This week was imagined to be the primary day of Google’s large reentry into flagship smartwatches. Samsung is back on board after years of Tizen-based wearables, with its new Galaxy Watch 4 that runs the new, revitalized Wear OS 3. It’s the smartwatch OS that merges one of the best of Google and Samsung’s discrete platforms collectively.
However there was only one concern: Google was unusually absent from the proceedings. Actually, apart from just a few indirect mentions of working with Google on the software program, you might need watched Samsung’s complete presentation and never even caught that the brand new watches have been running on Wear OS at all.
On the one hand, that is extraordinarily par for the course for Samsung. It’s virtually a working gag at this level that Samsung goes out of its method to keep away from mentioning Google or Android when it discusses its new cellphone releases. And certainly, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Fold 3 sections have been stuffed with reward for Samsung’s One UI, with nary a point out of Android 11 or Android 12 or any enhancements Google has been making on an OS stage to allow these gadgets to work higher.
Seeing the same dynamic right here with the Galaxy Watch and Put on OS 3 — one which centered extra on Samsung’s One UI enhancements and software program layer greater than something that the brand new Google collaboration permits — is smart given Samsung’s historical past.
However the Samsung-heavy announcement highlights simply how a lot of an uphill battle Google has right here, and the way a lot it’s going to should depend on Samsung (which has very totally different objectives than Google) because it seems to revitalize its wearables.
And it’s laborious to take a look at the Galaxy Watch 4 as something apart from a compromise of a tool for Google. It’s a flagship Put on OS 3 watch that runs Samsung’s UI on prime, gained’t ship with Google Assistant, and comes filled with default apps that compete with Google’s personal providers.
The default well being monitoring app on Put on OS is Samsung Well being. And the default fee app? Samsung Pay. The default assistant? Bixby. The checklist of default apps goes on: Messages, Pictures, Calendar, Clock, Music and extra are all Samsung’s model. You’ll be able to manually set up Google’s model of those apps, nevertheless it’s a problem.
It might be Google’s working system, however that is positively Samsung’s watch.
And whereas Samsung is arguably a extra egocentric associate than Google could have hoped for to relaunch its Put on OS platform, Google additionally doesn’t have a lot of a alternative. The checklist of Put on OS companions in 2021 isn’t lengthy or distinguished. Motorola and LG haven’t made smartwatches in years, OnePlus, RealMe, and Oppo are all utilizing their very own working methods, and Fitbit — whereas now owned by Google — has but to embrace Google’s working system in any respect.
In 2021, your finest guess for a Put on OS watch is both TicWatch or Fossil, which — whereas having carried out an admirable job of attempting to hold the platform so far — aren’t the sort of large identify companions on the caliber of Samsung. Neither of these firms seems able to launch a Put on OS 3 look ahead to a while, both, with Fossil already confirming that its vacation releases will nonetheless be caught on the old Wear OS platform. (With upgrades coming sometime next year.)
There’s added confusion, too: Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, for instance, will use Samsung Well being for a minimum of a few of its health providers. You’ll be able to set up Google Match, nevertheless it feels prefer it’s tacked on this watch. And as far as we will inform, you can’t swap from Samsung Pay to Google Pay or from Bixby to the Google Assistant on this watch. And the Galaxy Watch gained’t work with iOS gadgets, one thing that Google gained’t make clear as restricted to only Samsung’s mannequin or a possible restrict of all Put on OS 3 watches.
So what does Google get out of the Galaxy Watch? Nicely, on the finish of the day, the brand new Put on OS-powered Galaxy Watch is on Google’s OS and does depend on important Google providers just like the Play Retailer for apps. It’s extra suitable with non-Samsung Android telephones and can work with Google providers like Maps and Gmail (even when a few of these should face Samsung-branded competitors).
Moreover, the Put on OS smartwatch market remains to be fairly stagnant proper now, so it’s not like Google has something to lose by letting Samsung do a closely Samsung-focused watch. Anybody who buys into the Galaxy Watch 4 is one other person to assist bolster the Play Retailer, and a much bigger viewers for builders seeking to spend money on Google’s platform.
Plus, with Google’s previous investments in smartwatches (a listing that features its $2.1 billion buy of Fitbit and a mysterious $40 million acquisition from Fossil in 2019), it’s attainable the present established order gained’t final perpetually. If Apple and Samsung have proven something, it’s that generally one of the best ways to get an awesome smartwatch is to only do it your self — and the upcoming Pixel 6 looks as if it may use an identical high-end smartwatch to go together with it.