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Google Maps on Wear OS frees you from the clutches of your smartphone

What you need to know

  • Google previously teased the ability to use Google Maps on Wear OS without a paired phone.
  • The feature is now available, allowing LTE-connected Wear OS watches to provide turn-by-turn directions.
  • The new feature is seemingly unavailable on older Wear OS 2 devices.

Google previously teased the ability to use Google Maps on Wear OS without being tethered to a smartphone, and after some time, the feature is finally rolling out.

The company announced the update in a blog post on Thursday, sharing details about using the feature. Until now, using Google Maps on your Pixel Watch or other Wear OS smartwatch and starting navigation would simultaneously open the app and navigation on whatever Android phone your watch is connected to. Having it open on both devices seems pretty redundant, but the latest update finally addresses this.

For this to work, your watch ideally needs to have an LTE connection. Google says a Wi-Fi connection may work, too, although I doubt that will be as reliable.

You can start navigation without a paired phone, just as you would with a phone. Open Google Maps on your watch, enter or select your destination, choose your mode of transportation (walking, biking, or driving), and head off.

“This is especially helpful when you're out for a run or ride and have left your phone behind but want to take a detour or need help finding your way home,” Google says in the blog post.

The linked Wear OS support page notes that this apparently won't apply to Wear OS 2 smartwatches, stating that “you can only use turn-by-turn directions in the Google Maps app on the paired phone.” That means you'll need a newer Wear OS 3 smartwatch to take advantage of untethered turn-by-turn navigation, ideally one with LTE. That leaves you with only a few devices right now, including the Pixel Watch and Galaxy Watch 5.

So far, the feature does not appear to be working on my LTE Galaxy Watch 5 just yet, as it still prompts me to connect my phone, but I imagine the update will arrive at any moment.

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