Android Wear is gone, primarily as a name for Google’s wearable operating system, which now goes by Wear OS for devices running it.

Often times, a name change also comes with a new set of features or some other iterative shift in usability. That’s not necessarily the case here because the biggest changes already rolled out when Google released Android Wear 2.0 to smartwatches and wearables running the platform.

As a result, the changes are largely visual. The Wear app for Android and iOS has an updated look to reflect the new name. Setting up a Wear OS smartwatch is slightly different in that it’s a more streamlined process to pair it to a phone and transfer Google account information over.

Getting the Wear OS update

Google has announced up to 33 watches eligible to get the Wear OS update. Specific Michael Kors, Fossil, Guess Connect, Movado, Skagen, Nixon and Tommy Hilfiger models will be among the first to get it. It will take a few weeks for every user to get the update, so if you don’t see it now, you will get it in due time.

Bear in mind that it doesn’t matter whether you have your Wear OS watch paired with an Android or iOS device. Part of the reason for this rebrand may be because of the fact Wear OS doesn’t always require an Android device to work. The iPhone is one of the more popular devices you can use with it.

If any apps you have on your Wear watch need an update to go with the new look, they will probably get it around the same time. It may also be possible that apps won’t need to undergo any change at all.

Developer preview

Google rolled out a feature for Wear OS earlier this year called Dark mode, and it’s mostly an aesthetic design cue. What it does is make the background black for the launcher and notification stream.

It may not sound like much, but it may have been a test to gauge how effective it would be to make it more permanent in other parts of the OS. The Android P developer preview, which is a beta of the successor to Android Oreo (the current and latest Android version available), was released, and it includes a peek into what Wear OS might include later.

Using more of the dark mode throughout Wear OS should help improve battery life. Helping a watch last longer per charge could be one of the main focuses moving forward. Google has revealed that the Android P update will turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular connectivity when you’re not wearing the watch.

Another cool perk is that the watch won’t stay connected to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at the same time if there’s no need for it. For example, when disconnected via Bluetooth, the watch won’t automatically connect to a known Wi-Fi network unless it needs to for downloading content or a system update.

Wearing Wear OS

I don’t know how many smartwatches will get the update to Wear OS in total, but you can bet that any newer ones coming out this year will run it. Android P will probably launch in the fall.

If you have a smartwatch running Android Wear 2.0, you pretty much have all the main functionality already. However, your watch may not get an update to Wear OS or Android P. It may depend on how old your watch is and whether the manufacturer supports it or not.

It probably goes without saying, but bears repeating for some: Samsung smartwatches and wearables don’t run on Wear OS, but rather Tizen, Samsung’s own OS. So this update has no impact on any of those products.

Check out the latest smartwatches and wearables available now, and if you’re not sure whether a certain model will be supported or not, leave a comment below. I’ll be sure to confirm for you.

 

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

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