While smartglasses and other wearable tech have failed to gain much ground, smartwatches have managed to carve out a decent niche. Once largely dominated by Apple, Google’s Android Wear opened up the world of smartwatches to analog watchmakers thanks to its accessibility, leading to a broader range of products hitting the market from around 2014 onward. Android watch owners have been patiently waiting for Google to roll out its Oreo update for the devices and a recent announcement from the company solidified which brands will get the upgrade.
Compared to Android Wear 2.0, the Oreo update for smartwatches is only a modest functionality improvement. While 2.0 improved the UI and notifications, added a keyboard, handwriting recognition, standalone apps through the Play store, and other game changing features, Oreo mostly adds small quality-of-life tweaks that while minor, are certainly appreciated. The OS is being slowly released after single and relatively brief beta.
Confirmed changes include the ability to adjust vibration strength for all notifications, an optional mode to extend battery life, and an all-new touch lock feature that should prevent accidental activation by rain and other inclement weather. Switching the watch to energy saving mode will disable location services, vibrating notifications, mobile and wifi usage, the always-on display, and application updates. Furthermore, this mode can only be engaged when the battery begins to dip, so don’t expect to run in energy saving mode all the time. The OS also adds support for an additional seven countries and languages, which should open up some fresh markets for devices that receive the update. New regions covered include Honduras, El Salvador, Paraguay, Nigeria, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Belgium.
The update has been available since at least last week but unfortunately for many users, the release schedule varies depending upon the watch’s manufacturer. This week’s announcement, however, does give a clear picture of who can expect Oreo, although not precisely when. The list mostly, though not exclusively, covers designer brands, with watches from Fossil, Michael Kors, Casio, Hugo BOSS, and Louis Vuitton all getting the upgrade. While the LG Watch Sport will get Oreo, the older LG Watch R isn’t currently slated, nor are Huawei’s first watch and older Moto 360 models on the list. All told, while the Oreo update for watches isn’t anything groundbreaking compared to what it offers for smartphones, it still offers a fair bit a functionality, but users with devices not on the list won’t be missing out on much.