Google I/O 2022: Wear OS app updates, Android tablets to improve experiences, new wallet app debuts

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Google announced a series of updates targeting Wear OS and Android tablets at the I/O 2022 consumer keynote on Wednesday, aiming to improve the user experience across all devices — not just limited to phones. One of the major updates to Wear OS is quick access to Emergency SOS. Google is also bringing Google Assistant support to smartwatches. In addition, Android-based tablets receive updated Google apps. Google separately introduced updated Google Wallet on Android to support things like payment cards, transit and event tickets, and even student ID cards.

With the introduction of Emergency SOS in Wear OS, Google has begun allowing its users to instantly contact a trusted family member or call emergency services directly from their smartwatch. The Mountain View, California-based company said it is working with various partners to enable the new feature.

Wear OS devices get the emergency SOS alert feature
Photo credit: Google

Google also talked about its Emergency Location Services (ELS) feature, designed to help first responders find you when you call for help in the event of a medical emergency or natural disaster. Launched earlier this year in markets including Bulgaria, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia and Spain, it is now available to more than a billion people worldwide, the company said.

In addition to ELS, Google is offering Early Earthquake Warnings in 25 countries, with plans to expand to “many of the remaining high-risk regions” around the world.

Moving on to Wear OS, Google said at I/O 2022 that it is bringing Google Assistant to Samsung Galaxy watches. It will soon be available for the Galaxy Watch 4 series first. The Google Assistant experience on Wear OS can be used for natural language interactions and access to features like voice-controlled navigation or setting reminders.

Google is also bringing more apps to Wear OS. These will be apps like SoundCloud and Deezer, which will be rolling out on Wear OS-based smartwatches later this year. Apps like Adidas Running, Spotify, Line, and KakaoTalk have already been significantly updated to provide an improved experience.

At last year’s I/O keynote in May, Google announced its partnership with Samsung, combining Tizen with Wear OS. The company was positive about the move, saying there are now three times as many active Wear OS devices as there were last year. However, the exact number of active Wear OS users has not yet been announced.

Google also revealed that new Wear OS devices will be coming later this year from Samsung, Fossil Group, Montblanc, and Mobvoi, among others.

For tablets, Google announced at the I/O 2022 keynote that it will update more than 20 Google apps over the next few weeks to “take full advantage” of the extra screen real estate. These include YouTube Music, Google Maps and Messages, among others.

Google also said it is working with other apps like TikTok, Zoom and Facebook to improve their experiences for users on Android tablets.

Tiktok app Android tablet image TikTok Android

TikTok is optimized for Android tablets
Photo credit: Google

In addition, users can copy a URL or an image from their phones and paste it on your tablet.

On Android in general, Google is introducing virtual cards, which will be available on Chrome and at the system level, to help users easily make payments without having to manually enter card details like CVV at checkout.

Google is also expanding Fast Pair support to more devices so users can easily set up and pair their devices. Originally limited to earbuds, the extension has recently reached Bluetooth headphones, Chromebooks, and smart TVs.

The Google Wallet app for Android is also becoming a unified platform to help people access their payment cards, transit and event tickets, boarding and loyalty passes, and student ID cards. It will also be able to store virtual car keys and vaccination records, as well as digital driver’s licenses and government ID cards. Google essentially makes its wallet app for Android similar to Apple’s wallet.

However, in addition to adding the new features to the Wallet app, the Android maker is working to update its integrations with other Google apps and services. This allows users, for example, to view their public transport card balance on Google Maps when searching for directions once the card has been added to the wallet. Users can also add a fare from Google Maps to their transit map by tapping the map information.

Google Wallet Maps integration image Google Maps Google Wallet

Google Maps gets Google Wallet integration so you can seamlessly add travel tickets to your transit card
Photo credit: Google

Google Wallet is also coming to Wear OS, with initial support for payment cards.

Alongside the wallet updates, Google announced that it is updating the Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging experience by bringing encryption to group conversations. It will launch in an open beta later this year, the company said.

Google also announced the extension of casting capabilities to devices like Chromebook and Android Auto in-car systems.

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