Google launched Wear OS (nee Android Wear) in 2014 with partners like Samsung, LG, and Motorola. Most big smartphone makers stopped making Wear OS watches over the intervening years, but a new report from SamMobile adds credence to the rumors that Samsung could be returning to the Google fold. The company’s next wearable will apparently run Wear with a healthy sprinkling of One UI styling.
After initially supporting Wear OS, Samsung broke away and focused on its own Tizen-based wearable software. Tizen offers better battery life and performance on the small screen, but Samsung’s services and app support aren’t even in the same league as Google’s. Coming back to Wear gives Samsung a more robust set of features, but it’s not going to stop there.
According to the report, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 family will run Wear OS with a version of the company’s One UI skin on top. Skins are possible but not very common on Wear. For example, Oppo has a skin that makes its watch look a lot like Apple’s watchOS. Samsung’s take on Wear should look a great deal like the current Tizen UI, but it will be Android under the hood. Sources also suggest there will be a new walkie-talkie feature that allows users to send short audio messages, a capability the Apple Watch has had for several years.
Running a new wearable version of One UI on top of Android could spell trouble for performance on a wearable, but Samsung has a few things working in its favor. First, One UI is much better than the old TouchWiz UI — the company’s newer phones don’t suffer from the same performance issues as older ones. Wear as it currently exists is also slow and often buggy. Samsung can’t screw it up worse than it’s already screwed up.
There may be as many as three versions of the Galaxy Watch 4, codenamed Wise, Fresh, and Lucky. There will be at least one classic model with a traditional watch aesthetic and a rotating bezel. The other two will reportedly feature simplified, sporty styling. Imagine the Galaxy Watch 3 compared with the Watch Active2.
We don’t know when the new watches will launch, but we could well hear more about them during Google I/O this week. If Google has gotten Samsung back as a wearable partner, it will definitely want to crow about that. It’s been a while since Google had anything approaching good news about wearables.
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