Google and Samsung unite to reboot Android watches, with a dose of Fitbit

Filed in Technology by on May 24, 2021

ANDROID WATCHES: Google and Samsung have announced a collaboration to redesign Google’s Wear OS for watches, with future Galaxy watches running on this new software.

 Fitbit is also developing a Wear OS app and will release its own watch. On Tuesday, the announcement was made at this year’s Google I/O developer conference.

Does that seem like a lot? Yes, it is. The possibility of Samsung’s watches migrating to Google’s software has been anticipated, and Fitbit is already a Google company. 

However, the collaboration of Samsung and Fitbit with Google sounds like a Justice League of wearable tech, and it suggests a lot of changes in the Android watch landscape compete with the Apple Watch. New watches built with this new software will be available in the fall, though it’s unclear what they’ll cost.

Google and Samsung are collaborating on a new wearable platform.

Samsung’s collaboration with Google appears to be extensive. The two companies are co-creating not only the next version of WearOS but also its technical capabilities, such as fitness sensor support and future smartwatch chipsets.

“We’re seeing apps start up to 30% faster, and the performance is allowing us to add super smooth animations and transitions that we didn’t have before, all powered by the latest chipsets,” said Bjorn Kilburn, director of product management for Google Wear, during a Google Hangout call.

These new watches will be more cellular-ready, have longer battery lives, and appear to have more fitness and health features. The platform is likely to be similar to what Samsung has been developing for its recent Galaxy Watch Active wearables.

Google’s Wear OS apps are also receiving updates. On the new Wear OS watches, a new Google Maps will function without the need for a phone. Spotify and YouTube Music are both getting an offline music mode for watching videos.

The collaboration appears to be reopening the door for electronics partners to create Wear OS watches. “It will enable the entire Android ecosystem of device makers to bring their cutting-edge hardware and software experiences to the wearable space, just as Android has done for phones,” Kilburn explained. This suggests that other Android phone OEMs who were previously active in the Wear OS space may return.

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Kilburn did not, however, confirm the chipsets that will be used in these watches. “We are very focused on using the most up-to-date chipsets for wearables. And a lot of the decisions about which chipsets to use will be made by the OEM “He stated. Furthermore, not all Wear OS watches may be upgraded to this next-generation, more premium-sounding features, and software. “Whether or not those existing devices are upgraded will be determined by a number of factors. It will be determined whether the hardware itself can support the upgrade, as well as whether the OEM chooses to perform the upgrade “Kilburn stated.

Samsung’s next watches will all run Google software

The next generation of Samsung Galaxy watches will all run this new version of Google Wear OS, confirming a rumor that has been circulating for months. Apps for these watches will all be available on the Google Play store, but Samsung’s apps will also be available on the new OS. Samsung’s watch-face creation tool, according to Google, will be included in the new Wear OS. Furthermore, “select apps and services on the Galaxy Stores will be available through the Google Play Store on the new unified platform,” according to Samsung.

Google and Samsung unite to reboot Android watches, with a dose of Fitbit

CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

According to Samsung, the next Galaxy watch with Wear OS will retain the rotating bezel design, as well as improved battery life and more accurate health and fitness tracking. In a statement to CNET, Samsung said, “Future Galaxy Watch devices will be based on the new, co-created unified platform.” “In addition to the new unified platform, Samsung will continue to provide the great experiences that consumers loved on previous Galaxy smartwatches, such as the rotating bezel UX,” says Samsung.

Existing Samsung Galaxy watches, such as the recently released Galaxy Active 3, will not receive the new Google-based software. “The new unified platform is not upgradable on existing Galaxy smartwatches,” Samsung said in a statement. Existing Samsung watches will be supported for up to three years with software, but not on the new Wear OS.

This also means the end of Samsung’s S-Health app, though Samsung will allow S-Health data to be exported into Google’s Fit app. “Beloved Samsung services, such as Samsung Health, will remain central to the Galaxy experience and will be available on Galaxy smartwatches. Users who have used Samsung Health will be able to continue using the service on the new unified platform, and data can be exported to the new unified platform. The new platform does not include Samsung Health “Samsung confirmed the information via email.

 

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How about the Fitbit?

Fitbit, which was acquired by Google earlier this year, was always expected to be integrated into Google’s smartwatches at some point. Google has now announced the first step in the process, with Fitbit apps coming to Wear OS later this year.

Fitbit will also be developing its own Wear OS watch, based on the same blueprint for more advanced chips and the Samsung-Google OS design, but that watch won’t be available until next year. It’s expected to be more advanced, with features that could put it on par with Fitbit’s current premium device, the Fitbit Sense. It will almost certainly include cellular support as well as Google’s entire app ecosystem.

 

However, in the case of Fitbit, the app that will be available on Wear OS will gradually introduce new features. This year, it will primarily focus on activity snapshots via a “Today” tile, as well as fitness-goal celebrations and exercise modes. It will not, however, use heart rate or sleep tracking. You’ll still need to buy one of Fitbit’s existing fitness trackers for that.

 

Neither Google Fit nor Fitbit’s health platforms have yet merged. Fit and Fitbit will exist as separate apps, and it’s unclear whether data can be imported or transferred between the two. However, it appears to be the start of Fitbit’s shift toward a larger role in Google’s ecosystem, which Fitbit co-founder Eric Friedman hinted at earlier this year.

Solutions for Android watch fragmentation (a unified ecosystem?)

It’s never been easy to choose a smartwatch for Android phones. Google’s Wear OS aimed to be Android for watches years ago, but the landscape has since fragmented, with Samsung’s Galaxy watches, as well as Fitbit, Garmin, and other fitness watches, each having their own OS and apps. However, this appears to be changing.

In 2014, Samsung collaborated with Google on Gear Live, one of the first Android Wear watches. However, this new collaboration appears to be much deeper and more hardware-focused. Perhaps this is the next step toward the long-desired Pixel watch that never materialized. After all, Samsung’s Galaxy watches will function as the next-generation Pixel watch platform.

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