Xiaomi may be planning to release a Wear OS 3 watch with full Play Store access in 2023, according to a recent report. After a promising but ultimately frustrating year for Wear OS fans, this news gives us new hope for better Android watches in 2023.
A 9to5Google source claims that this watch will use the Xiaomi Watch branding and the Mi Fitness (Xiaomi Wear) Android app to sync data to and from your phone, and that it'll arrive sometime this year but has no strict timetable yet.
Xiaomi currently has two distinct lineups of wearables: It develops its own Xiaomi Watch series with the MIUI OS and outsources its more sporty bands to Huami, a public company funded by Xiaomi that also produces the popular budget Amazfit trackers.
The Xiaomi Smart Band 7 Pro is among our favorite fitness trackers, but we've spent little time with Xiaomi's lifestyle watches up until this point. With Wear OS 3, the brand could become much more enticing to Android fans.
This watch will never reach American shores; only Huami wearables tend to show up outside of Europe and Asia, and even excellent phones like the Xiaomi 13 Pro never make it stateside. But we're still very excited about what this news means for the Wear OS ecosystem and fitness smartwatches in general.
Wear OS needs a breath of fresh air
Since its 2021 launch, the operating system Wear OS 3 has been the Google/Samsung show, and other brands have struggled to keep up.
It took Montblanc and Fossil over a year to adopt the update, and in doing so, lost access to Google Assistant — which is currently only optimized for Exynos chips. Meanwhile, Mobvoi missed its 2022 deadline for updating its old TicWatches and releasing the TicWatch Pro 5, and other long-time Wear OS brands like Suunto have yet to adopt it.
The U.S. Android marketplace only has a few heavy hitters, and until Motorola decides to rejoin the Wear OS ecosystem, consumers have to choose between the Galaxy Watch 5, Pixel Watch, and various Fossil watches that have largely disappointed us. Thankfully, you do have two great options, but it's not enough for a proper “ecosystem” to compete with Apple's stranglehold on the market.
In Europe and Asia, consumers have a wealth of Android options. But with Xiaomi, OPPO, OnePlus, Honor, and other Chinese brands largely sticking to their own operating systems for their own wearables, many Android users will see Wear OS 3 as a niche service not worth investing time in.
A Xiaomi Wear OS watch could be a sign of things to come, with Google successfully wooing its Android partners into the fold with the promise of a synchronized phone-watch experience and a customizable UI to match. Consumers will then have more (and better) Wear OS watches to choose between, which will push each brand to iterate and compete with one another more stringently.
Xiaomi's fitness focus will only help Wear OS
Recognizing that Xiaomi watches and Huami-made Xiaomi trackers aren't the same, both sides of that brand put a major emphasis on fitness, whether through the Mi Fitness or Zepp Health apps.
It's one of the rare brands to offer dual-frequency GPS, the next step in more accurate location tracking. I'm sad Xiaomi dropped Firstbeat analytics — the team behind Garmin watches' robust workout data — after its older Mi Watch. Despite that, it still has hundreds of sports modes (many with unique real-time statistics) and makes a point of including the necessary sensors for more accurate tracking.
Best of all, its watches and trackers always tend to prioritize battery life above all else, frequently lasting over a week with heavy use. That probably won't last with the battery-guzzling Wear OS 3, but we can hope for something like the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro that lasts for days — and hopefully in a more compact form factor.
Even though this hypothetical Xiaomi Wear OS watch won't sell in every territory, it could push Samsung — which has twiddled its thumbs with Samsung Health since its Active 2 launch in 2019 — to make a more concerted effort. It'll give Wear OS users an alternative to the Pixel Watch's paid Fitbit subscription and Fossil's simple Wellness app, too.
As for Xiaomi itself, our one major complaint with devices like the Xiaomi Mi Band 7 was its smarts: They lack actionable notifications, an assistant, or third-party app support. A partnership with Wear OS brings that interactivity and more varied software to a series known for stylish designs and solid hardware. Ideally, it's going to mesh into a watch that pushes Google and Samsung harder on fitness and makes U.S. Wear OS users jealous.