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Wear OS is revamping notifications to improve battery life

Alongside the OnePlus Watch 2, Google is announcing a new, more power-efficient hybrid notification interface for Wear OS.



Wear OS is revamping notifications to improve battery life
Wear OS is revamping notifications to improve battery life

Google just announced a handful of new Wear OS updates at Mobile World Congress 2024. At the heart of it is a way of handling notifications that will purportedly improve performance and battery life. Wear OS watches are also getting public transit directions in Google Maps as well as Google Wallet passes.

Since 2018, Wear OS watches generally have had an application processor (AP) to handle power-intensive tasks and an ultra-low-power co-processor microcontroller unit (MCU) for always-on tasks like step counting and heart rate. The update will let wearable makers offload notification processing to the MCU. That includes the ability to read and dismiss notifications as well as send quick replies.

This capability was added specifically for the OnePlus Watch 2, which was also announced today, but Bjorn Kilburn, vice president of Wear OS by Google, says other companies will be able to use it going forward. “The OnePlus Watch 2 is the first Wear OS device to implement the hybrid interface for bridged notifications, enabling the user to view and dismiss notifications on the MCU without waking up the AP. This allows the high-performance AP to stay asleep more, further saving battery life,” says Kilburn. OnePlus’ second-gen watch will purportedly get up to 100 hours on a single charge.

Wear OS is still very much a fragmented ecosystem. Wear OS 4 was announced in May 2023, but the OnePlus Watch 2 will be the first Wear OS 4 smartwatch not made by Samsung or Google — everyone else is still on Wear OS 3. Plus, Fossil — which largely kept Wear OS afloat during the dark years — recently announced it was throwing in the towel on smartwatches entirely.

Despite this ongoing fragmentation, Google still seems committed to adding small improvements to Wear OS as a whole. Google Wallet passes will now be accessible from the wrist, including boarding passes, event tickets, gym memberships, and loyalty cards. You’ll also be able to look up bus, train, or ferry times from the wrist as well as get guided public transit directions.