In order to stake a stronger claim in the smartwatch market, Google and Samsung have joined forces.
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Samsung Collaborates with Google to Unveil a New OS for Smartwatches
In May 2021, at the Google I/O annual developer conference, Google announced a strategic alliance with Samsung to unveil a new unified platform for smartwatches, which is currently named ‘Wear’. More specifically, the new platform will be a combination of Samsung’s Tizen operating system (OS) with Google’s Wear OS, and it is expected that Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 and Fitbit’s upcoming smartwatches will run on the new platform. The main pillars of this collaboration are focused on optimizing smartwatch battery life, enhancing app performance, and designing a central smartwatch OS for the Android platform. The new strategic partnership will enable Samsung to address some app support issues and Google to reposition Wear OS and the Android platform in the smartwatch market.
The New Platform Will Address Gaps in Tizen and Wear OS
Over the past few years, Wear OS has faced several issues, which has led smartwatch manufacturers to develop their own OS, leading to customized smartwatch experiences without being limited by Google’s OS challenges. For example, Wear OS-powered devices lack features such as fall detection and ECG tracking, while another important challenge was poor performance and battery life in combination with limited software updates and discontinued apps from developers. At the same time, while Samsung’s smartwatches are equipped with capable health/fitness tracking sensors, the Tizen OS has had challenges attracting developers to the platform, limiting the range of third-party apps made available to its users. These weaknesses gave room for Apple and Huawei to capture market share at a time that is a critical and fast-growing stage for the smartwatch market.
The launch of the new platform will allow Samsung to enhance its consumer experiences and likely increase its customer base. One of the most important advantages is that Samsung will increase the value of its Galaxy smartwatches by offering a wider range of productivity apps including Google’s services, such as Google Pay, Maps, and YouTube. At the same time, Samsung users will be able to leverage Google Assistant for voice control, which is more advanced and intelligent than its own Bixby solution. Beyond the consumer benefits, this partnership will empower developers, too, as Wear is built on top of the Android platform, which reduces complexity. Last, but not least, the Wear platform is expected to address and resolve some securities issues that were prevalent in Tizen OS.
After Samsung, New Smartwatch Manufacturers are Set to Adopt the New Wear OS
According to ABI Research’s latest data on smartwatch shipments, Apple leads the market with Huawei and Samsung following respectively. Apple has invested heavily in the development of its smartwatches with frequent software updates and new capabilities, especially those related to health and fitness. Google’s collaboration with Samsung, in combination with its recent Fitbit acquisition, is an opportunity to show a greater commitment to the smartwatch market and rebuild the Wear platform by including new health and fitness capabilities and redesigning its user interface (UI). Also, the new Wear platform will reposition Fitbit and Samsung in the smartwatch market, allowing them to compete more effectively with Apple and increase market share.
It is expected that other smartphone manufacturers may adopt the new Wear OS as Google will keep the platform open for customization by its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners. For instance, it is rumored that Oppo’s upcoming smartwatch may run on the new Wear OS, and Google may launch a Pixel smartwatch to supplement its Pixel smartphones. In the near future, new players are expected to be attracted to the revised smartwatch platform, entering the market from both the consumer electronics and watch/fashion industries, allowing Google to increase and diversify its Wear OS customer base.