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Google Assistant’s Wear OS tile is now available with customizable shortcuts
On both Wear OS 3 and Wear OS 4 watches, the Google Assistant tile provides access to the Assistant with a swipe, but the useful element here is instead the ability to add custom shortcuts that are accessible without an audible voice command or typing.
The tile, which first showed up on Pixel Watch 2 last week for us and is now appearing on the original Pixel Watch as well (still on Wear OS 3), has two slots for custom shortcuts. These can do virtually anything, from a simple request for the day’s weather to even handling smart home controls. Google lists out a bunch of suggested actions:
- Set an alarm for 7 a.m.
- Send a message
- Set a 5 minute timer
- What’s on my calendar?
- Turn off the lights
Alternatively, you can set a fully custom request or question using voice or the QWERTY keyboard.
The actions themselves work almost instantly, with a command for turning off the lights taking about 10 seconds to process and actually shutting down my Philips Hue lights. But once the actions are set, you have to fully remove the tile to set new actions.
As mentioned, this appears to have been rolling out for a week or so at least. It works across Wear OS 3 and 4 and should work on Pixel Watch, Galaxy Watch, and any other modern watches. Assistant on Wear OS 2 was taken offline over the summer.
Wear OS 4 says it has a built-in internet browser, but you can’t really use it
On Google’s Pixel Watch series, the Wear OS 4 upgrade is now showing that the platform has a built-in internet browser, but it’s actually a bit more complicated than that.
Wear OS 4 brings only a handful of user-facing perks to the Android-based smartwatch platform, such as the ability to “transfer” a watch between devices. In the Settings, another new feature is the ability to set a default internet browser for the system.
Of course, Wear OS has pretty infamously lacked browser apps for a while. There’s Samsung’s internet browser and a few other options, but Google Chrome isn’t offered.
With Wear OS 4, though, “Wear OS” now appears as the default system browser unless you swap it for something else. That “browser” doesn’t really seem to do anything, though, and isn’t even showing up for all users. Our Dylan Roussel says that, even on Wear OS 4, “Wear OS” doesn’t appear under the list of browser apps at all on his watch.
And, beyond that, the “app” doesn’t appear anywhere else. It’s not in the app drawer, and appears to only work to accept clickable links from other apps that are intended to be opened in a browser.
Our best theory at the moment is that this “browser” might be used to just redirect links over to a paired smartphone, but we haven’t been able to prove it just yet.
But, this ultimately isn’t all that important.
It’s exceedingly rare for Wear OS apps to feature clickable URLs. Even the Gmail app automatically forces you to use links from the app on your phone. So whatever functionality there is here, it won’t be used often, if ever. The bigger perk, it seems, is support for setting a default browser for the entire system, as those who do wish to use a browser on their wrist will be more easily able to interact with any links they do encounter with the browser of their choice.
Google rolling out Wear OS 4 to the original Pixel Watch
With this year’s model less than a week old, Google is now rolling out Wear OS 4 to the original Pixel Watch.
The 2022 Pixel Watch has not seen an update yet this month, with TWD4.2301005.002 also bringing the October security patch. Google’s previous “later this year” timeline suggested Wear OS 4 was not coming this soon.
Google is highlighting six tentpole features of Wear OS 4 in addition to “numerous bug fixes, battery improvements and performance updates for Pixel Watch users.”
Backup and restore — with Google One — preserves watch faces, Tiles, data, and other settings if you’re getting a new watch or have to reset an existing one for whatever reason. It goes hand-in-hand with watch transfer:
When you upgrade your Pixel phone, you can now easily transfer your Pixel Watch to your new phone without having to factory reset it. Your devices will be synced and ready to go.
Meanwhile, Google Calendar is pre-installed and should replace the Wear OS 3 “Agenda” experience. You’ve been able to download it from the Play Store since last week. There’s also Google Tasks integration, Tiles, and complications.
In terms of Personal Safety features, you get Safety Check, Emergency Sharing, and Emergency Info. Open the app to set things up, with the latter accessible by holding down on the crown.
Keep your most important medical info easily accessible on your wrist or sent to participating emergency services(2) in the event of an emergency with Medical ID Info. Have peace of mind when you’re walking home alone at night, on an early morning run, or in any other situation where you need a little safety net, with Safety Check and Emergency Sharing.”
There’s also Accessibility & customization and Enhanced notifications:
- “New and improved customization capabilities, like a new text-to-speech engine supporting a faster, a more reliable TalkBack experience on your watch, bold text, new and improved magnification, and audio balance to adjust intensity of sound between right and left audio channels.”
- “Notifications come with smart link recognition of phone numbers and addresses, allowing you to tap to call, message, or get directions. Embedded media previews let you quickly view images and GIFs without leaving the notification shade. These enriched alerts provide more information upfront so you can take action faster.”
Google says the “rollout will continue over the coming weeks in phases depending on carrier and device.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, repeatedly tapping “Your watch is up to date” does not pull down the update.
Google and Qualcomm working on RISC-V chip for Wear OS
RISC-V is an open-source alternative to ARM and x86 that’s getting a big boost today with a Google-Qualcomm partnership to develop a “RISC-V Snapdragon Wear platform that will power next-generation Wear OS solutions.”
Qualcomm refers to its chips as platforms and sums up the benefit of RISC-V as such:
As an open-source instruction set architecture (ISA), RISC-V encourages innovation by allowing any company to develop completely custom cores. This allows more companies to enter the marketplace, which creates increased innovation and competition. RISC-V’s openness, flexibility, and scalability benefits the entire value chain – from silicon vendors to OEMs, end devices, and consumers.
Not having to be an ARM licensee for its cores and other designs would be the big appeal. Qualcomm describes this move as an “important first milestone to bring RISC-V compatible CPUs to the Android Ecosystem,” with Google picking Wear OS as the best place to start.
Both are touting “custom CPUs that are low power and high performance.” Work by the Wear OS team and Qualcomm is already underway, but “commercial product launch of the RISC-V wearable based solution timing will be disclosed at a later date.” The two want to “ensure that applications and a robust software ecosystem for RISC-V will be available for commercial launches.”
“Qualcomm Technologies have been a pillar of the Wear OS ecosystem, providing high performance, low power systems for many of our OEM partners,” said Bjorn Kilburn, GM of Wear OS by Google. “We are excited to extend our work with Qualcomm Technologies and bring a RISC-V wearable solution to market.”
In the meantime, Qualcomm says it will “continue to invest in Snapdragon Wear platforms as the leading smartwatch silicon provider for the Wear OS ecosystem,” so it sounds like the successor to the 2022 Snapdragon Wear W5 and W5+ will presumably still be ARM-based.