Rumours the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 will jump back into bed with Google would be a boost for both parties as they seek to challenge the almighty Apple Watch, argues Chris Smith.
Both the Samsung Galaxy Watch range and Google’s Wear OS need each other. Google hasn’t done a particularly fine job of making Wear OS feel like a big deal, but the fact is, it houses the key Google services and many of the important third-party apps any true Apple Watch rival should have.
If Samsung decides to drop its homemade Tizen OS for the Galaxy Watch 4, due this summer, it would be a prudent move that could make the wearable the go-to best smartwatch for those outside of the Apple ecosystem.
Last year, we afforded the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 4.5 out of 5 stars. Perfection was simply better battery life and a greater selection of apps away. Our reviewer wrote: “To be clear, app support is nowhere near Apple Watch levels.” A reinvigorated Wear OS could bring the might of the Play Store to Android phone owners.
“The Galaxy Watch 3 isn’t the Apple Watch-killer Android fans have been waiting for,” our own Alastair Stevenson wrote. But the Galaxy Watch 4 could be if that premium build, gorgeous design, surprisingly impressive health and fitness tracking and solid smartwatch features has an app store housing the best the Play Store has to offer. Ironically, Al doesn’t agree.
I can kind of see his point. Wear OS isn’t perfect right now. Changing this will take effort from Google’s part. Like some actual effort. To call Wear OS an afterthought would be an understatement. The company has continually overlooked its wearable platform and now only a few manufacturers really place their faith in Wear OS – TicWatch, Fossil and Misfit among them.
The Apple Watch continues to be the standard-bearer for smartwatches, but it’s not like the chasing pack makes life particularly hard. It seems most other smartwatches do one or two things particularly well, but struggle to match the full package Apple has put together.
For example, there are better fitness-focused watches, like the Garmin Fenix range but they aren’t quite as effective as smartwatches. There are good options for Android users like the TicWatch Pro 3, which offers the best of Google services, but the hardware isn’t quite as premium. The Fitbit Sense offers all of Fitbit’s consumer-focused activity tracking and has Alexa integration, but the FitbitOS lacks a fully-packed suite of apps.
We can go on. The Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro offers two weeks of battery life, besting almost every other high-end smartwatch out there. However, because Google is now banned from offering its apps and services to Huawei under US trade law, the Chinese firm is now likely to substitute its own Harmony OS in, leaving it with the same problem suffered by Samsung’s Tizen watches now: not enough apps.
Wear OS (nee Android Wear) is due a huge overhaul and this could be the perfect year. There’s long been rumours of a Pixel Watch that never play out when it comes to product releases. This year it may be different, with Google reportedly planning its first own-branded Pixel Watch to accompany the Pixel 6. If this is the case, Wear OS will surely get the love and attention it has needed all this time. Maybe we’ll see the integration of the Fitbit OS, which Google now controls following its Fitbit purchase?
Friends with benefits
It could be a catalyst for Google-powered wearables that Samsung would be wise to jump on board with. Afterall, there are few tech giants that have done more for each other’s prominence than Samsung and Google (Ok, maybe Intel and Microsoft).
Samsung was among the first companies to release a sexy Android phone. The Galaxy S2, alongside the HTC Hero, was perhaps the first “wow!” device to really capture the imagination at the dawn of the touchscreen era. Samsung helped to put Android on the map and, through the years the Galaxy range has consistently featured among the best Android phones out there.
There’s no reason why this partnership can’t be replicated in the smartwatch realm, dominated in similar fashion Apple’s one-two punch of homegrown hardware and a near-perfect software and app ecosystem.
The Galaxy Watch 4 could finally be the smartwatch Android users – effectively shut out from owning an Apple Watch – have dreamed of. Samsung and Google have needed each other since smartphones were a thing. We could be about to see further fruits of what has been a profitable partnership for both.