It hasn’t been as easy to sell smartwatches as anyone had hoped. Even the Apple Watch hasn’t been a runaway success. Samsung was one of the first large electronics firms to launch smartwatches running Google’s Android Wear (now Wear OS), but it pulled back to focus on its own Tizen-based wearables. Now, long-time leaker Evan Blass says Samsung is switching back to Wear OS on an upcoming Gear watch.
Samsung has gone through a number of smartwatch phases. It started before the launch of Android Wear when the company released the Galaxy Gear. It ran Android but not Google’s version of Android for a watch. Instead, this was a highly customized build (based on the open source code) just for Samsung’s watches. Later, it released the Gear Live as one of the first Android Wear devices. That’s the only involvement Samsung had with Wear, though. It moved on to a Tizen-based smartwatch platform with new Gear watches soon thereafter.
According to Evan Blass, Samsung employees are testing a new Gear watch right now that doesn’t run Tizen. It’s back to Google’s Wear OS, apparently. Some other recent rumors suggested this watch was the Gear S4, an updated version of Samsung’s last flagship Tizen smartwatch. If Samsung does intend to make the switch back to Wear, testing it out with employees at this point would make sense. The internals would be similar (an ARM chip with low RAM and storage), so the watch could switch back to Tizen somewhat late in development.
Seen on the wrists of Samsung employees: Gear watches running not Tizen, but Wear OS.
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) May 23, 2018
Tizen is basically Samsung’s backup in case it doesn’t want to use Android at some point in the future. It’s created a handful of phones and other devices running Tizen, but the watches are its most successful consumer Tizen project. While the Tizen wearable UI is a little cluttered, it has better battery life than Wear, and the notification management is fantastic. However, the app support on Tizen is virtually nonexistent. It also lacks an updated voice assistant — it still relies on S Voice, which Samsung retired on phones more than a year ago. Wear OS has vastly better app support, and it runs Google Assistant.
Even if Samsung launches a Wear OS device, it could theoretically continue making some Tizen wearables. Perhaps the “Fit” series with its smaller form factor and fitness focus could remain a Tizen product. The Gear S3 came out more than a year ago, so we’re due for a new Samsung wearable soon.