One of the biggest rumours that preceded Google’s annual developer conference – besides a first-look at Android 12, was the potential for a complete revamp to the company’s wearable platform, Wear OS, and with Samsung’s help, it seems that’s what we’re getting.
Unveiled at Google I/O 2021, Google announced a partnership with Samsung to help evolve its long-standing wearable platform, which has come under fire over the years for its lack of innovation, incomplete feel and unrefined user experience.
Samsung has inserted itself as one of the most prominent players in the smartwatch space (alongside Apple), and its expertise and history in wearables’ evolution means it’s uniquely positioned to inform what will make for a useful, enjoyable smartwatch experience.
This partnership doesn’t just see the two companies working together to improve Wear OS, but rather the announcement at I/O 2021 revealed plans to combine Google’s Wear OS and Samsung’s existing Tizen OS platforms into a unified experience.
A full breakdown of what “Wear” (which looks to be a working title for the platform, at present) brings to the table and how it differs from Wear OS in its current state isn’t yet available but Google said this new experience should deliver in two key areas: performance and longevity.
“Wear”-powered watches should offer up to a 30% reduction in app load times, versus the existing Wear OS experience, while the under-the-hood refinements should also deliver notable improvements to battery longevity, despite an expanded feature set.
We also saw interaction demonstrations that show easier app navigation and switching, which plays to the strengths of this more responsive user experience (with the double-tap of a single hardware button to jump between he last two open apps).
Google’s purchase of Fitbit also materialised in the form of a new Fitbit experience for “Wear” which will deliver existing Fitbit features and services to a new swathe of smartwatch users, while the company also revealed that it would be building its own “premium smartwatches, based on Wear” in the near future.
As for Samsung’s involvement, the South Korean company stated that it was “creating a blueprint for innovative future smartwatch experiences.” While also committing to “at least three years of software support after the product launch” for its existing Tizen OS-based Galaxy smartwatches.