Wear OS at I/O 2021 gets a much-deserved upgrade

Although it naturally announced a lot of new things across its many products and services, Google I/O this year also highlighted some of the often ignored parts of its empire, specifically the various incarnations of Android thought to have been forgotten. Although there was some inkling about it, the collaboration between Google and Samsung over Wear OS was definitely a pleasant surprise but that was just the tip of the iceberg of what smartwatch fans can expect, hopefully really soon.

The unification of Wear OS and Tizen's wearable form is promised to bring many benefits, although there seems to be a bit of silence about Tizen-based apps making their way to Wear OS. Perhaps as part of Samsung's requirements, however, Google says that manufacturers will be able to create customized user experiences on top of Android Wear. This mirrors the current practice on Android and could set off a new generation of Wear OS skins, starting with Samsung's One UI, of course.

Wear OS will also be gaining some behavioral changes, like the ability to quickly switch back to a previous app with a double press of a button, presuming the smartwatch even has one. Google is also making it easier for developers to create Wear OS experiences, from the Tiles API that was recently opened to the public, to a virtual heart rate sensor for testing health apps.

Samsung isn't the only new partner in the new Wear OS world, though Fitbit can hardly be considered a partner since it is practically owned by Google. Fitbit's health and wellness expertise will be coming to Google's wearable platform where it will compete with Samsung's health and wellness expertise, also coming to Wear OS.

Google is expanding Wear OS' apps roster and, at long last, YouTube Music is coming to Google's own wearables, years after it should have. Additionally, Spotify also announced that its Wear OS app will soon allow downloading music and podcasts on smartwatches to support offline playback. Suffice it to say, it's an exciting period for Wear OS and, hopefully, Google will be able to keep up the pace.