In 2021, Google is focusing on Wear OS like never before. The wearable platform is getting faster performance, a partnership with Samsung, and more.
After years of seeming like an afterthought for the company, Google is making 2021 the year of Wear OS. During its I/O keynote on May 18, Google announced a slew of new updates coming to its wearable platform — including a partnership with Samsung, new ways to navigate the operating system, and more. If Google has ever had a real shot at besting the Apple Watch, this is it.
Ever since the launch of the original Apple Watch in 2015, Apple has dominated the smartwatch market by a huge margin. Google’s tried (and failed) to challenge it with Wear OS, Samsung’s done a decent job with its Tizen operating system, and Fitbit’s made valiant attempts with FitbitOS watches. Unfortunately, all of these other watches tend to stumble in one area or another — thus keeping the Apple Watch as the reigning champ. Thanks to Google’s renewed focus on Wear OS, however, that could be changing.
Google is addressing Wear OS in a few different ways, the first being a new partnership with Samsung. As rumors have suggested, Samsung is working with Google to release an upcoming smartwatch that’ll run Wear OS instead of Tizen. This will more than likely be the Galaxy Watch 4 that’s expected to launch within the next couple of months. Google says the upcoming Samsung watch will offer “the best of Wear and Tizen,” touting improvements like 30 percent faster app opening and longer battery life. Future smartwatches from other manufacturers can also take advantage of these improvements, along with those other companies being able to add a “customized user experience on top of the platform.” In other words, a Samsung Wear OS watch could look very different from a Google Pixel Watch — which is also rumored to come out this year. Other improvements to Wear OS include new shortcuts for faster app switching, easier development processes to get more apps on Wear OS, and integrating Fitbit to handle fitness tracking.
This Is Google’s Best Shot At Dethroning The Apple Watch
It remains to be seen how the execution of all these things pays off, but taking Google at its word, it sounds like the company has done everything it can to make Wear OS a legitimate competitor to the Apple Watch. Two of the platform’s biggest issues have been slow performance and short battery life — both of which have apparently been addressed. Also, knowing that Fitbit is finally being integrated into Wear OS will give the operating system a massive upgrade for its fitness tracking capabilities. Google’s made decent progress with Google Fit over the years, but the appeal and functionality of Fitbit are far and away superior. When the smarts of Wear OS are combined with the fitness tracking of Fitbit, that can only be a recipe for success.
All of those things should be tremendous in improving the day-to-day experience, but when it comes to actually getting Wear OS watches on more people’s wrists, the partnership with Samsung is exactly what Google needed. As it currently stands, Wear OS doesn’t have a flagship product. There are decent watches from Fossil, Skagen, and TicWatch, but none of them carry the same appeal or brand awareness the way a company like Samsung does. Samsung can market the hell out of a product, and if it puts its money and marketing behind a device running Wear OS, that’ll give the platform more visibility than it’s ever had. The partnership also speaks volumes to how good these Wear OS updates must really be. Samsung wouldn’t ditch Tizen for Wear OS if it didn’t believe it offered a similarly great experience that users have grown used to. If Wear OS is good enough for Samsung to jump aboard the bandwagon, Google must have done something right.
None of this will make the Apple Watch irrelevant or any less popular, but what it does mean is that it could finally be faced with some real competition — something Apple hasn’t had to worry about for a few years now. That’ll push Apple to be more innovative in the space, Android users will be treated to a much better smartwatch experience, and the possibilities beyond the Samsung partnership should see more quality Wear OS watches releasing in the coming months/years.
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