Google Maps just got a huge update for Wear OS smartwatches

A photo of the black 40mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 (Image credit: Basil Kronfli / TechRadar)

Google Maps just got a massive upgrade for Wear OS smartwatches: it can now work without a smartphone, provided you have an LTE model with a cellular network.

Those of you using some of the best Wear OS smartwatches out there – the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 LTE model or the Google Pixel Watch LTE – can get navigation data from Google Maps without needing to pair your watch with a smartphone. That means the next time you want to head out on a stroll, a jog, or a bike ride you won’t need to take your phone with you to know where you’re going.

Non-LTE Wear OS smartwatches can take advantage of the Google Maps update too as long as they’re connected to Wi-Fi. But unless you’re traveling around a major city it’s unlikely you’ll have a stable enough connection to take full advantage of the feature.

Google Pixel Watch face

The Google Pixel Watch 4G model will now run Google Maps without a phone (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

To use the new Google Maps tool you’ll want to open the app on your Wear OS smartwatch, enter a destination using your voice or the keyboard, select how you want to get there (either on foot, by bike on in a car), and then hit start and head out on your trip. 

While the Wear OS version of Google Maps lacks some of the smartphone version’s functionality – you can’t get information for routes using public transport for now – it does have one neat add-on. If you have enabled mirroring and have started navigation on your smartphone only to leave it behind, your watch will be able to take over and give you directions so you can finish the journey – though this is admittedly a relatively niche use case.

If you’ve been weighing up the pros and cons of opting for an LTE smartwatch versus a (typically cheaper) non-LTE variant, this new Google Maps update gives you another reason to opt for the former over the latter. If you always struggle to find a comfortable place to put your android phone whenever you’re on a run or a bike ride, this Maps improvement will likely serve you well (and give LTE models an edge). 

On top of that, you’ll also be able to take advantage of other LTE benefits, including the ability to receive calls and messages without your phone, and to listen to music from some of the best music streaming services – you’ll just need to remember to get a data plan for your watch.

Though the latest update may have caused problems for your Google Pixel Watch Alarms.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.