The big underlying story of Samsung returning to Wear OS for the Galaxy Watch 4 was apps.
Samsung wanted an OS that could offer a decent selection of apps. And Google, without the weight of big numbers of smartwatches running on OS, was struggling to excite developers to create top-class app experiences for Wear OS.
The quality of apps has been one of the major transformations in the eight generations of watchOS, and a big draw to the Apple Watch. It’s something we spoke to Apple VP Kevin Lynch about – who explained how it took a long time to discover how people used apps on the wrist.
And this marriage of convenience between Samsung and Google has taken little time to swing into effect.
Google has updated its guidance for developers on how to create better app experiences, specifically for Wear OS 3. It seems as if Wear OS 3.0 apps will now face much bigger scrutiny, and a two-tier system of apps is about to come into effect, with a better experience for Wear 3.0 devices.
The new YouTube Music app for Wear 3.0
Google has clamped down on even the most basic apps, requiring standards for notifications, including direct reply features, that should drag up the standard of all apps in the Play Store.
There’s also ‘better’ and ‘best’ recommendations, which dictate the need for apps to support all types of display, use specific APKs and decree how the app is marketed on the Play Store.
And there’s a deadline of 13 October, for developers to ensure their app stay on the Play Store.
But there’s already evidence of the renewed interest and focus in Wear OS and Samsung taking effect.
Sleep Cycle has launched for Galaxy Watch 4 on Wear OS, and Samsung has also launched its own Walkie Talkie app for the platform, too. That’s for Galaxy Watch 4 only right now (not surprising given it’s the only Wear 3.0 device), as is the new Google Maps and YouTube Music apps.
Google has revamped the Messages app for all Wear devices.
Strava has announced it’s ending support for its Wear OS 2x app, and it will now focus its efforts onto Wear 3.0.
And Telegram has also pulled its app from the current Play Store, although nothing has been announced for Wear 3.0.
But while Google is working hard on Wear 3.0 apps, it’s going to take time for there to be any devices to use them on.
Aside from the Galaxy Watch 4, Wear 3.0 isn’t due to land on any non-Samsung devices until 2022.
Unpicking the past mistakes of Wear OS and creating a better future is certainly not going to be a quick process.