Wear OS 3.0 upgrade hopes dashed yet again by uncertainty

Google has taken users of its smartwatch platform on an adventure these past few weeks. It dangled the promise of what could be the biggest update to Wear OS yet but then opted to remain mum on any update plans until later this year. Smartwatch makers didn't help matters by being just as ambiguous about updating existing smartwatches to what is now unofficially dubbed Wear OS 3.0. Qualcomm has tried to remove doubts about the capability of its Snapdragon Wear chipsets to run this upgraded experience. Still, Google itself may have doused some cold water on that again by implying it might not be the case.

As Google itself says, the situation isn't exactly clear-cut, even on a technical level. Just as with Android, there are many layers and parties involved in developing the Wear OS platform, and any one of those can be the source of a holdup. In other words, it's too early for either Qualcomm or manufacturers to make promises they might not be able to keep.

Qualcomm unsurprisingly claims that the 2018 Snapdragon Wear 3100 can support whatever features Wear OS 3.0 may have. Reviews of smartwatches using this processor, however, don't put it in a favorable light and there remains some doubt on whether it can handle the heavier load. Google, it seems, thinks likewise.

In response to XDA's report on Qualcomm's statements, Google says that it hasn't confirmed any eligibility or timeline for updating existing Wear OS smartwatches, all but two of which run on that older processor. It also says that user experience is its top priority and wants to ensure that this user experience is optimized.

Google won't throw its partner Qualcomm under the bus, of course. However, reading between the lines suggests that it might be looking at more powerful and more recent chipsets like the Snapdragon 4100 and 4100+. There are only two smartwatches that use these processors so far, the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 and the newer TicWatch E3, and it would be a terrible shame if they don't get upgraded to Wear OS 3.0.

But even if Google and Qualcomm give the green light for Wear OS 3.0 on Snapdragon Wear 3100 devices, the ball will still be left in OEMs' courts. Upgrading these devices is no small task, especially for smartwatch makers not used to such processes. They are, unfortunately, more likely to abandon older devices and just put Wear OS 3.0 on upcoming devices instead.