Google confirms Wear OS 5 will have better battery, new features, new running metrics & more

 The Google Pixel Watch 2 on a wrist.
The Google Pixel Watch 2 on a wrist.

We've been counting down the days until Wear OS 5 makes its debut, and following on from Google's IO's Wear OS panel today (May 15), we have a much better idea of what to expect from the wearable platform.

Wear OS 5, based on Android 14, will see several headline features come to some of Wear OS's best smartwatches, such as the Google Pixel Watch 2. Chief among them is a big increase in battery life, with up to 20% of power saved when using GPS and running a marathon.

Elsewhere, there are new running metrics that apps can track, including Ground Contact Time, Stride Length, Vertical Oscillation and Vertical Ratio, similar to the metrics introduced by Apple on WatchOS 9.

Google IO 2024
Google IO 2024

Apps will also be able to log and monitor your health data while running in the background via Google's Health Connect system, instead of only reading the data each time the app is opened in the foreground.  Health Connect is essentially a bridge between apps that use your health data, writing to the same repository and sharing that data between themselves.

History reads will allow users to enable apps to read Health Connect data stretching further back than the current 30 days. If you allow an app access to history reads, you can offer it your entire historical health data. This could be useful for setting longer-term fitness goals, tracking historical health changes, or passing on information to a doctor or loved one. However, it could also be construed as fairly invasive, depending on the ap

The Developer Preview is live now, and introduces many of the biggest improvements in this year's release. Google makes no mention of when exactly Wear OS 5 is coming, but we expect it will arrive with the Pixel Watch 3.

Wear OS 5 progress bars complications
Wear OS 5 progress bars complications

New Watch Face Features

The Watch Face is getting a facelift, too (pun intended), with Flavors. These are preset configurations that can be customized by developers and offer an instantly usable option to refresh your watch face.

Complications will offer "goal progress" and "weighted elements" types, letting you follow a sectioned progress bar while you work towards a task [LIKE WHAT], and a new glanceable Weather widget is possible with Wear OS 5, too.

They'll all scale better for larger displays, too. Google notes that "With the momentum surrounding Wear OS, we’re seeing a wider variety of round screen sizes and resolutions, which provides more choices for the user." To that end, new guidelines have been issued that will help developers build UI variants that take advantage of larger displays.

It'd be fair to say these are all "nice to haves", but there's nothing that's going to make users rush to install the developer preview or get excited about.

The kind of monumental improvement we're craving, a marriage of hardware and software, could come with Google's second event later this year that would showcase new hardware, including a new Pixel Watch 3 model. That's not to say the improvements from Wear OS 5 aren't great, it's just that they're not exactly likely to shift units. Still, this is a developer-focused event, rather than a consumer one.

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