More information is coming to light over on The Verge about Wear OS 3 and what this means going forward with both the software and hardware. This quote strikes at the heart of the matter:
It’s not just about improving on the low bar of either Wear OS or Tizen. There are low bars everywhere for Android users. As Wear OS stagnated, OnePlus, RealMe, Oppo, Fitbit, and others have turned to proprietary, simplified platforms that lack the features you’d expect in a smartwatch today.
The fact that Wear OS had an entry as the first wearable OS to market and no less than four companies turned their backs on it after giving it a go, speaks volumes. Let’s not wear rose-colored glasses though. Apple’s watchOS was a complete mess when Apple Watch first launched. It wasn’t focused nor did Apple have the ability to dial-in the watch’s core strengths before it came to market.
Remember the weird “contact your friends on the dial” thing? Or that apps basically had to do everything via the connected iPhone? Yeah, the initial road was tough. So tough in fact that Apple only took under five months to roll out watchOS version 2. This is the reason watchOS is always a version number ahead of the Series number of the hardware.
Simply put: Apple couldn’t wait.
Google, Wear OS, and the hardware manufacturers have turned what should be a competing platform into a street fight of proprietary systems that are slicing up half of a pie into smaller pieces. Interestingly, Google is carving out a slice for themselves in the easily-forgotten ownership of Fitbit. From that same Verge article:
It gets more complicated with Google’s acquisition of Fitbit. Google has said that it wouldn’t stop using its own health tracking system, Google Fit. That means that these watches could theoretically have three different fitness tracking software options: Samsung, Google, and Fitbit.
Three fitness tracking options. On a single watch. Nobody short of a techie is going to have any idea of what they’re doing. As Apple’s offering has been in the mainstream for a few years, imagine those “normals” trying to navigate this ocean of options, lock-in, and competing software that sort of does the same thing, but not quite.
I look forward to seeing what Samsung does for the platform with this new partnership. Any sort of focus will greatly benefit the platform and Android users who don’t want to switch.