Apple has the iPhone and Apple Watch while Google backs Android smartphones and Wear OS devices. These are extensions of their ecosystems and each have functions or apps that can work across smartphone and wearable. What happens if you want to to use a Wear OS smartwatch and you own an iPhone? You can and I’ll discuss how to connect the two.
Google’s approach in Wear OS is to enable more manufacturers to make watches and, in turn, allow for greater compatibility with various Android smartphones and the iPhone. Wear OS has apps that will work with Android phones and with Apple iPhones. This cross-platform approach enables a number of standard features to work regardless of what mobile device you choose to use, albeit with some limitations.
Because of this, many older Android Wear and current Wear OS devices can work on iPhones. While this is good news for iPhone users and gives them a wider choice of wearables to pair with their devices, it isn’t as ideal a pairing as using an Apple Watch, here’s why.
Wear OS is quite different. It relies mostly on Google Now, and also embeds a few standalone services like Google Fit Health tracking, messaging and other functions. Wear OS devices like the Fossil Q, Movado Connect, Fossil Q Explorist, Nixon Mission and Movado Connect smartwatches can connect with and work with the iPhone.
iPhones that support Android Wear watches are the iPhone 5, 5C, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus or SE on iOS 8.2 or higher. Wear OS Watches can be supported by iPhones running iOS 9.3 or later.
How to connect and set up Wear OS on an iPhone
1) Install the Wear OS app from the App Store, make sure your Wear OS smartwatch is charged.
2) Once the app is installed Add a new Wear OS watch. The iPhone app should generate a code which will be mirrored on the smartwatch.
3) The Wear OS app will need access permissions for contacts and connectivity.
4) The Wear OS app might need to update software on the smartwatch.
5) You’ll get a notification once both devices are paired.
Once this is done, you’ll have an opportunity to update the watch to the latest software, with a likely Android Wear tutorial that will explain how to use the watch, including shortcuts and various controls you can utilize.
What does Wear OS on the iPhone offer?
Apple doesn’t allow competing app stores to work on its devices; you must use Apple app store. Consequently, there may be complications with a Wear OS watch paired with an iPhone.
The good news is that Wear OS is mostly about Google Assistant, so accessing the ‘Ok, Google’ feature from your Wear OS watch will work just fine. That makes it possible to run most Google Assistant features and queries.
If notifications are one of the reasons you use a smartwatch, most notifications from your iPhone, regardless of what apps they’re tied to, will likely work on your Wear OS watch. The bad news is that while you do receive notifications, you will not always be able to respond through text or via voice, even if your Wear OS device supports it.
In my experience with a Guess Connected watch and iPhone X, I received all of my notifications from SMS, iMessage, Calendar, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, CNN, FIFA World Cup and CityNews apps, among others.
Incoming calls can be answered or dismissed using the Android Wear watch (but you will need to use your phone to talk, as most Android Wear smartwatches don’t offer speakers).
For music controls, Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music and YouTube can be controlled using the watch, but album artwork and other artist details aren’t always transferred accurately. You can also enable the tilt to wake gesture on the Wear OS watches, which makes it possible to block notifications with a simple gesture.
For health tracking, the Wear OS devices will track steps and give basic measurements and metrics from Google Fit but this is strictly limited to the wearable and doesn’t translate to Apple Health. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity because the information is already tracked and available.
While being able to use Wear OS devices on an iPhone is convenient, the experience may feel limited if you’re used to the full suite of features you can now enjoy when using Wear OS in tandem with an Android smartphone. Health tracking, notifications, smart home control and Google Assistant are all work as expected.
The good news is that Wear OS owners still have basic functionality available to them should they opt to pair their Wear OS smartwatch with their iPhone.