Google I/O 2021 keynote was a busy one. We got our first official look at Android 12, had a glimpse of new Workspace and Maps features, security advancements, some cutting-edge Google Assistant research, and a lot more. But the biggest news of them all was about Google’s wearable platform – Wear OS. And a little bit about Samsung’s Tizen platform too. Both, actually. In clear words, Google is partnering with Samsung to finally pose a serious challenge to the Apple Watch – undisputed king of the smartwatch segment.
Google merges Wear OS and Samsung’s Tizen into a unified platform
Yes, you read that right. Google is merging Wear OS with Samsung’s own Tizen smartwatch software to create a unified platform for wearable devices. The result? Samsung is jumping the Wear OS bandwagon. Or as Google now calls it, Wear! Looks like the rumors of Samsung abandoning Tizen in favor of Wear OS for the upcoming Galaxy Watch 4 series were true after all. In fact, Samsung is pledging to this unified Wear experience on its smartwatches for the foreseeable future.
Google claims it is leveraging the strength of both platforms to create better smartwatch software. “For performance, our teams collaborated and made apps start up to 30% faster on the latest chipsets with smooth user interface animations and motion. To achieve longer battery life, we’ve worked to optimize the lower layers of the operating system – taking advantage of low-power hardware cores to enable better battery life,” says Google.
Despite merging Wear OS and Tizen, Google is keeping the Wear platform open for OEM partners to customize and give it their own spin. The new and improved avatar of Wear OS introduces fresh navigation capabilities, customization tools, gestures, and a lot more. YouTube Music is also making its way to the platform later this year, alongside new fitness capabilities like health progress tracking and daily goal celebrations borrowed from Fitbit following the brand’s acquisition in 2019.
Android might finally get solid Apple Watch rivals
But the biggest advantage is the app ecosystem. Samsung’s upcoming smartwatches can take a huge advantage here by leveraging the wider app selection to make its smartwatches even more productive, rather than being reliant on developers who are committed to Tizen (of which there are not many) or its own internal team handling the duty. But the bigger picture here is the competition, or the Apple Watch, to be specific.
Apple Watch is arguably the best smartwatch out there, especially thanks to the huge app selection and a fluid software experience. With Samsung now having a rich diversity of apps at its disposal and plenty of experience under its belt, the company can now focus on the optimization part to offer a more polished experience for its upcoming smartwatches. And if the new avatar of Wear OS actually manages to solve the battery life issues of smartwatches running Google’s wearable OS, Android might finally have a solid challenger to rival the Apple Watch.
“The great experiences that consumers loved on previous Galaxy smartwatches will continue on this unified platform. Samsung implemented our best technology to provide optimized performances, and advanced sensor batching and low power display technology to ensure an efficient and long-lasting battery,” writes Janghyun Yoon, EVP and Head of Samsung’s smartwatch team. It now remains to be seen whether the Galaxy Watch 4 can actually deliver on the promises made by Samsung and Google.
And just in case you forgot, the Pixel Watch might also emerge as the first serious challenger to Apple Watch’s dominance. However, a lot hinges on the pricing, and whether Google can offer a compelling package with advanced features such as ECG and blood oxygen saturation measurement to position the Pixel Watch as a capable Apple Watch alternative. While the future remains uncertain, Wear OS finally appears to be moving in the right direction as a platform.