Although it is present on a wide variety of smartwatches from an equally wide variety of brands, Wear OS still seems to have less traction and a weaker hold on the smartwatch market. Some point to the slow adoption of up-to-date hardware, like the most recent Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset, while others blame the seemingly slow-paced development of Wear OS itself. There’s also the disappointing lack of support for third-party experiences, something that Google will finally be addressing this year with third-party Tiles.
Tiles have been available on Wear OS since 2019 and are almost the equivalent of Android’s home screen widgets. This would allow users to simply swipe left or right from the home screen to get quick access to information or basic controls. Compared to having to launch an app to see the weather, control music, or even read messages, Tiles offer a more convenient and faster way to get the information of action they need.
Unfortunately, while Wear OS as a platform has had support for this functionality for almost two years, it has strictly been limited to first-party Tiles created by Google. Granted, these may cover some of the most basic functionality users need and even some exclusive partnerships Google may have with third-party apps and brands but they are far from being enough. The third-party app ecosystem is dying to get their hands on Tiles and Google is finally listening to their pleas.
Starting with a Wear OS update coming in Spring, Wear OS will have support for third-party Tiles. Right now, however, developers can already start testing it out with the alpha version of the Jetpack Tiles library. Google is also providing some documentation and examples to get developers started.
This is definitely big news for the Wear OS platform though it remains how much it will help improve its image both for developers and especially for users. There will most likely be a mess at first with third-party Tiles popping up left and right but that might be a better scenario than the stagnation that Wear OS seems to be suffering at the moment.