It’s Looking Like Samsung’s Return to Wear OS Is Inevitable


Illustration for article titled It's Looking Like Samsung's Return to Wear OS Is Inevitable

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Rumors that Samsung might be ditching its proprietary smartwatch operating system for Googles neglected Wear OS platform arent new. However, its looking increasingly likely that Tizen OS is not long for this world.

Earlier this week, Android Police found hidden code in the Galaxy Wearable app that referenced a new pair of Samsung earbuds dubbed the Galaxy Buds 2. Tech writer Max Weinbach, who spotted the reference, then tweeted that the code also revealed some interesting tidbits about the forthcoming Galaxy watches.

Specifically, the code references a new plugin dubbed water, which Weinbach posits is a Samsung wearable/Wear OS compatibility layer. It also seems to reference a new chipset called merlot for two watches codenamed wise and fresh. But the real kicker is that Weinbach found a reference that explicitly says newos.

Its likely that the two watches refer to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Active 4. (No, you didnt miss the Galaxy Watch Active 3, Samsung just sometimes decides to skip numbers. There was no Galaxy Watch 2, for example.) However, the merlot chipset is notable. The past two iterations of Samsung Galaxy watches have relied on the same Exynos chip. Thats not a bad thing! The watches are quite snappy compared to Wear OS watches powered by Qualcomms Snapdragon Wear 2100 and 3100 platforms. However, a new SoC might signal that we could be seeing some advanced features.

If water is truly a compatibility layer, its also possible that Samsung is taking a similar approach to Wear OS as the Oppo Watch did. While the Oppo Watch is technically a Wear OS watch, it runs a fork of the operating system that takes the best of Oppos ColorOS and mashes it with the parts of Wear OS that people actually like. Also unlike most Wear OS watches, the Oppo Watch uses a non-Qualcomm co-processor paired with the Snapdragon Wear 3100. The result is frankly one of the best Wear OS watches out there.

This could mean that Samsungs figured out a way to customize Wear OS in a way thats beneficial for it and Google. As in, Samsung could opt for its own more powerful processor that enables all the strides it made in the past few years with regard to advanced health featureslike FDA-cleared ECG, SpO2 sensors, etc.that are noticeably absent from Wear OS watches. It could also completely dominate the Android smartwatch market by giving people the choice between Bixby/Google Assistant and Samsung Pay/Google Paynot to mention offer a more robust third-party app store.

When this rumor was first making the rounds, it seemed like a Very Bad Idea for Samsung. This latest round of leaks makes a potential switch to Wear OS seem less painful, but the main reason why this might not work still isnt resolved. Put simply, Google has yet to show any sign that Wear OS is a priority. In the past year, Google has prioritized creating smartwatch apps for Apple first, rolled out underwhelming updates, and thats about it. Most embarrassingly, the hey Google command on Wear OS has been broken for months. In some cases, Tizen-based apps are also better than their Wear OS counterparts. Spotify is the best example of this. On Tizen, Spotify allows offline playlists. On Wear OS, its a glorified remote.

It could be a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Perhaps Google doesnt see the point in investing in Wear OS until it has a flagship worthy of it. But of course, there cant be a great flagship Wear OS watch until Google invests in the platform. Unless, you know, Samsung were to throw Google a boneand thats what these rumors seem to be hinting at.

Well have to wait and see. Samsung tends to launch its new wearables in August, but some leakers have suggested we could see it much earlier this year. In any case, Samsungs probably already made its choice. At this point, all we can hope for is that Android users not get screwed over and for Samsung to please, please, please keep the rotating bezel.





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