Google’s offer to buy Fitbit has been accepted. However, the deal needs regulatory approval and that might be problematical in the EU. The EU might, or might not, grant approval on 21 Jul 2020. It seems that the EU wants assurances that Google will not use Fitbit health data for the targetting of adverts. That’s fine but Google (aka Alphabet) has already said they will not do that.
Wear OS seems to be languishing somewhat. There have been some tinkerings over the last 18 months but they have not satisfied industry observers. Indeed there was no major Wear OS release announced in 2019 that would normally have coincided with the new version 10 of Android that did happen at the time.
Some industry observers also take a swipe at sluggish Wear OS watches and bemoan the performance of the underlying Qualcomm chips that power them and the need for more health and fitness support.
Every optimist knows that “A problem is merely a solution waiting to happen,” Every Brit knows the scoff and swear word that will usually be uttered once anyone makes such a claim. In the interests of positivity let me continue and outline how I think things will pan out over the next few months.
It’s only really the EU that are holding up the deal as far as I can see. There are other jurisdictions that have concerns (Australia) but they are mostly irrelevant for the commercial side of this deal (sorry Australia, I used to live there…awesome country). So the EU just might accept Alphabet’s assurances at face value. Probably not though. When it comes to money and dominant competition the EU is as cynical as the Brits and that will either trigger an extended 3 month review period OR the deal will be passed but with binding sanction conditions accepted by Google. There are a few other factors at play but if Google is genuine in their stated intent not to use health data for advertising they will accept the sanction regime.
Takeout: Next week Google will own Fitbit. End of. (80%)
The current range of Qualcomm chips is named ‘Wear 3100’ and used by the likes of Fossil and Suunto. By no means are these state-of-the-art chips however, in my relatively limited experience with them, they seem perfectly fine, fast and smooth to use. Sure they could be better and sure they could be more energy efficient but they are CERTAINLY BETTER than previous generations of Wear OS watches that use older tech and which I would agree could do with a good kick up the bezel.
Qualcomm has announced a next-generation of Wear OS processor named ‘Wear 4100’. Maybe it will be a bit faster maybe it will save 20% of the juice.
Takeout: Tech has to innovate and progress. However, I don’t see the current Qualcomm tech being an excuse for Wear OS’s non-dominant market position.
Fossil has ‘coincidentally’ announced, aka ‘let slip’ new models likely to be released in September 2020. These could use the new Qualcomm tech but I highly doubt it and I concur with 9to5Google’s assessment that these will be based on the same underlying tech that Fossil used last year. Indeed even a cursory view of the full list of Wear OS watches shows that previous-gen tech was used by Fossil over a two-year cycle…I expect the same for their use of the Wear 3100 chip.
Take Out: Fossils announcement/leak is nothing to get excited about if you are looking for a faster and more energy-efficient Wear OS watch.
Bear with me. Almost there. I’m building.
Google’s Android 11 platform is currently in beta and will almost certainly be formally released in September 2020. Recent discussions with Google execs heavily imply that we will see a new version of Wear OS being released to coincide with Android 11 – likely Wear OS 3.0 as we are currently on Wear OS 2.9. However, there is ZERO info out there that I know of which might indicate what elements of sports and fitness will be enhanced in 3.0 and it looks FAR more likely that the headline announcements with Wear OS 3.0 will be around links to Home Automation/Google Home/IoT. This may be simply device controls or, hopefully, something a little more extensive and exciting.
I have a smart(ish) home and casually follow that tech. It’s been pretty obvious to me that Google is heavily working on software and hardware behind the scenes as well as trying to push end-products to get a critical mass of usage for Nest Hello, Nest Speakers, Mesh WiFi and their other home products. For example, speakers are heavily discounted, new speakers are leaked, and a new Mesh WiFi router has been released along with firmware upgrades for older models.
Take Out: September and Wear OS 3.0 will see some enhancements to activity/sports but most of the changes will be around Home Automation. We will need to wait for Google’s integration with Fitbit to happen and pan out internally before we see more material changes on our wrists perhaps as early as 2021.
Unfortunately, this seems to push Google even further into the health & fitness backseat. As I’ve said before, I expect a much more significant and properly capable Apple Watch 6 Pro in September which will hopefully see all the hardware components that are currently not there or not quite up to scratch, firing on all cylinders as Apple take their wearable to the next level. That’s NOT what I want to happen…it’s just what I predict will happen.
Sporty People: It’s still the Suunto 7 that rules Wear OS going into Christmas 2020