Google, You Should Already Know How People Feel About Wear OS

Google, You Should Already Know How People Feel About Wear OS
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Google I/O is a little more than a week away and it appears the company is sending out surveys to Wear OS users. Why? To ask them how satisfied they are with their smartwatches. If you hear a strange sound in the distance, it’s not the sound of cicadas rising from their 17-year slumber. It’s the disbelieving, slightly hysterical laughter of anyone who’s had to actually use Wear OS in the past two years.

The survey, which was spotted by Redditors and Android Central, prompts users by asking “Help us improve Wear OS by Google?” It then takes them to a survey that asks them, “Overall, how satisfied are you with your smartwatch?” Other sections of the survey focus on what users like and dislike about Wear OS and other smartwatches, and what features they most want from a smartwatch. It also asks about what fitness activities they engage in, and the sort of smart home devices they use. And, for some reason, it also asks “What is the last day of December?” There’s also a Google Form version of the survey, in case you’re too impatient for the thing to pop up on your phone.

On the one hand, this is another in a series of small signs that Google is at least semi-serious about breathing new life into one of its most neglected platforms. On the other, it also wouldn’t be a Wear OS initiative if the survey also didn’t appear for some users at all. That, and when it comes to Wear OS we’ve all been burned by hope before.

Still, Google has got to be aware on some level of how frustrated users have been and the general perception of its platform. Case in point, smartwatches were a hot item during the pandemic as more people flocked to wearables to help keep them fit and healthy in lockdowns. Wear OS was the only platform that didn’t get a boost in terms of market share. I mean, Google, you even put Apple first when developing the YouTube Music app for smartwatches. That was in October. There still isn’t an official Google music app for Wear OS, an egregious oversight given that Google also shut down Google Play Music months ago.

The problems facing Wear OS are systemic. Even though Qualcomm introduced a new SoC for the platform a whole year ago, exactly one smartwatch — Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 — uses it so far. Wear OS smartwatches that debuted this year, including an LTE flagship from Fossil and whatever it is Montblanc is shilling, all feature the last-gen Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip.

No Wear OS watch, even with rapid charging, is going to last you more than a day and a half — and that’s without advanced features like ECG, SpO2, in some cases NFC payments, and LTE. Google Assistant, one of the main draws for a Wear OS smartwatch, was borked for months. It’s a platform that technically functions on a basic level, but there are serious cracks in the foundation that have yet to be addressed.

It’s not as if everyone’s kept quiet all these years, either. These are all issues that reviewers and users alike have written about extensively in articles and forums that Google could, ironically, google. So while it’s encouraging that Google is issuing a survey, it feels a lot like “too little, too late.” Even so, there’s reason to believe that perhaps this year’s Google I/O holds something in store for the world’s most neglected smartwatch platform.

For starters, there’s at least one session about adding third-party Tiles to Wear OS on the schedule. Last week, Google also launched its first new app for Wear OS in years. Sure it was the incredibly underwhelming Gboard, but hey, maybe they’re saving the big guns for I/O. Last month, we also saw alleged renders of a possible Pixel Watch. Was it super impressive? Nah, but it’s something and potentially a sign that we might soon see the fruits of Google’s acquisition of Fitbit. Plus, people can’t seem to shut up about the fact that the next-gen Samsung smartwatches are likely to return to Wear OS. And now, we have a user feedback survey.

None of these things mean much on their own. But together, in such rapid succession, it could signal that a major change could be announced soon. And good lord, no other wearable platform needs good news like Wear OS.