Reviews - May 8, 2023

Wear OS 4: What’s new, One UI 5 Watch, and more

Surprisingly, Google introduced Wear OS 4 along with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 in August 2023. Watch 6 was the first wearable to run One UI 5 Watch based on Wear OS 4. Meanwhile, the Pixel Watch 2 is the first smartwatch to run stock Wear OS 4.

Many Android watches are still waiting for new wearable platform updates, but some new releases come with the OS out of the box. For example, the OnePlus Watch 2 runs Wear OS 4 out of the box.

So, while there are plenty of watches with Wear OS 4, and countless others waiting for the update, let’s talk about the software itself. What exactly does Wear OS 4 offer, and how does the One UI 5 Watch differ from the stock Wear OS found on the Pixel Watch 2?

We’ll break it all down and explain how Wear OS 4 improves the best Android smartwatch on the market.

Wear OS 4 release date

View the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic and Galaxy Watch 6 side by side

(Image source: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Google launched Wear OS 4 along with the Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic on August 11, 2023. A few months later, on October 12, 2023, the Pixel Watch 2 was launched with a basic version of the OS. This was also the time when Google started. We’re releasing stable builds of Wear OS 4 to other Android wearables, including the latest generation Pixel Watch.

In conjunction with Samsung’s adoption of Wear OS 4, many of the previous generations of the Galaxy Watch family have already received the One UI 5 Watch update. Both the Galaxy Watch 5 series and Galaxy Watch 4 series are equipped with the latest One UI 5 Watch based on the Wear OS 4 update.

Wear OS 4: What’s new

Google Tasks widget on Google Pixel Watch 2

(Image source: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

As announced at Google I/O 2023, Wear OS 4 adds apps for Gmail and Google Calendar for the first time. Now you can “quickly respond to emails… check your calendar, view and reply to events, and update task status” from your wrist.

Other additions include a new WhatsApp Wear OS app and new updates to Spotify, including tiles focused on podcasts, most played songs, and an in-app DJ. Google Home has new controls, like the ability to unlock your smart lock or check your Nest Doorbell feed from your wrist.

One of the bigger changes is the new Wear OS Watch Face Format, created jointly by Google and Samsung. Unlike the existing Jetpack watch face, which required constant optimization for better battery life and performance, the new watch face uses a “declarative XML format” instead of actual code. Wear OS itself renders the watch face, so developers “no longer have to worry about code optimization or battery performance.” You can customize your watch face, complete with custom design and behavior.

Photo watch faces on Pixel Watch

(Image source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Finally, Google has finally brought a smoother data transfer option to the Pixel Watch and Pixel Watch 2. Users can now back up and restore their data in Wear OS 4. You can back up your Galaxy Watch, but owners of stock Wear OS watches have been requesting this feature for years.

Additionally, Google says app permissions are “automatically carried over” from your Android phone during the Wear OS watch setup process.

As with other Wear OS 4 updates, new changes like ‘Power Optimization’ not only help apps run more efficiently than in Wear OS 3, but also improve new data types in health services. By default, third-party apps can access more health sensor data as long as you enable the permission first.

One UI 5 Clock

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 close-up

The One UI 5 Watch is technically unrelated to Google’s version of Wear OS 4. Because the Samsung version is several months ahead. However, One UI 5.5 Watch is based on the final Wear OS 4.

First, One UI 5 Watch adds irregular heart rate notifications based on the heart rate monitor. Samsung’s FDA-cleared AFib detection feature directs the Galaxy Watch 5 (or other models) to take an ECG for a more direct reading.

Next, the new Sleep Insights UI features a redesigned sleep score and improved sleep coaching, and the watch no longer flashes a green LED when it detects the potential for sleep, a frequent complaint from users. It also now offers menstrual cycle tracking using a skin temperature sensor.

On the fitness side, Samsung has integrated personalized exercise intensity levels and heart rate zones. It also implements fall detection and better SOS features. For Galaxy Watch 5 Pro users, you can now install running and hiking maps for your workouts with direct access to the GPX map database.

Despite Samsung lagging behind Apple in the fitness department, these features are certainly a welcome sign that it’s taking fitness software more seriously.

The Galaxy Watch series also comes with three major new Wear OS apps: an improved Samsung Wallet app, WhatsApp, and ThermoCheck.