Wear OS 5 will triple down on battery life

Wear OS 5 is on its way, and with it, Google says Android smartwatch users ought to see even better battery life. Running a marathon, for example, will purportedly consume 20 percent less battery than on Wear OS 4.

This emphasis on battery life is similar to last year’s Wear OS 4 announcement — and for good reason. Wear OS 4 helped the Pixel Watch 2 last an entire day, something the original struggled to do. That improved battery life has seemingly bought some goodwill. Google says that, in the last year, the Wear OS user base grew by an impressive 40 percent across 160 countries and regions.

Of course, we’ll likely have to wait until Samsung’s next-gen Galaxy Watch and the Pixel Watch 3 this fall to see how this improved battery life translates into real-life usage. Wear OS updates typically come to those new watches from Samsung and Google before they come to third-party or older hardware.

Weather is getting more detailed.
Image: Google

On top of better battery life, Google also mentioned some improvements coming to watchfaces. The big thing is Google’s adding some more useful complications. That includes ones that let you view goal progress, weather, and “weighted elements.” The weather complications include things like current conditions, temperature, UV index, and chance of precipitation. Meanwhile, weighted elements appear to be a pie chart-like complication for multiple datasets — something you might expect from a health app where you track multiple goals in a day. Other updates were mostly to make things easier for developers, such as providing new guidelines on how to build UI for larger, round displays. Also mentioned were easier ways to test fitness features, like auto-pause and resuming exercises.

On the health front, Google’s Health Connect platform will get a few new tricks, too. For instance, you’ll be able to pull data while a third-party app is running in the background. You’ll also be able to pull historical data beyond 30 days.

As for fitness features, Wear OS 5 is adding support for more advanced running metrics like ground contact time, stride length, vertical oscillation, and vertical ratio. These are pretty common metrics on multisport watches from Garmin and Polar, and Apple also added it in watchOS 9.

Much of this is stuff that other smartwatch makers already nailed down a while back. But while Google still has to play a bit of catchup, it is encouraging to see the gap steadily closing. Less encouraging is the fact that it appears the fragmentation of Wear OS continues. Last year, Google launched Wear OS 4 before Wear OS 3 had fully rolled out to everyone else other than Samsung and Google. Ostensibly, we’re about to see the same thing happen with Wear OS 5. And while it would be nice if we could expect every Wear OS watch to get these updates in a timely manner, it’s a decent hint at what we might see on the Galaxy Watch 7 series and the Pixel Watch 3.

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