Wear OS gets more Google Assistant features ahead of I/O

I/O doesn’t actually kick off until next Tuesday, but Google’s been steadily trickling out news this week. Perhaps it’s priming the pump for next week’s big event, or maybe the company just had more news than it could cram into a couple of keynotes. Whatever the case, today brought some new additions to the wearable operating system formerly known as Android Wear.

It’s hard to say how much energy Google is going to put into Wear OS in the coming week, but in the meantime, it’s getting some solid Assistant updates. The pairing of the two offerings is a no brainer, of course. Siri’s proven an important driver for Apple Watch, and a workaround for the whole small screen issue.

Google added its own Assistant to Android Wear last year, and is continuing to refine the experience with some key updates. At the top of the list is smart suggestions, which offers followup questions based on context. Ask Google what the weather is, and it will offer up followups for additional days’ forecasts.

Assistant’s wrist worn counterpart can also offer up voice answers through a pair of connected headhones. The update, which is rolling out over the next week or so will also bring Actions to the wearable OS, meaning much more more third-party control. Now users can, say, preheat an LG smart oven from the comfort of their own wrist.

There’s nothing really earth shattering here, but it’s nice to see Google continuing to give Wear OS a little love ahead of I/O. The operating system has failed to make much headway as the wearable category has seemingly plateaued for everyone who isn’t Apple at this point. Hopefully the company will have even more to show off on that front next week.

Android Wear is becoming ‘Wear OS by Google’

Android Wear hasn’t exactly been the rocket ship of success Google was no doubt banking on when it was launched four years ago this week.

After a slow start, the company issued a 2.0 refresh of the wearable operating system in early 2017 — but the update was fairly minimal and didn’t appear to move the needle. A few months after the new version was announced, Tizen overtook Wear in global market share, courtesy of Samsung’s adoption of the open operating system.

Perhaps Wear needs a new coat of paint — or at the very least, a new name. It’s getting the latter today. Google announced via blog post that Android Wear is now Wear OS. Or, more accurately, Wear OS  by Google.

“We’re announcing a new name that better reflects our technology, vision, and most important of all—the people who wear our watches,” Wear OS Director of Product, Dennis Troper said in the post. “We’re now Wear OS by Google, a wearables operating system for everyone.”

Watch making conglomerate Fossil Group appears to be behind the spirit of the rebrand.

In 2017, Fossil Group nearly doubled its wearables business to more than $300 million, including 20 percent of watch sales in Q4,” the company’s Chief Strategy and Digital Officer, Greg McKelvey said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “And we expect to see continued growth in the category. Many of our smartwatch customers are iOS users, so we are confident in and eager to see the added benefits that both Android and iOS phone users globally will experience as Wear OS by Google rolls out in 2018.”

The news comes ahead of BaselWorld, next week’s big watch and jewelry show in Switzerland. For now, the change doesn’t appear to involve much more than the rename, though the company may be saving additional details for the big show. Android Wear hasn’t been much of a focus at Google in recent years. The company added iOS compatibility back in 2015, casting the net wider than Apple’s offering. And while more than 50 watches have been released for the operating system, it has yet to take the wearables world by storm.

Perhaps the rebrand marks a new-found focus at the company, as it looks toward smartwatches as rare bright light in the stagnating wearables category. Then again, perhaps a name change is just a name change. The Wear OS name will be rolling out to the app and watch over the course of the next few weeks, according to the company.