as well as the number of unread chats. This also creates a quick shortcut to launch the app straight from your watch face — neat!
The other is tile support. The app comes with two new tiles that you can add to your rotation, one showing shortcuts to your last five chats, and one letting you send a voice message to your three most recent chats. Again, both of these are super handy.
Will you install WhatsApp on your Wear OS watch?
For those of us who use WhatsApp a lot on our phones and rely on it for most of our communications, the new Wear OS app is an excellent complement. It eschews the reaction-only paradigm of notifications and brings the essential parts of the WhatsApp experience to the wrist while elevating the messaging experience on smartwatches. If only the Pixel Watch display was bigger to allow me to see more messages — maybe with the Pixel Watch 2?