Google and Samsung are building a unified open-source operating system for smartwatches with some help from Fitbit.
Google and Samsung are building a unified open-source operating system for smartwatches with some help from Fitbit. Announced during Google I/O 2021 developer conference last night, the platform does not have a name yet — Google is calling it Wear simply at this point of time — but it is said to combine the strengths of Wear OS and Tizen promising a “new era for the wearables ecosystem” with faster performance, improved battery life and redesigned, more optimised apps. The new OS is not only going to power future Samsung, Fitbit and possibly Google Pixel smartwatches, it will also be available on a slew of third-party devices later this year — and the future.
Lots of big changes are coming and Google made sure it highlighted this fact by calling it the biggest update to Wear ever raising a fair amount of excitement among users and critics alike (similar claims were also made with regards to Android 12, its next gen Android update that brings tons of new visual changes). Google’s flailing smartwatch OS much like its tablet OS has built quite a reputation for itself over the years — well, at least the smartwatch side is finally getting some much-needed attention.
When it comes to performance, Google says together with Samsung, it has been able to squeeze up to 30 percent faster performance using latest hardware over the previous generation. The unified OS also takes advantage of low-power hardware cores — presumably in a better way — and when paired with some under the hood optimisations, it can deliver better battery life with Google claiming more than a day’s worth of usage at least with continuous all-day heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking during the night.
We’re combining the best of @wearosbygoogle and @SamsungMobile Tizen into a unified wearable platform. ⌚ Apps will start faster, battery life will be longer and you'll have more choice than ever before, from devices to apps and watch faces. #GoogleIO pic.twitter.com/vj2aYZD81x
— Google (@Google) May 18, 2021
The update will also make it easier for developers to build apps since they will be doing this for a single platform and Google will make the process more streamlined than before. Strava, adidas Running, Bitmoji and many more are already in the works, Google said while it itself works on redesigned Google Maps, Google Assistant, Google Pay and YouTube Music (with features like offline downloads) due to arrive on the platform later this year. For health and fitness tracking, Google will tap into Fitbit’s “many years of health expertise to the experience”.
It is only logical that Google (maker of Android) is joining hands with Samsung (maker of Galaxy smartwatches) to breathe fresh life into Wear OS (previously, Android Wear) in a fresh attempt to take on Apple and its critically acclaimed and bestseller product, the Apple Watch. This time, Google also has the Fitbit expertise on its side making things wee bit more interesting. The idea is to utilise all this potential into fixing some of the gruelling shortcomings of Wear OS, namely performance, battery life and lack of a compelling app ecosystem. It is yet to be seen how the partnership bodes for Samsung though since its Galaxy smartwatches are often regarded as the only viable alternative to the Apple Watch for Android users. There are a few other questions as well that need immediate attention: will Samsung stop making Tizen smartwatches going forward and if yes, what happens to existing users, especially with regards to updates.
The announcement is particularly dense on the open ecosystem approach, much like Android, where Google says, “you will have more options than ever before, whether it’s choosing which device to buy or picking which apps and watch faces to display”. Device makers will be free to bring their own styles and customisations to the platform like before. All said and done, it’s not that there is a dearth of Android smartwatches in the market today, the bigger issue is almost all of them pale in comparison to the Apple Watch. Therefore it would be interesting to see how things pan out in the days to come.