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