YouTube Music launched yesterday on Apple Watch, coming before an official version of Wear OS and further illustrating Google’s ongoing problems with its competing wearable platform. The app, available to YouTube Music Premium and YouTube Premium subscribers, mirrors all the same features it launched with on iOS, but now in a compact watchOS format. Users can stream, control playback, and even stream music from their wrist, with a nice complication for the Apple Watch faces.
The arrival on Apple Watch first shows Google’s commitment to growing YouTube Music audiences. Apple still controls half of the smartwatch market, so showing up is ultimately in Google̵
The release of Qualcomm’s new chips, Snapdragon Wear 4100 and 4100 Plus, aims to address the speed issues that damage older Wear OS devices. Along with a Wear OS update this fall that focuses on simplified interface elements, there is hope that Google’s partners can develop devices better suited to compete with Apple’s market dominance. Google has also reportedly tried to get its internal smartwatch hardware off the ground for some time, after a failed attempt in 2016.
This may be where Fitbit, which Google acquired last year, comes into play. The Fitbit team is an excellent addition to Google’s, but capturing the former’s health data hoard is another matter. The obstacles in the way of the EU closing the deal and the long-term prospect of integrating the two companies’ hardware teams mean that the release of a true “Pixel Smartwatch” will take longer. Google hasn’t given up on Wear OS, but the path to take isn’t clear, and the platform isn’t growing fast enough to be of more use to YouTube Music than the Apple Watch.