Wear OS 2018

Google clobbers Pixel Watch rumours

Image: Google

4 September 2018

With barely a month to go until Google holds its annual Pixel event, it seems as though one of the most anticipated announcements won’t be happening. In an interview at Miles Barr, director of engineering for Wear OS, told tech website Tom’s Hardware that Google won’t be releasing a watch this year, as had been previously rumoured.

We’ll likely never know whether the project was cancelled, delayed, or simply never existed, but the fact is that we haven’t seen any leaked Pixel Watch shots because there weren’t any to take. So now there probably won’t be any surprises at the event since we’ve already seen every square inch of the Pixel phones.

Google shocked the wearable world last week by announcing the first major update to the OS formerly known as Android Wear in nearly two-and-a-half years. It brings new navigation, smarter shortcuts, and a renewed focus on Google Assistant.

What it doesn’t do is change the overall issues with Wear OS. While Apple is continually revising its watchOS for utmost glanceability and touch efficiency, Google hasn’t really done much to evolve Wear OS. Despite the new name, the features in the latest version – which Google is purposefully not calling version 3, according to Barr – will certainly enhance Wear OS, but there’s nothing about it that’s going to change anyone’s perception of Google’s wrist-sized OS.

There’s still lots of tapping, swiping, and scrolling, and while the Assistant integration adds a new layer of information, it doesn’t seem to make it any easier to use. And Google has yet to figure how to optimise Wear OS for circular screens like Samsung has.

Back to the drawing board
Based on Barr’s comments, it seems Google is just as clueless about wearables as every other Wear OS watch maker. When asked about a possible Pixel Watch, Barr pointed to the Wear OS revamp as the direction Google would take if it were to renew its efforts into making a watch.

“Our Google Pixel line of phones is the best experience and Google’s take on it, so I imagine we would focus heavily on the Assistant to integrate AI and machine learning into the device, which is Google’s forte,” he said. That speaks volumes about Google’s smartwatch mindset. Assistant is certainly important on a watch, and machine learning could go a long way toward enhancing battery life and boosting health and fitness features, but neither needs to work the way they do on our phones.

Pixel-style AI and ML could work in small doses, but we don’t need our watches to be miniature clones of our phones. And with the new update to Wear OS, that’s exactly what Google is trying to do.

That might be fine on a phone, but vital information on our watches should be visible without needing to tap or swipe. The leaked Apple Watch Series 4 image might seem like overkill, but it shows that Apple gets it. If it takes more than a few seconds to use your watch, that’s too many. Until Google can make a Pixel Watch that adds significant value to the Wear OS world – as it did with the Pixel phones – there’s just no reason to release one.

None of this speaks to Wear OS’s biggest problem: design. Looking at the Pixel 3 leaks, Google dashed hopes that it would make a svelte watch that didn’t look ridiculous on most wrists. When Google first took on co-designing credit with the LG Style and LG Sport watches, what we got were a bundle of compromises and poor choices.

Even Barr understands that: “To think of a one-size-fits-all watch, I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said. “Our focus is on our partners for now.”

Maybe Google never considered a watch. Or maybe it decided that it couldn’t do anything better than what was already out there. But whichever the case, at least we won’t have to be disappointed by anything other than the Pixel 3’s notch.

IDG News Service

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