Rumors that Samsung may remove this its own smartwatch operating system for Google’s neglected Wear OS platform are not new. However, it seems increasingly likely that the Tizen OS is not long for this world.
Earlier this week, Android Police found hidden code in the Galaxy Wearable app that referred to a new pair of Samsung earbuds called Galaxy Buds 2. Technical author Max Weinbach, who saw the reference, then twitret that the code also revealed some interesting things about the upcoming Galaxy watches.
In particular, the code refers to a new plugin called “water”, such as Weinbach posits is a “Samsung Laptop / Wear OS Compatibility Layer.” It also seems to refer to a new chipset called “merlot” for two watches with the code names “wise” and “fresh”. But the real kicker is that Weinbach found a reference that explicitly says “newos.”
It’s likely that the two watches refer to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Active 4. (No, you did not miss the Galaxy Watch Active 3, Samsung only occasionally decides to skip numbers. There was no Galaxy Watch 2, for example.) However, the “Merlot” chipset is remarkable. The last two iterations of Samsung Galaxy watches have relied on the same Exynos chip. That’s not a bad thing! The watches are quite fast compared to Wear OS watches powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 and 3100 platforms. However, a new SoC may signal that we can see some advanced features.
If “water” is really a compatibility layer, it is also possible that Samsung is taking a similar approach to Wear OS as Oppo Watch did. While the Oppo Watch is technically a Wear OS watch, it runs a fork in the operating system that takes the best out of Oppos ColorOS and mixes it with the parts of the Wear OS that people actually like. Also different For most Wear OS watches, the Oppo Watch uses a non-Qualcomm co-processor Snapdragon Wear 3100. The result is honestly one of the best Wear OS watches out there.
This may mean that Samsung has figured out a way to “customize” Wear OS in a way that is beneficial to it and Google. As in, Samsung could choose its own more powerful processor that enables all advances in recent years in terms of advanced health features – such as FDA-cleared ECG, SpO2 sensors, etc.—It is noticeably absent from Wear OS watches. It can also completely dominate the Android smartwatch market by giving people the choice between Bixby / Google Assistant and Samsung Pay / Google Pay – nTo mention offer a more robust third-party app store.
When this rumor first went around, it seemed a very bad idea for Samsung. This latest round of leaks makes a potential switch to Wear OS seem less painful, but the main reason why this may not still work is not solved. Simply put, Google has not yet shown any signs that Wear OS is a priority. Over the past year, Google has given priority to creating smartwatch apps for Apple first, rolled out overwhelming updates, and it’s about that. Most embarrassing is the “hello Google” command on Wear OS been destroyed for several months. In some cases, Tizen-based apps are also better than their Wear OS counterparts. Spotify is the best example of this. On Tizen, Spotify allows offline playlists. On Wear OS, there is a glorified remote control.
It can be a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Maybe Google does not see the point of investing in Wear OS until it has a “flagship” worthy of it. But of course, it can not be a great flagship Wear OS watch before Google invests in the platform. Unless you know, Samsung should throw Google a leg up – and it is what these rumors seem to suggest.
We’ll have to wait and see. Samsung tends to launch its new wearables in August, but some leaks have suggested we could see it much earlier this year. In any case, Samsung has probably already made its choice. At this point we can only hope for is it Android users do not be screwed and to please Samsung, please keep the rotating frame.