Google is currently moving full-speed ahead with YouTube Music, leaving the aging Play Music in the dust. Despite announcing this change last year, YouTube Music still hasn’t reached feature parity with Play Music. It’s a little bit closer today thanks to the new YTM smartwatch app. However, that app is only available on the Apple Watch. It’s almost like Google forgot Wear OS exists, and honestly, that’s understandable. I forget it exists sometimes, too.
The new YouTube Music app for the Apple Watch has many of the same features as the full-fledged iOS version. You can access playlists, control playback, search for content, and even cast tunes to Google Cast-enabled devices. It is, by all accounts, a very good app.
Meanwhile, Wear OS users are stuck with little to no support for Google’s music streaming platform. Wear OS captures playback notifications from Android phones, so you get that with all media apps. However, the demise of Play Music took with it most on-device features like playlists and the option to save tracks to the watch.
We’ve seen numerous wearable apps bypass Google’s underperforming smartwatch platform in favor of Apple’s. For all the App Store’s flaws (you can just ask Epic about that), Apple has done a great job of encouraging developers to create apps for its wearables. Whereas Google hasn’t done much of anything to make Wear OS appealing to developers. In fact, it can be hard to believe that Google even cares about Wear OS — it killed the Nest app for Wear OS just last year.
It’s hard to know the exact number of wearables out there, but most estimates peg the Wear OS market share in the single digits. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch has about half the market all to itself. Samsung and Fitbit each take a larger chunk than Google, which probably explains why Google has entered into a deal to acquire Fitbit, along with all that juicy health data it has on people. The clear privacy issues have slowed down the deal, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that Google will get what it wants.
This isn’t entirely Google’s fault — Wear OS smartwatches rely on Qualcomm ARM chips, and the company’s wearable offerings have been disappointing. The Snapdragon Wear 3100 was basically a rehash of the 2100, which itself was barely more powerful than the archaic Snapdragon 400 chips from the very first Wear OS devices. The new Wear 4100 does look like a significant improvement, but there are precious few watches with that chip on the horizon. It could take time before the 4100 becomes the norm, and no one even knows if Wear OS will survive long enough for that to matter.
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