Bluetooth Connectivity Issues with Wear OS

I have been meaning to write about this for at least a month or so, but I wanted to make sure that I had exhausted all avenues and that it was not an issue that happens once or twice. Since the last Wear OS update to my Fossil Gen 5 and the January Android security update for my Pixel 3 I have been having horrible Bluetooth connectivity issues. Looking at the Wear OS subreddit I appear to not be the only one too.

The situation is that every week or so at no particular time or particular day my Fossil Gen 5 appears to completely forget that it is paired to my Pixel 3. A notification will appear on my Pixel 3 to pair my smartwatch and I will need to confirm the pairing PIN on both my Pixel 3 and Fossil Gen 5. At first it was not a major issue but now it is starting to get a little annoying. Sometimes the pairing itself will completely fail and I will need to either turn off and turn back on the Bluetooth on my Fossil Gen 5 or restart the Fossil Gen 5.

The standard troubleshooting process that Google offers is to uninstall the Wear OS app on my Pixel 3 and factory reset my Fossil Gen 5. One major problem with this is the setup and update process of the Fossil Gen 5 and getting it configured again with Google Pay, uninstalling several unwanted apps, etc is not easily done and takes some time. It also appears that the only way to connect your Wear OS smartwatch to your smartphone is to use the Wear OS app too and it cannot just be paired like any other Bluetooth device.

I am not having Bluetooth issues with any other device connecting to my Pixel 3 like my Pixel Buds or my PXC 550 headphones. I believe this is not a hardware issue with my Pixel 3 and I am hoping that this is not a Bluetooth hardware issue with my Fossil Gen 5; if it were, I would imagine that it would fail to pair completely. Seeing as it only started to happen after I had some updates, I believe this is software related. Crossing my fingers that either Fossil or Google will fix this problem in the future, but I have little hope as Google appears to have all but abandoned the Wear OS platform or are keeping it on life support.

If Google was serious about wearables, then it should back the Wear OS platform by adding their own first party apps to the platform. Right now, you cannot even get the Google Authenticator on the platform anymore. This to me shows that Google is not serious about wearables even with the recent purchase of Fitbit recently and will always play second fiddle to Apple, watchOS and the Apple Watch. If Apple allowed the Apple Watch to be supported on other platforms like Wear OS smartwatches I would buy one in a heartbeat and not look back at another Wear OS device.

Four Years of Android OS and Security Updates as Standard, Finally

As someone who likes to keep their mobile phone for as long as possible when Samsung announced that they will be supporting their line-up of Galaxy products with updates for four years from initial release it was great news. I know that Samsung are one of the device makers that do update their phones (security and OS) even if it might take them longer or in longer intervals than Google or Nokia. Officially supporting your product for at least four years is a must if we are to start reducing the amount of e-waste we keep producing.

Google currently only supports their Pixel line-up officially for three years. I am using a Pixel 3 and by my calculations I will be on my last year of support and will most likely need to purchase a new mobile phone if I am to get any further new OS or security updates. This is a little disappointing because not only do I really like my Pixel 3 but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the device. Everything is working like it was since I purchased the device. Sure, the battery might not be as good as it was, but it still gets me through the entire day even with heavy use. I like to get new features and security updates to make sure my device is protected, but why should this be limited to only new products after three years even if the old product is still functioning, working as intended and can support these new features?

The question is will Google also be officially supporting at least four years of security updates (and fingers crossed OS updates)? Qualcomm and Google did announce in December 2020 a collaboration to extend Android OS and security update support for four years which is amazing. When I read the Qualcomm press release I saw that it will officially start with the new Snapdragon 888 Mobile Platform. What I was not sure of was will it only be supported on high end chips? This is critical as Google in their Pixel line currently is not using the flagship Snapdragon chips anymore. If only the flagship Snapdragon chips will support this new four year update support, then it is a little kick in stomach.

Thankfully reading the Android blog post about the same announcement, the chips that will be supporting this four-year support will be any SoC launching with Android 11 and later. So that will mean that any device launching in late 2021 that has Android 11 will support this new four-year cycle. That would mean that the Pixel 6 will fall into this category. I am going to try and hold onto my Pixel 3 for as long as I can and that it stops officially receiving security updates. Perhaps 2022 will be the year that I need to upgrade my mobile phone. What Samsung announced seems to indicate that will be support phones already released while Google/Qualcomm will be supporting future devices. If you are in the market for an Android device then it may be wise to wait for an Android 11 device to get the full four year of support.

