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WatchOS 10 proves Wear OS will always have to play catch up

OPINION: While Apple’s 2023 WWDC event will undoubtedly be remembered as the night that Apple finally unveiled its long-awaited VR/AR headset (now known as Apple Vision Pro), I found myself enamoured with the Apple Watch updates coming from watchOS 10 to the point where I realised something: there’s just no way that Wear OS can catch up now.

Before the Android camp raises its pitchforks, let me caveat that I really love Wear OS 3. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5, and while it didn’t receive quite the reception that Google was looking for, I still enjoyed my brief time using the Pixel Watch.

The problem is that watchOS is so far ahead of the competition that it feels like it’s playing a completely different ball game.

Even just to look at the overview of watchOS 10, it’s hard not to be impressed. Eligible devices will soon get to enjoy new features including completely redesigned apps that make better use of the screen, two new watch faces – one of which includes cartoon superstar Snoopy, tracking that ensures you’re spending enough time outdoors and most impressively, Smart Stack for Apple Watch, which is as close to a widget-style system as the wearable has ever had.

That’s just a few of the main features coming to the Apple Watch courtesy of watchOS 10, and the update will be available to devices stretching back as far as the Apple Watch Series 4. By comparison, a ton of wearables that were released just prior to the debut of Wear OS 3 never received the update, bringing the longevity of those devices into question.

Snoopy on Apple Watch

In the time since, it’s been a slow push to bring Wear OS 3 to market and admittedly, the software is leagues better than Wear OS 2 – the Galaxy Watch 5 and the Pixel Watch feel like modern wearables, and the tiles system for quick app access has never looked better.

During its recent I/O event, Google announced that it was actively working on Wear OS 4 which will include a few major updates for Google’s in-house apps on wearables. This is great to hear as it’s the type of smooth baseline functionality you’d want on a Wear OS device, but it’s the type of functionality that Apple’s had in the bag for years now.

The fact that Apple can spend a decent chunk of its watchOS 10 presentation talking about Snoopy animations should tell you just how confident the company is about the prowess of the Apple Watch, and unless Google seeks to aim for a similar yearly update cycle for Wear OS, I just don’t see how the platform could ever hope to catch up.

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