One Google I/O announcement would fix the gaping hole in Wear OS

Google IO 2023 stage

Sunday Runday

(Picture credit score: Android Central)

On this weekly column, Android Central Wearables Editor Michael Hicks talks in regards to the world of wearables, apps, and health tech associated to working and well being, in his quest to get quicker and more healthy.

Google I/O 2024 arrives this Tuesday, and we count on a Put on OS 5 announcement. The final three I/Os gave us a large Put on OS 3 overhaul (2021), a Pixel Watch reveal (2022), and a Put on OS 4 preview (2023). After two bombshells, final 12 months’s wearable information was extra perfunctory, so I am crossing my fingers for a bounce-back 12 months with a long-overdue health repair to Put on OS. 

We all know that Put on OS 5 is on the I/O schedule, with a chat on “Constructing for the Way forward for Put on OS.” Google would possibly deliver up the brand new Hybrid Interface that offers Put on OS watches longer battery life, or maybe it’s going to announce plans to deliver Put on OS watches into the brand new Discover My community. 

We’d see Gemini coming to Pixel and Galaxy Watches, given I/O’s possible AI focus. And maybe we’ll get a glimpse of the Pixel Watch 3, even when it will not arrive till the autumn.

These all appear to be honest bets on your Google I/O bingo card. What’s much less possible, however nonetheless vital, is that the Put on OS workforce declares a correct OS-wide alternative for the dying Google Match. Perhaps that is Fitbit, perhaps not; it simply must be one thing

The Health Connect promotional image from the Android Developers Blog

(Picture credit score: Google)

The Google Match API shuts down subsequent 12 months in favor of “Android Well being,” a brand new API with common information classes like steps, distance, and energy. Designed to work with Well being Join, it’s going to seamlessly switch information between apps, with the power to export area of interest information like blood glucose or strain as soon as watches begin monitoring them.

Sounds nice, in principle! In follow, it nonetheless creates a vacuum the place Google Match used to sit down as an agnostic possibility. You may switch information, however you continue to want an finish vacation spot, and most health apps are designed to lure you of their ecosystem and cost you a charge. Sure, the Google Match app remains to be accessible, however the writing is on the wall for the app to get the boot now that Google has turned its consideration to Fitbit. Samsung Well being is the closest “common” and unpaid different, although that app is simply accessible on Samsung smartwatches.

One might argue that well being and health apps are a key means Put on OS watches differentiate themselves from each other lately, because it appears to be the massive draw for the Pixel Watch. Additionally, these firms promote your well being and health information to advertisers, and a common app would possibly stop smaller manufacturers from profiting. So, with a common health app expertise, how would Put on OS watches stand out from one another?

Smartwatches around a smartphone with the Google Fit logo

(Picture credit score: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

When Samsung joined Put on OS, Google did not insist that it abandon its personal apps, UI, and distinctive method; leaving Samsung Well being because the default possibility is a part of that. As for different manufacturers, they may not need their apps to need to compete with Fitbit or Samsung Well being. 

That does not change the truth that the Put on OS model suffers from this fragmentation. Each non-Samsung/Google watch has a proprietary app that is often stripped down in comparison with what devoted health watches provide, akin to exercise suggestions and restoration instances. The identical goes with Apple Health Plus, with its widespread exercise movies.

As a substitute, we noticed how OnePlus’ first Put on OS providing — the OnePlus Watch 2 — had points with well being sampling, whereas Fossil deserted Put on OS for good as a result of it could not sustain on the software program entrance with its woefully lackluster Wellness app. With out extra assist from Google, I am not sure what number of third-party manufacturers will get away of their small niches.

Google Pixel Watch next to an Android phone showing a Fitbit Daily Readiness Score.

(Picture credit score: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

What is the resolution? My first plan is easy sufficient and would make for a splashy Google I/O announcement: Say Fitbit is coming to all Put on OS watches with Put on OS 5, both by way of the Play Retailer or instead “default” possibility — the identical means you possibly can select between Bixby or Google Assistant on a Galaxy Watch. 

Sure, this makes Put on OS watches extra uniform. Nonetheless, well being information is simply as important for a great smartwatch expertise as Google Assistant or apps; Samsung prefers its customers to make use of the Galaxy Retailer or Bixby, however no less than there are dependable Google options. 

So far as how Put on OS watches would stand out, there are nonetheless different methods to distinguish between completely different fashions of their design, shows, UI, and so forth, with out leaving well being and health as this Wild West market.

This transfer would additionally give the struggling Fitbit model an even bigger profile with Android customers. I might even counsel that Google compensate companions like Mobvoi or OnePlus by slicing them in on the income for any Fitbit subscriptions purchased on their watches after the trial interval ends. 

The OnePlus Watch 2 and Pixel Watch 2 worn on left and right wrists

(Picture credit score: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

My different resolution would play into Google’s love of renaming providers that fulfill the identical objective: Simply make “Android Well being” an app like Google Match. Give it some fundamental targets and training, make it free, and let folks use it as a waystation between their Put on OS watch and whichever proprietary health app they like.

Finally, I count on Google to supply one thing like “Gemini Coach AI,” which seems to be at your well being information and offers you suggestions on sleep, coaching, and restoration. However until that is one other Fitbit unique to promote Pixel Watches, then it’ll nonetheless want a uniform Put on OS health expertise. 

We’ll see if Google I/O 2024 has a health shock in retailer for us this 12 months, Fitbit-related or in any other case. All I do know is that, in some unspecified time in the future, Google’s alternative to depart its Put on OS companions to fend for themselves on well being and health — the primary precedence for lots of Android watch patrons — might backfire on them.

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