Google Pixel Buds Initial Impressions

Finally Google released the Google Pixel Buds in Australia at the start of the week (13th July 2020 I believe). As soon as I found out they were available I ordered a pair from the official Google Store, and they got delivered extremely quick (two days later after ordering). Several days have passed and I have been using them as my primary pair of wireless earbuds, and I have some initial impressions. The TL;DR is that they are very good but not perfect.

First off I want to say that I was using the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless earbuds and even though they sound amazing and have an okay battery life the overall experience has been extremely lacking. The phone app is disappointing to say the least (check the Android reviews in the Google Play Store), pairing with my Google Pixel 3 and previously my Nokia 8 was a major pain (I would need to re-pair several times a week), and worst of all you could not turn off the earbuds themselves (even after being placed back in the case). But this is not a post about hating on my previous earbuds, it is about my initial impressions of the Google Pixel Buds.

As usual the unboxing experience with brands like Apple, Microsoft and Google; is premium. You get a small solid box, with some paperwork, extra tips, a decently sized USB-A to USB-C cable (half a meter by the looks of it), the Google Pixel Buds and the case. I ordered the white version of the earbuds as that was all that was available but would have most likely still bought this color anyway. The case has a clean and matte like finish to it. The lip where the case opens has a black trim which is nice and when you open the case the interior is black. There are two lights on the case. One at the front to show the case’s battery and one inside the case which signals to you the battery of the earbuds.

The earbuds themselves have the same matte finish with the “bud” themselves being white and the rest of the earpiece being black. The earbuds have attached to them a stabilizer that holds them in your ear. From what I was reading in various reviews, some people had issues with this as it dug into their ears, but to me it didn’t and I had no pain while wearing these for extended periods of time. Overall they felt really comfortable and I experienced no discomfort. The medium sized tips that came with the earbuds were the perfect fit so I did not need to change the tips to get the earbuds to fit perfectly in my ear.

Pairing the Google Pixel Buds was extremely easy on my Google Pixel 3. I unlocked my phone and opened the lid of the case. A notification came up on my phone, I selected to pair them; and that was it. The earbuds were paired. The touch controls are easy to use and remember. Plus you can use either earbud to perform an action unlike the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless for example. One thing that will take a little getting used to I think and what I am finding is that because the earbud surface area is so small it can be a little tricky to make sure you land on the surface to trigger the touch controls. Google Assistant on these is also super handy to have and trigger which is a bonus for me because I use the Google Assistant a good amount on my phone and have several Google Home/Nest products in my house. If you are in the Google ecosystem then these will fit right in.

The most important part of earbuds next to comfort and ease of use is sound quality. I am not going to say I am audiophile but I like to hear the voices of the podcasters I listen to clearly and the music to be clear with some good bass. Do these sound as good as my Senheisser Momentum True Wireless earbuds? Not really, but they are really close. Some reviewers have said that they hear a faint white noise/hiss in the background but I do not hear this noise with my pair at the moment. I was not expecting state of the art sound quality but what Google is offering is absolutely acceptable to me and for the average user they will be a fine pair of earbuds.

Some of the other features that I really like is having the USB-C port so I only need to carry a single cable for charging my phone and earbuds. The case supports wireless charging, which is a bonus if you have a wireless charging pad. A negative I can find with the experience of the Google Pixel Buds is the app/settings which is extremely bare bones, for example there is no EQ at all (you need to configure this in each individual app if the app has an EQ setting) and the battery life is a little short. If you pop your earbuds in your case for a small amount of time you get at least an extra hour worth of playback, so there is that. One thing I have not tried is the microphone yet, but I generally find most earbuds to be subpar to passable in regards to their microphone; using my voice to ask Google Assistant questions or get stuff done is usable so I think the microphone does it’s job there.

Overall I am super happy with my purchase and would recommend them to someone who is looking for a new pair of earbuds that are not as expensive as the Apple Airpod Pro or the latest version of the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless 2. You can check out the Google Pixel Buds here from the Google Store.