Your WearOS smartwatch just got a very useful Google Maps upgrade

Google has announced some handy new features for Wear OS, including public transit directions and more.

Feb 26, 2024 - 22:50
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Your WearOS smartwatch just got a very useful Google Maps upgrade

  • Google Maps on Wear OS gets new public transit directions
  • Google Wallet passes are also finally available on Wear OS
  • OnePlus Watch 2 pioneers new battery-saving notifications system

If you own a Wear OS smartwatch, Google has just revealed some new treats that are headed to your wrist – including a useful new Google Maps feature to make your journeys a little smoother.

Announced during MWC 2024, which has also seen the arrival of watches like the OnePlus Watch 2 and Xiaomi Watch 2, the new public transit directions for Google Maps on Wear OS will let you see departure times for your bus, train or ferry on your wrist.

Previously, searching for a destination on Google Maps on Wear OS would only have shown you driving, cycling and walking options. But now you'll not only get phone-free public transit routes, Google Maps will also give you compass-guided directions to your destination. 

Two Wear OS watches on a pink background showing Google Maps directions

(Image credit: Google)

This isn't the only update that Wear OS has just received at MWC 2024. Google has also finally made Wallet passes – including things like boarding passes, gym memberships, gig tickets and loyalty cards – available on Wear OS watches.

While this is something that Apple Watch owners have had for years, it does mean owners of Wear OS watches will finally be able to see any tickets they've added to their Google Wallet on their wrist, including the QR codes that'll be scanned on entry.

Lastly, as reported by The Verge, the new OnePlus Watch 2 is pioneering a new, under-the-hood notifications system that could drastically improve battery life on future Wear OS watches. OnePlus' new wearable is the first to offload notification processing to the watch's microcontroller unit (MCU), rather than the application processor (AP).

According to Bjorn Kilburn (vice president of Wear OS by Google), this means that owners will be able to see and dismiss notifications without involving the AP, allowing the latter to remain asleep and help preserve battery life. 

As we noted in our OnePlus Watch 2 story, this and the fact that the Watch 2 is packing two chipsets, each running a separate operating system, means it has a claimed 100-hour battery life. 

That's pretty impressive considering the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, which is currently top of our best smartwatches guide, only lasts around 40 hours per charge. And according to Kilburn, other Wear OS watch makers will be able to use the OnePlus Watch 2's battery-preserving trick.  

A sign of things to come?

Two OnePlus Watch 2s on a pink background

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Wear OS has been something of a rollercoaster ride since it was announced (as Android Wear) almost a decade ago in March 2014. While it started off brightly, in recent years Wear OS has seemed a little abandoned by both Google and smartwatch makers.

Fortunately, it's now enjoying something of a revival. These new features might not be earth-shattering, but they show that Wear OS is still being tended to and upgraded. And the arrival of new watches, most notably from OnePlus and Xiaomi, show that it isn't just Samsung and Google that are keeping it afloat.

On the downside, Wear OS is still a pretty inconsistent experience. The OnePlus Watch 2 remains one of the few smartwatches to be running Wear OS 4, with even recent alternatives like the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro running Wear OS 3.5.

Last month, we also saw Fossil announce that it's quitting smartwatches, which wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement of Wear OS and its ability to compete with the Apple Watch. Still, at least we don't have Samsung further diluting its potential with Tizen-powered smartwatches, and hopefully these new Wear OS updates are just the start of some bigger upgrades to come in 2024.

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