Google IO 2021 schedule holds a promising hint for Wear OS smartwatch users

Google IO 2021
(Image credit: Google)

One of the biggest complaints of Wear OS users is that the Google-designed smartwatch operating system rarely gets updated with new features or changes. However that might change soon, as one anticipated feature looks like it's about to become all the rage.

From May 18, Google IO 2021 takes place - it's the company's annual convention where we'll probably see Android 12, the Pixel 5a smartphone and more. As well as a keynotes speech there are three days of talks, designed for developers who design apps for Google's various platforms, and one of them is about Wear OS.

This talk, entitled 'Create your first Tile in Wear', is the one in question. Judging by the name, it's designed to help app developers create tiles for Wear OS smartwatches.

Tiles are different watch faces you can choose with specific functions - first unveiled in 2019, they let you see things like the weather forecast, event reminders and similar. They've always been for first-party Google apps, but a rumor in late 2020 suggested third-party apps could soon get tiles too.

These would let you access loads of extra functions on your smartwatch, based on popular Wear OS and Android apps - perhaps you could get greater Spotify control, browse your Instagram feed from your wrist or maybe even access your printer (though we're just making up functions here).

Why this is news

The presence of the talk, likely intended to help app developers create Wear OS tiles, seems like a huge hint that third-party Wear OS tiles are coming soon.

After all, developer upkeep is the key hurdle for Google in getting third-party tiles on Wear OS smartwatches, and if the software designer can easily talk developers through the process of designing a tile, that could encourage more people to work on the feature.

It's impossible to say for certain, and especially to predict a time scale, but the existence of this talk has us hopeful for the future of Wear OS smartwatches. Hopefully soon we'll see many more apps and functions on our wrist.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.