After a lengthy wait, Wear OS users can now use the YouTube Music app to stream their tunes over Wi-Fi and LTE. And, as a bonus, users can also add the app as a widget for quicker access to recently played playlists or YouTube Music’s browse page.
In a user community post, Google says you’ll be able to access 80 million songs via the app. On top of ad-free streaming, the app supports Google’s Smart Downloads feature that automatically refreshes songs downloaded to your Wear OS watch whenever it’s connected to Wi-Fi. There are a few caveats. For instance, you have to be a YouTube Music Premium subscriber. Also, cellular streaming isn’t available for iOS Wear OS 2 users.
The road to a Wear OS YouTube Music app had many twists and turns. In 2020, Google announced it would shutter Google Play Music — the only native music streaming app on Wear OS. And while users could migrate their playlists to YouTube Music, there wasn’t a readily available YouTube Music app for Wear OS. That essentially left Wear OS users with few alternatives if they wanted offline playback. (Spotify’s Wear OS app at the time was little more than a glorified remote control.) To add insult to injury, Google then prioritized creating a YouTube Music app for the Apple Watch.
YouTube Music didn’t launch on Wear OS until Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch 4 lineup last summer — and, at first, it was a Wear OS 3 exclusive. Google did, however, roll out the app to Wear OS 2 watches powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 4100 chips about a month later. That said, it was limited to offline playback only. This latest update basically closes the loop, making YouTube Music a full-fledged music streaming app for smartwatches.
The timing of this update isn’t surprising. Just last week at its annual I/O event, Google confirmed it’ll launch the Pixel Watch in the fall. The company also highlighted more app options on Wear OS 3, including several within Google’s own suite of services, like Google Wallet and Google Home. Google and Samsung also recently announced Google Assistant — yet another long-awaited Wear OS 3 feature — would finally arrive sometime this summer. All things considered, you could view this update as part of Google’s larger preparations for the Pixel Watch.