OPINION: In my tenure as a tech journalist, I’ve tested so many Wear OS smartwatches that I’ve long since lost count of the total.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the flare that some of the fashion-led smartwatches have brought with them, Wear OS itself has always felt a bit clunky compared to the competition – that is, until now.
I’ve spent the last few days testing out the new Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, which is the first device to pack Google’s revamped Wear OS 3 (made in collaboration with Samsung, no less). With this update, it’s clear that Wear OS has finally evolved into the fluid, watchOS alternative that it always wanted to be.
From more colourful app icons to third party tiles that aren’t afraid to envelop the screen with eye-catching prompts, Wear OS powered by Samsung feels like a world away from the Wear OS watches of old. The digital rotating bezel on the Galaxy Watch 4 also makes skipping through menus feel like a breeze, much to the same extent as the Apple Watch’s digital crown.
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It also helps that the Galaxy Watch 4 hasn’t skipped over one of the most crucial parts of a smart watch – the watch faces.
As much as I applaud the company for making use of the Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset, Mobvoi’s watch faces have always felt rather dull, but the Galaxy Watch has a surprising amount of variety where no two watch faces feel the same. If you want something casual to suit a lazy Sunday, you have plenty of options, just as there are several gorgeous two-hand designs that would go perfectly with a finely pressed suit.
The only problem here is that we don’t yet know whether these facets are part of the new Wear OS, or a part of the One UI overlay that is exclusive to the Galaxy Watch 4. Because we have yet to see another smartwatch using this version of Wear OS, Samsung’s wearable is our only frame of reference.
The latest rumours suggest that Fossil’s next mainline wearable could be released in September, but even then there will be a significant delay until it’s updated with the new OS. There’s still a chance that Google could be the next company to market with its long-gestating Pixel Watch, but analysts have been wrong before about an impending release.
Until we know more, the Galaxy Watch 4 is shaping up to be the ultimate Wear OS watch to beat, but that’s no bad thing. With careful consideration, Samsung may have finally given Android users what they’ve been waiting for – a smartwatch that can compete with the Apple Watch.