On this week’s episode of The Chrome Cast, we finally had a chance to sit down and digest some of the awesome announcements that came out of Google’s 2021 I/O developer conference. There weren’t a lot of consumer-facing products unveiled but the list of new software and platform features is a long one and we’ll be breaking those down, piece by piece, over the next few days. There are a ton of new features coming to Chrome OS, the web, Google Assistant, and more but today, I want to talk about wearables.
Wear OS, now simply Wear, has lived a rough life and there were times that it really felt as if Google was going to abandon the wearable platform altogether despite stating an ongoing commitment to OS. Then, Google slid in and acquired Fitbit that seemed a bit odd at first but it stirred hope that Wear could finally find its place in the world with the backing of Fitbit’s industry-leading products and ingenuity. While it may be a while before we see the full evolution of the Google and Fitbit relationship, I/O brought another interesting bit of information that could be the shot in the arm that the Wear platform desperately needs.
If you aren’t an Apple Watch kind of person, the two major options you’re left with are Wear by Google and Samsung’s Tizen OS. Both have their own redeeming qualities but also have their shortcomings. Where Wear has faltered in the software arena, Tizen OS is limited in its app selection. That said, the Galaxy wearables that run Tizen OS are arguably some of the best watches on the market, and Wear devices have struggled to keep up with style and performance. I own the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS which is considered one of the best performing Wear devices on the market but as good as it is, it could be so much more if Wear could just mature. This latest bit of news could trigger that maturation from a very unexpected union between Samsung and Google.
During the “What’s new with Wear” session, Google announced that Wear and Tizen OS have been working together to bring users the best of both worlds.
Samsung and Google have a long history of collaboration. Now, we’re bringing the best of Wear and Tizen into a single, unified platform. By working together we have been able to take strengths of each and combine them into an experience that has faster performance, longer battery life and more of the apps you love available for the watch.
I’m not sure exactly what this new ecosystem will look like but we do know that Samsung’s next watch will run Wear and it appears that both operating systems will soon be a singular platform. That’s great news for Wear and Tizen users because Google is touting a 30% speed increase for Wear devices as well as increased battery life. This also means that the developer communities will naturally merge as the unified platform results in apps that work across all future Wear devices. Oh yeah, Spotify and YouTube apps will now support offline downloads which is a massive shortcoming on the current Wear platform.
Other updates include a new designing tool adopted from Samsung that will make creating Tiles for your watch much easier and open to anyone and the ability for watchmakers to create a customized experience based on their specific design cues. The new Wear should be the standard for future devices but one report states that some existing devices could receive an update to the new Wear platform although it isn’t set in stone and there are no hints as to which devices may gain this blessing. Fitbit features will also be baked into the new Wear operation system which will include health and activity tracking. I sincerely hope that my TicWatch will get this update but let’s be honest, you know we’re all getting a Pixel watch if and when it finally arrives. Learn more about the all-new Wear here.