Google & Samsung tie up Wear OS….finally

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Google & Samsung tie-up Wear OS….finally

Regular readers here will not be surprised to learn that Samsung has put some of its weight behind Wear OS in what will be one of the defining moments of the smartwatch battle that is to come.

Years ago, many including myself, predicted that the endgame for smartwatches is Apple vs. Google. And whilst that final scenario will take some time to sort itself out, today’s announcement coupled with the Fitbit acquisition by Google is now surely all the evidence everyone else needs to realise that Wear OS is going to become a bigger player.

 

It didn’t always seem that way. As outsiders, all we saw was a sterile Wear OS system trundling through 2020 with very few updates. Things are about to change and I’m talking about much more significant things than the new GBOARD keyboard app that I talked about a few days ago.

What’s Announced Today?

There isn’t too much concrete laid today merely soothing assurances that there will be ‘lots of stuff’ rolled out later this year on a unified platform with Samsung.

  • Wear OS and Tizen will become a unified platform (previous rumours were that Samsung would keep Tizen and release only one Wear OS watch in 2021 and that is the reality of how Samsung will start to work with Wear OS…if it goes wrong then Tizen is the exit strategy)
  • Fitbit will deliver more devices in 2021
  • Up to 30% speed increases have been made by developers on new hardware. What that means is that most of the 30% comes from the latest SnapDragon 4100/4100+ processors but that developers have optimised some code and tweaked a few extra percentage points of performance out here and there.
  • Smooth app transitioning and loading
  • Better low-level sensor battery performances from continuous HR and sleep tracking
  • Skins – Recent rumours were that Samsung would run a Tizen look-alike on Wear OS. I guess what is announced is something like that but also that other 3rd party developers will be able to do exactly the same thing to tailor their own interfaces.
  • Improved visuals – you can see from the moving images I’ve linked into this post that even the sport recording screen just looks that little bit more competent than what came before.
  • Further flexibility with TILES was again announced a few months ago but this cool feature (which Apple’s watch OS needs as well, BTW) can add a significant boost to the Wear OS interface experience when done right. Now, 3rd parties will be able to integrate their own tiles.
  • Google Maps will get improvements (MAPs is pretty good anyway)
  • Google Pay will get an expanded geographic coverage
  • Strava and adidas Running (Runtastic) are promising new-look apps (good!) and indeed I was speaking with Suunto just before this news was released and I asked them about changes to Wear OS they leaked absolutely nothing other than very big smiles on their faces! Rightly so, their Suunto 7 smartwatch for Wear OS is one of the very best Wear OS watches and certainly the best one for sports by quite a margin…imagine if they have an even better gen 2 product for 2021!?! (IDK…speculation)

Q: Why is Samsung important to all of this?

A: 2 reasons. They have the chip-making capacity and so could bring proper hardware gains to Wear OS, although I can’t see how they will be better than Apple on that front…the same yes…better…no. Samsung already sells a lot of smartphones and watches, albeit having some uncertainties with their volumes and market shares at times, they bring market share and that’s what you need to survive in large, mature markets.

Q: Why is Google important to all of this?

A: Because they are Google. Wear OS is important because it has a big app store and comes pre-canned with super-key smart features that are effectively impossible to develop by a smaller company (music, maps, payments, smartphone partner network)

Q Where does Fitbit fit in?

A: I guess they were just the right opportunity at the right time. Again they bring a brand, some market share. All that added to a decent health/interface design competence

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Google & Samsung tie up Wear OS….finally

  1. This seems like great news for us consumers, I wonder if Garmin will consider switching to Wear OS (for at least some devices) in the future. Maybe we could see a Garmin Wear OS device in 2022!

    1. My guess would be that is unlikely. Garmin is dominant in the fitness industry with good financials, I can’t see them diluting their brand with WearOS and the woeful battery life that comes with it.

      I would love a decent WearOS Garmin alternative though, but it needs 3+ days battery life, CBA with daily recharges 

      1. simply done, just needs a low res screen. Apple could do that as could any wear os provider.
        whether to not it would then sell in its less-than-pretty state is a different matter!

        1. It’s not that simple. On the one hand, WearOS uses a SoC with smartphone-level performance connected to a tiny battery. Garmin and others use relatively slow and low-power CPUs. For example, the Garmin Fenix 6X has an NXP Kinetis K28F (150MHz ARM Cortex M4). On the other hand, the Android software is bloatware.

          1. yes my comment was somewhat glib, sorry.
            apple/garmin/etc have all made their tech choices intentionally on the whole. I would argue they could change the tech if they wanted. However my point is that the tech choices they made impact materially on what user experience they can offer and changing that is strategically difficult as Apple simply couldn’t suddenly decide to go down the low res screen route – their user base would never accept it…I’m sure you’d agree that apple could technically achieve greater battery life if that was their sole goal and achieve that with some ease.
            does snapdragon necessitate a given battery capacity/size? i didn’t know that. #surprised

          2. I agree that both Apple and Samsung could provide a viable alternative to Garmin technologically and economically. And none of them interested in developing sports-centric software, buttons, or even a dual-layer display for their watches. Perhaps Suunto would be willing to copy Mobvoi’s and Casio’s solution.

          3. i think Suunto is heading down a different path.
            Part of their strategy seems to be focussed on luxury/quality construction & customisation…those two-tier displays are clever in a techy way and exude Casioness…I can’t see Suunto doing that
            Although I’m harping on about the importance of battery life, don’t forget that the best selling smartwatch ever…by a long way…has got an extremely mediocre battery life (OK the best selling sports watch brand has got great battery life IK IK IK!)

  2. OK, let me address an elephant in the room… Actually two, though there are definitely more.

    Google Music. Yep, the app that was unceremoniously killed off without any replacement in favor of YouTube Music that then launched on Apple Watch, yes Apple Watch! but not Google’s own Wear OS.

    Do we have YouTube Music on Wear OS now? Announcement of a specific release date? Perhaps a free month or three for all people whose Wear OS watches instantly devalued after the only offline capable decent music subscription service was shutdown?

    On to a second elephant… Google Fit. Can this bug ridden joke of a service seriously compete with Health, Workouts, not to mention a thriving ecosystem of fitness apps on Apple Watch that begins to rival Garmin?

    All I see right now is a bunch of promises to be carried out in some unspecified future. Kind of reminds me of Microsoft and Nokia and the Windows Phone that was supposed to rule the world back in 2011. What happened to that by the way? Can me have myself some live tile?

    Google lost all credibility in this space, and no amount of onscreen keyboard tweaking and big alliances with lofty promises is going to change that. Wake me up when Stryd decides to make an app for Wear OS device. Last year they passed hard on more than capable Suunto 7…

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