After Google and Samsung announced that they were collaborating with build a new Wear OS, was the biggest unanswered question about whether existing smartwatches could upgrade to the platform. Today, Google clarified which smartwatches would be eligible a support forum for Wear OS—And if you have an older Android watch running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip, you may want to start thinking about your options.
But first, the post also reveals that the unified platform will officially be called Wear OS 3 – a gift from technologyh journalists who have run out of ways to write “new Wear OS.” Samsung and Fossil have said their coming watches is running Wear OS 3, but upgrades for other qualified devices will not come until mid-2022 at the earliest.
“User experience is a top priority for us, and we’re excited about the interest we’ve gained in Wear OS 3, the new unified platform,” Google wrote. “For the previous generation of Wear OS smartwatches, a system update to Wear OS 3 will provide the benefits of many of the new experiences, and in some limited cases, the user experience will be affected.”
The previous generation of watches that can be upgraded to Wear OS 3 include Mobvoi’s GPS and LTE TicWatch Pro 3, TicWatch E3, future TicWatch devices, as well as the next generation of Fossil smartwatches. All of these are, or will be, 4100-powered smartwatches. This does not bode well for the Snapdragon Wear 3100 smartwatch, especially since Fossil has confirmed that its existing 3100 smartwatches will not be upgraded.
Upgrading to Wear OS 3 will require qualified smartwatch owners to reset the devices to factory settings. The company said it will provide further details before the update.
The company also stressed that the current version of Wear OS is not going anywhere, as it expects that many Wear OS smartwatch owners may not be eligible for the upgrade or wishes to upgrade immediately. Google also said it is committed to bringing “new app experiences” to Wear OS, pointing to recent updates to Play Store and Gboard. More updates as they are reportedly on the way. Crucially, it finally clarified that current Wear OS smartwatches will receive security updates for at least two years from the device’s launch.
It was clear that the transition from Wear OS to Wear OS 3 was going to be a journey. As I have written many times before, there is simply no easy way to completely renovate or update some platform. (See: Sonos’ handling of its older products.) In the case of the Wear OS, an open ecosystem led to a fragmented space that could not really thrive due to Qualcomm’s outdated and outdated Snapdragon Wear chipsets. This is also not something that just started in 2021. Google’s renewed pressure on portable devices undoubtedly began in early 2019, when it bought $ 40 million in fossil technology.
Today’s announcement and recent news that Qualcomm plans to make release a new Snapdragon Wear platform the next year, hints that it will once again boil down to hardware and patience. Knowing that some user experiences may be affected, it is likely that even the 4100 platform may not be suitable for everything Wear OS 3 provides. This shows up if you investigate 4100s specifications. In 2021, as companies get ready to jump from 5 nm to 3 nm process technology for their smartwatch chips, the 4100 is still dependent on ancient 12 nm process technology. This is a significant improvement from the 28 nm 3100, but it has been over five years since 14 nm and 12 nm chips were considered “new.” Unfortunately, Google does not control which hardware is available for Android smartwatches. It’s at Qualcomm.
So is Wear OS 3 doomed from the beginning? No. A potentially uneven transition is a bad reason to write off Wear OS 3 too soon. Growing pain is inevitable, but it is actually a good sign that we find out about qualification almost a year in advance. Now we know what to expect, there seems to be a real commitment to long-term improvement, and consumers have time to see what will work best for them.
There is another crucial difference this time: Samsung. For the next generation Galaxy Watches, Samsung has reportedly developed an Exynos chip exponentially more powerful than any Snapdragon chipset Qualcomm has ever made. This is a big reason why Samsung’s smartwatches are likely to be a more accurate gauge of Wear OS 3’s potential than 4100-powered smartwatches. We need to see what comes out of Qualcomm’s delayed efforts to make a chip that is not rubbish.
For consumers, this means examining the processor that powers your next Android smartwatch. No, I repeat, not buy a new Snapdragon Wear 3100 smartwatch – even if the discounts are tempting. If you already have a 3100-powered watch, you have a few options. The easiest way is to keep your watch, stay on the current Wear OS and use new options when they become available. Or if you need to upgrade earlier, you can choose one of Samsung’s next-generation smartwatches or an affordable 4100-powered smartwatch. In any case, you do not need to make this decision now. A reminder: Upgrades will not be available for existing watches until mid-2022 or later. You have plenty of time to consider it.