This is the question I keep asking myself now that we have both rumors and a possible reference to the code indicating that Samsung is working on a Wear OS watch for the first time since the platform launched in 2014. I can’t decide if Samsung should make a Wear OS watch again or if they should stay away.
To catch up with you, we believe Samsung is working on a Wear OS watch, as we first had a rumor of an always accurate Samsung leaker. This rumor was quickly followed by a report that Samsung had left some code in their kernel source that recognizes a product called “Merlin” that has something to do with Wear OS. This is notable because Samsung hasn’t touched Wear OS since Gear Live in 2014 and instead only released watches running their own Tizen operating system. As one of the biggest players in the smartwatch game, it would be a huge move for Samsung to change platform.
Would this be a good decision? Again, this is where we come back to the title question. I do not know! Here is what I can tell you.
Wear OS is still an outdated, barely functional portable platform that Google has almost completely abandoned. They care so little about Wear OS that their executives don’t even know if or when it’s attending their own developer conference. Some of its most important features have been shattered for months and only grab Google’s attention now because the media has made them a stench. People are constantly asking Google if this is a dead platform.
Google is trying to tell us that they invest in Wear OS and wearable devices every few months, so at least we have that to keep going. We also received a decent Wear OS update last fall. It was not major major, but it was an update that showed Google was still working on it. We even have a new Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip with a lot of promise, but no one wants to use it outside of Mobvoi (and maybe Motorola). I think it’s generally safe to say that Wear OS is not a thriving platform, has few partners that make devices, and would have died years ago if Fossil didn’t keep it alive. with its many brands.
But what if Samsung made a Wear OS watch? Well, Samsung makes good stuff. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 was a fabulous fitness-focused watch, while the Galaxy Watch 3 is certainly a high-end sensation. They make their own portable chips which are regularly updated over time. They’re doing cool things like adding rotating glasses and trying to keep up with advanced health metrics. Samsung does really nice smartwatches – they just don’t run Wear OS.
Where I think the idea gets interesting is only because a change to Samsung could very well mean that Google has new plans for Wear OS. Does that mean a whole new user interface, new apps and services, and a mature Wear operating system unlike anything we’ve seen before? Huh, maybe? Or maybe Samsung will just bring all of its stuff.
An example of this is the OPPO Watch or the TicWatch Pro 3, where both companies have put a ton of their own software on these watches with companion apps that sync with smartphones, almost outside of Wear OS. They even installed their own app launchers because Google is so frustrating to use. Samsung could do something similar with Samsung Health as they then rely on Google for most of the others like the Google Assistant, notifications, Google apps, etc.
There’s another part of me that thinks the really big decision would be for Google to open up Wear OS a bit more, let someone like Samsung slap One UI on it, and use it more like they do Android on a phone. With so little interest in Wear OS as it is now, it’s time for Google to let companies show their own visions. In a way, we’ve seen companies like Fossil do this, where they’ve added battery modes and sleep tracking because Google couldn’t find the time. But these companies could certainly take things to another level if Google let them.
Coming back to the subject I am giving, I think so, Samsung is making a Wear OS watch that is interesting. This is not only interesting, because Samsung makes beautiful smartwatches. Instead, the details I want to know are in the Why Samsung would return to Wear OS. What is Google doing?