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Soon you’ll need Wear OS 3 to run Google Assistant

Soon you’ll need Wear OS 3 to run Google Assistant

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Sunsetting Assistant on Wear OS 2 makes sense now that Wear OS 4 is here, but it’s been a messy transition.

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The Fossil Gen 6
At least the Fossil Gen 6 has everything now.
Photo by Dieter Bohn / The Verge

If you’re still holding onto a Wear OS 2 smartwatch, it may be time to consider making the leap to Wear OS 3. In the latest update to the Wear OS 2 companion app, 9to5Google spotted a string urging users to upgrade to Wear OS 3 because Google Assistant support is “ending soon.”

Users are reporting that they’ve begun receiving notifications, and after initial publication, Google spokesperson Ivy Chen told The Verge that “The last day Google Assistant on Wear OS 2 devices will work is August 31, 2023.” Google declined to share any future plans beyond that.

The planned deprecation of Google Assistant illustrates how messy the transition to Wear OS 3 has been. Google Assistant was among the highlighted features when Google and Samsung announced the platform in May 2021, but it didn’t actually appear on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 series until a year later. It was then available on the Pixel Watch, but Fossil only got Assistant this summer.

Even today, not every Wear OS 3 watch has Assistant yet. The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5 has Wear OS 3 and the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 Plus chipset but still lacks Assistant even though Fossil now has it. There are workarounds, but you can’t download the official Assistant app yet in the Play Store. Meanwhile, folks with eligible Wear OS 2 Mobvoi watches are still waiting for the upgrade to Wear OS 3.

Complicating matters is the fact that Wear OS 3 is also about to be old news. Wear OS 4 was announced earlier this year at I/O, and Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 6 was the first to feature the platform when it launched this month. It’s also expected that the Pixel Watch 2 will launch with Wear OS 4 when it arrives alongside the Pixel 8 later this fall. Assistant was available on the Galaxy Watch 6 when I reviewed it, and it’ll presumably be available on the Pixel Watch 2.

As for whether Assistant will be available on non-Google and Samsung smartwatches? At least some of that will come down to the device makers themselves. Chen tells The Verge, “Wear OS allows device makers to customize their user experience on top of the platform including selecting their preferred apps and services as the default experience.”

It makes sense that Google would sunset Assistant on Wear OS 2. The digital assistant became buggier over time, and using Assistant on Wear OS 3 is a much better overall experience. The company has made a concerted effort to support and bring new features to Wear OS 2 during the transition period, but the last thing Android smartwatches need is even more fragmentation. Wear OS 4 is available (albeit on a single smartwatch) even though Wear OS 3 hasn’t fully rolled out to all eligible Wear OS 2 watches. Google hasn’t officially released upgrade details from Wear OS 3 to Wear OS 4. That’s confusing enough.

Switching from Wear OS 2 to Wear OS 3 was a massive undertaking, so a messy transition was sort of expected. But we’re two years in now. If Google is starting to actively phase out Wear OS 2, everything about the path to Wear OS 4 has got to be clearer.

Update, August 16th, 1:05PM ET: Added users are starting to see these notifications on Wear OS 2 apps.

Update, August 17th, 9:48AM ET: Added statements from Google.