With a long history of working together on mobile devices, it was always a surprise that Samsung hasn’t had much patience for Google’s wearables. The hardware giant had flirted with Android Wear in the past, but for the past few years, it was dedicated to developing its own version of the open source operating system, Tizen.
Now the two companies announced a partnership that features a “unified platform” between the two competitors at some point. The goal of the deal is essentially to provide a way for developers to create apps for Wear OS and Tizen at the same time. The deal makes sense from that perspective. Third-party apps were a sticking point for both companies.
More specifically, it’s an opportunity for two smaller players in the space to join forces and take on Apple, which was completely dominant in the smartwatch category pretty much since the first Apple Watch arrived.
Wear OS already went through a number of cycles, including a big rebranding of the Android OS a while back, but nothing really stalled over the years, leaving the wearable device running as a sort of also ran. For now, at least, this is far from a full adoption of Wear OS by Samsung and seems to be something more akin to an “enemy of my enemy” situation. Along with the development of a unified API, the companies are joining forces to bring out the best in each operating system, including longer battery life, perhaps the biggest hurdle facing smartwatches at the moment.
“We know that health and wellness are at the forefront of consumers’ minds and we are excited to continue to develop the industry-leading health experience on our new unified platform with Google,” Samsung said in a blog post. “As our consumers turn to wearable technology to monitor their well-being, we are meeting these needs head-on. By creating world-class health technology, we hope to improve the way users approach their wellness and enable them to make positive changes in their daily lives.”
Samsung added that the next version of the Galaxy Watch will be the first to take advantage of this partnership, but offered little additional information on the hardware front. I anticipate big news on the Wear OS front over the next year. At the very least, the company’s partnership with Google is a sign that it’s ready to break the platform.