Google’s Pixel Watch and Samsung’s Galaxy Watch5 may be based on the same Wear OS 3.x platform, but they won’t get the same level of software support. According to a very revealing Wired interview with Björn Kilburn, Google’s director of product management for Wear OS, the Pixel Watch is set to receive three years of software updates.
On the other hand, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch5 will get four years. The explanation for the discrepancy is that, starting with Wear OS 3.x, Google is no longer in charge of updates for the wearables it doesn’t make. Previous versions of Wear OS had all their updates coming from Google, and that sounded great in theory, but didn’t really do anything for more timely releases in practice.
So with Wear OS 3 going forward, each smartwatch maker is responsible for its own updates. Not just that, but connectivity too – past Wear OS versions all used the same Wear OS by Google phone app to connect to the watches, but now every manufacturer has to develop their own app for pairing. That’s definitely not an issue for the likes of Samsung, which had smartwatches on other platforms before, but may prove a barrier to entry into the Wear OS ecosystem for smaller companies, or simply those that aren’t willing to allocate a ton of resources for something like this.
Google’s Kilburn says the company’s intention is to release a new version of Wear OS every year, with quarterly updates also coming to bring “new experiences” throughout the year in between the bigger increments.
He unfortunately couldn’t clarify the strange situation where the Pixel Watch comes with the Fitbit Wear OS app but not Google Fit preinstalled, even though the latter is available for all Wear OS devices through the Play Store. Will one of those apps be folded into the other in a few months’ time? We’d wager, given Google’s history, that’s pretty much a given. But at this point there’s no official word on any of that.
If you have a smartwatch running Wear OS 2 and using the Snapdragon Wear 4100 or 4100+, you’re probably wondering what happened to Google’s promise of delivering the update to Wear OS 3 in 2022. That’s apparently still the plan, so you should get it “later this year”.