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Future Wear OS update could finally make the smartwatches real Apple Watch rivals

Wear OS
Wear OS (Image credit: Future)

While Google regularly updates its Android smartphone operating system, it's not as good at servicing its Wear OS smartwatch operating system - however at long last Wear OS wearables might be getting a big update to how they work.

On the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) website, XDAdevelopers spotted mention of Wear Tiles API, suggesting third-party tiles support could be coming in the near future. So what does any of that mean?

Tiles are basically menu faces on Wear OS smartwatches - you swipe from the main face through them, and they show you things like fitness information, alerts, calendar notifications and more. 

However Tiles only show you information from Google apps, and if you want to use third-party apps like Spotify or Strava, you have to go into the app list to find them. Third-party tiles, as this AOSP hints towards, would let developers create Tiles for their apps to be easily accessible on the home watch faces.

Taking the fight to Apple Watches

Google's biggest software rival is Apple, as the former makes Android and Wear OS while the latter makes iOS and watchOS. When it comes to smartwatches, Apple Watches tend to be more popular than wearables offering Wear OS.

That's in part because Apple Watches offer easier integration to the range of apps and services third-party developers provide, letting you customize your smartwatch experience more readily with various apps. That's not as much the case with Wear OS, as while there is a Play Store for extra apps, the lack of tiles stops them being part of the core experience.

However if Google does go ahead with this Wear OS update, and lets developers create third-party Tiles, Apple's advantage there could fizzle into dust.

Of course, right now there's no confirmation that Google actually is working on opening Tiles up - a line in AOSP falls far short of official comment. We can only hope.

Tom Bedford

Staff Writer, Phones

Tom's role in the TechRadar team is as a staff writer specializing in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness trackers and more.