Samsung’s first smartwatch ran Google’s Android Wear software. But the following year Samsung switched to using its own software based on the Tizen operating system, which has powered Samsung smartwatches ever since.
Now Samsung and Google are combining elements of their wearable operating systems to create what they’re calling a “single, unified platform” that will be known as Wear OS 3, and that’s what Samsung’s next-gen watches will run when they ship later this year.
Update 7/22/2021: Google says Wear OS 3 will roll out as a software update for some recent watches from Mobvoi and Fossil, but it doesn’t seem to be coming to any older Samsung watches that originally shipped with Samsung’s Tizen-base smartwatch operating system.
According to Google, benefits of the new unified platform include longer battery life and apps that start as much as 30 percent more quickly. Samsung says it hopes that the new platform “will ignite innovation” and “inspire third party development” since wearable app developers will theoretically be able to target more devices at once moving forward.
Google says the new unified software platform has been optimized to better take advantage of low-power hardware cores to enable long battery life even when doing things like:
- Continuous heart rate measurements throughout the day
- Overnight sleep tracking
The next version of Wear OS will also feature a revamped user interface with new shortcuts for doing things like navigating to the previous app, new home screen customization options, and redesigned apps including Google Maps, Assistant, and Pay.
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
After acquiring Fitbit, Google is also getting ready to bring the company’s health tracking features to Wear OS. And YouTube Music is also coming to the OS later this year.
While it seems like the new platform may be the default OS for future Samsung smartwatches, the company says it will continue to support existing watches running its Tizen-based software, with at least three years of software support from the date of launch.
While the big news from today’s announcement is Samsung’s return to the fold, Google notes that the new version of Wear OS isn’t just for Google and Samsung devices. The new platform will be open to all companies making wearables.
What remains to be seen is whether this will spur any of those companies to use next-gen hardware. Most Wear OS watches on the market are still using aging technology rather than the latest chips that were supposed to bring improved performance.
But maybe that won’t matter if Google and Samsung can deliver on the promise of bringing improved performance at the operating system level.