Frankly...

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Google's Tech Ecosystem Failure

I have now replaced two Pixel phones with a newer model and each time I do I am astounded by how little Google understands technology ecosystems. Not only does Google require physically connecting the two phones together with a cable to transfer data, but to transfer a WearOS watch, like the Pixel Watch, from one phone to another you have to factory reset the watch. Seriously! Does anyone at Google ever even try moving from one generation phone to another?

Google seems to think that when one buys a new Pixel phone they are going to buy a new watch too. The factory reset of the watch would not be so bad if one could restore the watch like one can with a Pixel phone, but Google does not provide a backup of WearOS watches to their cloud.

Here is the process for one who owns a Pixel Watch paired with a Pixel 4a to replace the phone with a Pixel 7a. You transfer the SIM from the old phone to the new, then connect a USB-C cable between the 4a and the 7a to transfer your phone settings (ring tones, etc..) and SMS messages. During the transfer the icons for your apps are added to the new phone, but then all of the apps have to be installed. In many cases app settings, particularly logins, do not transfer, so after the apps install you spend a considerable amount of time going through each app to be sure it works as on the “old” phone.

Over the years I have replaced several iPads with newer models and never once have I ever had to physically connect a cable to move settings and apps between the tablets. Apple has been doing this for many years, and honestly, I do not understand why Google, with all of its technical brilliance cannot figure out how to make this process of transfering from one model Pixel phone to another as pain free as possible.

So, once you have the phone set it comes time to pair the Pixel Watch to the new phone. The process requires doing a factory reset of the watch as if you just took it out of the box, and worse, after you pair it with the new phone there is no transfer of app icons, settings, or anything. Oh, and neither the Google Play store nor the Google Watch app keep track of what apps or watch faces you install on the watch, so you have figure out what to install! Anyone at Google who does such a transfer finds this acceptable ought to be embarrased, it might be the most brain dead process of all of technology!

It’s not like nobody at Google has figured it out. Transferring the Pixel Buds Pro from the Pixel 4a to the 7a works exactly how one expects, and how transferring a watch should work. No reset, no pairing, no manual configuration, just take the buds out of the case, put them in my ear, and they just work on the new phone!

Like the Pixel Buds, the Pixel Watch is an accessory to Pixel Phones, but the WearOS, Android, and Pixel teams seem to think the Pixel Watch is a standalone device. Sure, one can buy a watch with an LTE radio and with it and the built-in GPS the watch can function apart from the phone, but honestly, most users are not buying watches with LTE radios. Even if they do, the process of using the Play Store app on the watch to find and install apps is best described as tedious.

The worst part of the WearOS apps process is that Google actually had it right the first time it released their smartwatch operating system. When Google first released a smartwatch there was no way to install apps directly on the watch, you had to use the phone, and the companion app on the phone made it easy to manage the apps to install. Back then while recovering from a factory reset did not automatically restore the watch, it at least put all the apps you had installed in one spot so that you could manually trigger the installation.

For all the progress Google has made over the years to improve Android, Pixel phones, and develop the Pixel Watch, the lack of emphasis on making the products work together seamlessly is a huge let down. Given there have been now been several iterations of Android, WearOS, and Pixel phones, there is no excuse for why the transfer process so brain dead. What I see is a lack of diligence and a willingness to accept things that are not good enough, and I have to question whether such a company unwilling to do things right ought to be trusted playing with technology such as Artificial Intelligence that could be dangerous.

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