Google is picking up mostly good reviews today for the Wear OS update that’s started rolling out to smartwatches, which as we reported a few weeks ago is a refresh focused on simplifying the interactions, giving you easier access to the information you need. Generally making the watch feel almost brand new.
You can also argue that with this update (which includes now being able to swipe right from the main watchface to bring up a helpful Google Assistant feed), Google is accepting some limitations. Thankfully, it’s not trying to be as ambitious as Apple, which as we all saw has set out a lofty vision for its watches that’s unconstrained by something as basic as using the device to present the time and other data. We say thankfully, because it would be foolish for Google to try something similar since its device partners, in the words of a reviewer from The Verge, have tended to crank out “technically deficient devices.”
Google is forced, in other words, to do the best it can with the hardware it’s left with. And in its attempt to produce a smarter, simpler interface, it generally succeeds.
Dennis Troper, director of product management at Google for Wear OS, explains in a blog post how the update is meant to make it “easier to browse, dismiss or take action on your notifications with the new notification stream. Simply swipe up to see all your notifications at once. See an important message? Just tap to select a built-in smart reply without even leaving your stream. Swipe down on your watch to get quicker access to handy features and shortcuts like Google Pay or ‘Find my phone’.”
Some reviewers have argued the most significant change to the interface is the single swipe gesture that brings up many of the watch’s key features as a result of the update. Speaking of that update, you can see if one is ready for you by going to your watch’s “Settings,” tapping “About” and then hitting “System updates.”
Overall, Dieter Bohn writes in The Verge, the update is nice and “lays a better foundation for future upgrades.” He doles out the praise with a bit of reservation, though, noting (as do other reviewers) that while the update “is enough to bring me back to using a Wear OS watch without gritting my teeth … it’s not enough to make me want to get a new one.” So, you know, there’s that.