When Pebble announced it was on its way out, iOS users were left with one less viable smartwatch option. But in its place we have been gifted Android Wear 2.0, which lets iPhone users pair an Android Wear watch and get an experience almost as good as those who worship at the altar of Google.
Of course those of you running an older version of Wear will know that most Wear watches already work with iOS, but the experience has so far been very limited. With 2.0 many more features have been rolled in, and although Android smartphone users will still have a few exclusive extras, it’s definitely much better now for the iPhone.
So, if you’ve thought about avoiding the Apple Watch and buying a Moto 360 2, Polar M600 – or like the look of the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style – but are tied to Apple’s mobile operating system, Android Wear on iOS now brings you closer than ever to getting the best of both worlds.
Read on to find out what you can and can’t do with Android Wear on your iPhone; what devices will work; and how you’ll set everything up…
ANDROID WEAR ON IOS: WHAT DEVICES WORK?
First thing first: you need an iPhone 5 or newer with at least iOS 9 installed in order to use your Apple phone with an Android Wear watch.
Second, you need an Android Wear watch that works with iOS. Over time Google has expanded compatibility out to just about every model, and even some of the oldest ones that didn’t ‘officially’ get support have still worked when we tried.
However, if you want to have your smartwatch running Android 2.0 (and you really will if you’re going to use it with an iPhone), that’s a different matter. Here’s a list of all the smartwatches that will be getting the update to Android Wear 2.o.
Spot yours on there? Great, but you’ll have to wait a few more days/weeks until the update is ready. Until then you’ll be stuck with a much more restricted experience.
Right now, the LG Watch Sport and Style are the only two smartwatches that are running Wear 2.0, but don’t worry, it’s coming to other devices very soon.
ANDROID WEAR ON IOS: INITIAL SETUP
Pairing your Android Wear watch with an iPhone is a fairly straightforward procedure, but if your Wear device is already linked to a different phone remember to give it a factory reset first. To do this, head into System and hit Disconnect & Reset.
Once you’re ready, first download the Android Wear app on your iPhone. Then simply fire up the smartwatch and select to pair a new Android Wear device.
You’ll need to select your watch from the list in the iOS app and verify the connection on both devices. Once that’s done the app will update the watch’s software to the latest version and ask you to select the Google account you want to copy over.
After a minute or so of prep, your watch should start running, presenting you with an Android Wear tutorial that walks you through the basics of notifications and using Google Assistant. It’s short and worth paying attention to.
ANDROID WEAR ON IOS: WHAT IT DOES
Android Wear 2.0 now lets iOS users do a lot more, and in time, with updates and more third-party apps, the experience will get even better.
Probably the biggest change for iOS users with Wear 2.0 is the fact it puts a Google Play Store on the watch itself. This is actually huge for iOS as it lets you run all the same standalone apps you would with an Android phone. You’ll be able to load up the store, browse and download apps onto the watch just as people paired with an Android smartphone can.
Google told us it’s keeping the catalogue of apps it already has that work with Android, which means there will be a somewhat smaller collection of apps available for iOS users. However the Wear 2.0 apps are coming in fast – along with updates of existing apps to make them 2.0-ready – so there is certainly going to be no shortage for iPhone users before long.
Google Assistant is also built into 2.0 as a standalone app, which means iOS users are able to use this on the watch (just don’t make Siri jealous). With the Assistant and Play Store now on the watch, it’s a good idea to get it connected to your Wi-Fi as soon as possible.
But maybe the biggest surprise is that Android Pay too will work for iOS users – eventually. Right now it’s not active but it should be up and running before long, and when it is, it will give iPhone users an alternative wearable payment option to Apple Pay. How far we’ve come.
When it comes to notifications, the experience is also pretty good with texts, emails, calendar reminders – plus all third-party apps too, whether it’s WhatsApp, Twitter or Snapchat. And when you dismiss them on the watch, they’ll disappear from your iPhone notification screen, so the two really are working in unison.
Watches like the LG Watch Sport come with LTE and a built in speaker/mic, meaning you can make and take calls on them. Carriers such AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile let you share your number across both devices (which makes more sense than having a separate one just for your smartphone, unless you’re actually Dick Tracy). This also works on iOS, handily.
Music controls work with Apple Music and third-party apps like Spotify too, although album artwork still doesn’t show up as it does when we’re paired with an Android phone.
Your Android Wear device will count your steps and provide the basic activity metrics of Google Fit while you’re paired with iOS – but on the smartwatch only. It’s not transferred across to Apple Health sadly, but then we’d be surprised if Apple were so generous to open that gate.
ANDROID WEAR ON IOS: WHAT IT DOESN’T DO
There are still some limitations in using iOS with Android Wear. For example, iMessages won’t come through as these are only supported on iOS. Integration with the calendar and emails is also a bit more limited.
When we tried asking the Assistant to mark reminders in the diary we were simply directed to the phone, while doing this when paired with an Android phone meant Assistant actually scheduled it for us. Also, the Settings button for Assistant currently doesn’t work in the iOS Android Wear app. On an Android phone this takes you to a menu where you can configure Wear with smart home devices, something that iOS currently can’t do.
However you can switch on rich Gmail cards, which allows you to archive and reply to Gmail messages directly from the wrist, including with voice. In fact, when you link your Google account during setup it also links your Gmail account. This means Gmail messages come straight from a built-in app rather than any smartphone app you may usually use on the iPhone.
ANDROID WEAR ON IOS: THE IPHONE APP
The Android Wear iPhone app offers more options than before, but overall there’s not a lot going on in here. The home screen will show you your paired devices and this is where you can add more smartwatches or disconnect them. You can also change your watch face here, but that’s it. No Play Store link – you have to go directly to that on the watch or install via the browser.
Tap the cog icon at the top right and you’ll be met with a list of configurations to make your iOS experience more suited to you. This includes changing the types of notifications you want to see and choosing whether you want your email and calendar updates to come from your Google or Apple account. That last one is important, so make sure you’ve set it to the one you normally use. There’s also the aforementioned option to switch on/off rich Gmail cards.
Aside from that, there’s not an awful lot else to see, especially as Android Wear 2.0 does a lot on the watch itself. You can change a couple of screen configurations, and there’s a settings option for Google Assistant that, as mentioned, doesn’t seem to do anything right now when we tap it, even though Assistant itself is working.
Really, beyond the initial setup, you’re probably not going to be coming back in here too often, but that’s fine. Android Wear 2.0 is still limited in some ways, but iOS users who plump for a Google-based wearable are now getting a much more feature-rich experience.