Wear OS vs. Apple Watch: Which one will ‘wow’ your wrist?

Wearable tech is growing more popular every year. We’ve seen fitness trackers soar, smart jewelry take off, and luxury brands are beginning to get in on the act with hybrid smartwatches. But true smartwatches are one of the most popular choices among early adopters of wearable tech. Big names such as Huawei and LG offer devices running Google’s Wear OS (previously known as Android Wear) smartwatch platform, while Apple is on its own with the Apple Watch.

If you’re ready to strap on a smartwatch, you have a choice between two dominant platforms: Google’s Wear OS or Apple’s Watch OS. Which one will suit you better, and which should you avoid? We’ve compared the specs, features, and designs to help you decide where to spend your cash.

Specs

Wear OS

android wear vs apple watch thumbnail

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Again
Controls Touchscreen, “Digital Crown” depends on manufacturer Touchscreen, “Digital Crown” dial
Voice Control Google Assistant Siri
App marketplace Google Play Apple App Store
Fitness and health monitoring Google Fit (or watch manufacturer app) Apple Health
Heart rate sensor Depends on manufacturer Yes
Waterproof Depends on manufacturer Splash/water resistant to IPX7
Smartphone compatibility Android 4.3+ and iOS 9+ iPhone 5 and later
Price $100+ $250+

Design

When you’re dealing with a smartwatch, design is just as important as functionality. A watch is more than just a timepiece — it’s an accessory. Both Google and Apple have gone out of their way to ensure their flagship smartwatches bring out the best in design and aesthetics.

Fossil Q Venture review on crown
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

In Wear OS’s case, devices like the Sony SmartWatch 3 boast a square face, while most, like the Movado Connect  and the classically-styled Fossil Q Explorist, feature rounded bodies.

Wear OS watches run the gamut in terms of design. Some, like the LG Watch Sport, have Apple Watch-like rotating crowns. Others boast physical keys that launch apps, and other special features, like Casio’s WSD-F20.

While older versions of Wear OS (Android Wear) were sometimes awkward to use on rounded screens, the Android Wear 2.0 update brought a welcome redesign. Rather than having to swipe left or right to navigate menus and select apps, the new interface is a simple, vertical design that focuses on up/down gestures. Wear OS smartwatches provide ample opportunities for customization, from changing the watch face to buying an aftermarket strap. The LG Watch Sport is the exception to the rule — its band houses a cellular radio, so it isn’t swappable — but watches like the Huawei Watch 2 and Fossil Q Venture can be accessorized to your heart’s content.

The Apple Watch, on the other hand, has a square screen. You can choose from various watch faces, and there’s an extensive range of Apple Watch bands that cater to fashionistas and fitness freaks alike. Each of the Apple Watch models — the Apple Watch Series 3Apple Watch Series 2, the Watch Series 1, the Watch Nike+, the Watch Hermès — support a slew of different band and case materials, and come in two sizes: 38mm and 42mm.

The Apple Watch Series 3 comes with an aluminum, stainless steel, or ceramic body and a choice of different straps, but prices vary wildly. The design is consistent across the range of Apple Watch models: A square body with rounded edges and a bright little screen. It’s characterized by the digital crown, a clever, functional wheel that adds a touch of flair. It’s far thinner and slimmer than most of Wear OS’s offerings, though we are seeing more refined designs over time.

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