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Google’s Wear OS update for offline audio has me re-hyped about smartwatches

I’ve been turned off smartwatches for a while now. Whether it was their poor battery life and uninteresting design, I’ve found I much prefer the simplicity and elegance of my analogue timepieces. Since the pandemic though, things have changed.

In order to get out the house and avoid screens, I now walk about 10km a day, time I use to catch up on audiobooks and podcasts. Thing is, I’d like to do this while leaving my phone at home. I’ve finally found my reason to get a smartwatch — and Google has just made this decision easier.

The company is working on a major update to its Wear OS platform to make the offline audio experience for wearables far slicker and more useful later this year.

You’ll basically be able to download music and podcasts on apps like Spotify and YouTube Music to your watch, so you don’t need to carry your phone along for your morning stroll. As someone who hates strapping on a 6.7-inch phone to their arm in a sweaty holder thing twice a day, this will be a godsend.

Here’s Bjorn Kilburn, the director of Product Management for Wear, talking about YouTube Music on smartwatches (starts at 2:38):

For those wondering if this sounds familiar, let me clear the air: as The Verge noted, a few pricey Garmin and Samsung wearables supported offline Spotify music storage and playback, and LTE-equipped Apple Watch models can stream tunes too.

This development changes things. It opens up the possibility of listening to your audio on a wider (and hopefully cheaper) range of smartwatches, as well as consuming less power since they won’t need an LTE connection to stream content from the cloud.