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Winners and Losers: MacBook Pro’s returning ports, Pixel Watch no-show hurts Wear OS 3

From major launches to surprise announcements, it’s been another hectic week in the world of tech but we’re here to make sense of it all with our weekly column, Winners and Losers.

October is always known for being one of the most tech heavy months of the year (colloquially known as ‘techtober’), but this week has been an absolute whirlwind. Between Apple’s MacBook event and Google’s Pixel 6 livestream just a day later, very little sleep has been had by the Trusted Reviews team, but it’s all been worth it.

You could probably guess as much from the fact that the new MacBook Pro has snagged the top spot as this week’s winner, and while there’s plenty to like about the new Pixel 6 range, it was the lack of any appearance from the long-rumoured Pixel Watch that has me thinking that Wear OS 3 is in serious trouble.

Macbook Pro 2021 13

Winner: MacBook Pro

Whether you want to admit it or not – Apple is a trendsetter. While it once seemed egregious to have a phone without a headphone jack, very soon almost every flagship phone bore this trait after Apple axed it from the iPhone 7. Similarly, it wasn’t long after the reveal of the iPhone X that almost every other flagship also opted for the notch design (even though the mimicry has since evolved into hole-punch cameras).

Being a trendsetter comes with certain expectations however, as any backtracking could be perceived as a lack of direction. You can imagine our surprise then when Apple went against itself by bringing back all of the much-needed MacBook Pro ports that have been lost over the years.

Given the amount of money it takes to buy a MacBook Pro, these machines have always been meant for professionals and creatives, but the diminishing number of ports has only made the work process less efficient. To see the return of the HDMI and SD Card ports feels like a dream come true, particularly when paired with the prowess of the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

Then, to top it all of, MagSafe even made a reappearance. The USB-C system for charging MacBooks has never been as sturdy as the MagSafe units of old, but to see Apple recognise this (at a time when it’s still arguing for the existence of the Lightning port) is almost too much to take in.

Wear OS update

Loser: Wear OS 3

The world first caught a glimpse of Wear OS 3 back in May, and in that time we have only seen one device come to market bearing the software: the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. To its credit, the Galaxy Watch 4 is a very good smartwatch, but with plenty of Samsung layerings over the top it’s difficult to discern where Wear OS 3 ends and Samsung’s influence begins. To remedy this, a flagship Wear OS 3 device from Google has never felt more necessary.

This sentiment is only exacerbated by the knowledge that Wear OS 3 will be making its way to some smartwatches, like the TicWatch Pro 3 and Fossil Gen 6, but not until late into 2022. The unexplained delay in this rollout would’ve made sense if the so-called ‘Pixel Watch’ had come to market in the meantime, but as of yet the Google watch is nowhere to be seen.

My guess is that one of two things has happened here. The first is that Google always intended to release the Pixel Watch in 2022, but Samsung’s involvement in Wear OS 3 meant that the company needed to have something ready for 2021 and the Galaxy Watch 4. The second scenario is that the Pixel Watch simply doesn’t exist and Google has no plans to develop first-party hardware to support Wear OS 3. In either case, this prolonged absence isn’t helping the case of Wear OS – instead, it’s losing momentum.

At this point, Apple’s watchOS is so far ahead of even Wear OS 3 that if Google really wanted to take the company to town with a genuine competitor, it needed to happen quickly with a combined launch of software and hardware, something to show that Google and Samsung aren’t messing around. Instead, we’re now just twiddling our thumbs, waiting to see if the Pixel Watch makes an appearance at Google I/O 2022. If not, it’ll be a long wait until the eventual Wear OS 3 rollout.

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