Opinion

Samsung’s smartwatches should be running Android Wear instead of Tizen

Samsung has been at the forefront of wearable devices ever since the original Galaxy Gear went on sale. The Korean manufacturer has launched three smartwatches, a fitness tracker, and a virtual reality handset since then, and it’s safe to say Samsung has been moving much faster than pretty much any other company out there when it comes to wearables. Samsung is currently the number one smartwatch vendor in the world, and it is using its lead in the market to take its time with its next smartwatch – the Orbis, which will have a round display – and make it as close to perfect as possible.

Sadly, the fact that the Orbis will run Tizen instead of Android Wear is something that just doesn’t sit well with me.

Tizen is a nice operating system. It’s light, runs fast, and allows Samsung to offer much better battery life than smartwatches running Android Wear. Being Samsung’s own operating system, Tizen has allowed the company to offer considerably more functionality than the competition in all its smartwatches (the original Galaxy Gear didn’t run Tizen, but it ran a full version of Android and was hence as functional.) Furthermore, putting Tizen on its watches is helping Samsung eke out a wearable ecosystem of its own, one that runs on its in-house OS instead of one developed by the competition.

Unfortunately, all this hasn’t exactly resulted into the Gear watches providing the best experience when you look at the fact that a smartwatch is supposed to offer convenience and access to things that you would usually take out your phone to do. The fact that we can get relevant data from various apps right on our wrist is one of the few reasons that justifies the existence of the smartwatch product category, but thanks to the Gear watches running Tizen instead of Android, we have seen a dearth of supported apps despite the first Gear smartwatch having come out almost two years ago.

Compare this with Android Wear. It’s been less than a year since the first Android Wear smartwatch hit markets (you can read our Gear Live review here), and we can already see a ton of popular apps offering support for the OS (the fact that Google makes it extremely easy for developers to port their apps to Android Wear helps considerably). These apps offer functionality that you couldn’t do before without taking out your phone – for example, you can book a taxi using apps like Uber right from your wrist, or reply to a tweet using voice control on Twitter apps that support it.

SAMSUNG CSC

There are a lot of other use cases for apps on a smartwatch, but they all require the developer to actually spend time building in those functions for the smartwatch version of their app. On Android Wear, we have seen a lot of apps bring such features to the smartwatch, but on Samsung’s in-house Gear watches, developers haven’t really been interested in doing the same. The result? Apps that basically only show you notifications without the option to act on them or perform a task right from the watch.

There’s another feature – or the lack thereof – that really puts Samsung’s Gear smartwatches behind those powered by Android Wear. That’s Google Now, Google’s personal digital and voice assistant. Google’s voice recognition technology is pretty much unmatched in the industry, and it is considerably superior to Samsung’s S Voice, which is preloaded on every Gear smartwatch. Then there’s the fact that S Voice doesn’t do any of the intelligent assistant stuff that Google Now is capable of (basically, presenting you with important information before you ask for it), and it becomes even more agitating that we don’t have access to Google Now on any of Samsung’s Tizen-powered watches.

I totally understand why Samsung is doing this. In its efforts to create its own ecosystem which can help it reduce its independence on other companies, making every smartwatch run Tizen makes sense. But it also means that we are stuck with two huge limitations – the lack of functional smartwatch apps and an amazing voice recognition/digital assistant technology. The former is something Samsung can’t really help (though developers naturally aren’t too interested in making apps for watches that won’t run with a non-Samsung phone or tablet, even if the Korean manufacturer is responsible for a majority of Android device sales), but the fact that something like Google Now isn’t available to users just because Samsung wants to use its own OS on its wearables is one that doesn’t sit too well with me.

Unless Samsung can reach a level of competence where it can challenge Google as far as lack of apps and brilliant voice recognition is concerned, I really don’t see any point of any Gear smartwatch running Tizen. The Orbis might be shaping up to one of the best smartwatches the world has ever seen, but considering the high prices of smartwatches and their lack of the aforementioned functionality on Samsung’s Gears, it’s ultimately a poor experience for end users.

P.S.: If one were to point out that Android Wear is quite limited, I would agree wholeheartedly (especially when you talk of battery life). But Android Wear can only grow more powerful and more functional as time passes, and unless Samsung can address the two biggest issues its smartwatches have, there’s really not much point spending so much on a Tizen-powered watch. 

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PeterDtown
PeterDtown

All of you disagreeing with this article simply don’t understand how this market works. The success of a platform has nothing (ZERO) to do with the capabilities of that platform. Samsung should drop Tizen in favour of Android Wear for one simple reason – it has the larger developer base and more apps. That’s what drives the market. That’s what 99% of end users are looking for. The average user simply doesn’t care about OS capabilities; if there aren’t a lot of cool apps the capabilities are completely irrelevant.

AquilaSol
AquilaSol

If they bring Android Wear to the Gear S, I’ll be the first to buy it.

mazdy
mazdy

The fact is no operating system starts with a bang and becomes a success overnight it takes time and money. You can’t quit just like Microsoft Windows phone OS, you have to try to get it right in the end it will be beneficial to all. More choices. I think Samsung should keep trying.

PeerBr
PeerBr

Please.

I bet most of those who say “Google makes oh so bad software” are drooling after Lollipop in the other threads. You probably are hating against Samsung software on your phone, too (“The bloatware! Die Touchwhiz!”). And you just might be in the camp of “Why oh why don’t you update my Nxxx-yy”. So that is why I second this article, am perfectly happy with Android Wear and would never, ever depend on Samsung for device, OS and software at the same time.

The Gear S is gorgeous and has superior hardware. But a Samsung OS? No way, José.

ManOfSteele
ManOfSteele

Yes, I am drooling after lollipop.. which is super cartoony and has worse performance than KitKat haha. Google Apps taking 40+% of your battery just by running in the background, not to mention the lack of optimization in the system as a whole, when not even their latest Nexus 6 runs smoother than the $90 Samsung Z1… and that super fugly UI that is rivaled only by the Apple Watch… Android Wear ftw!

ManOfSteele
ManOfSteele

You probably have a Moto 360 too… please tell me why having a UI that doesn’t even take up the whole screen and why not knowing the size of your battery is acceptable..

kronicle
kronicle

Let me clue you in on Samsung using Tizen OS over Android Wear and the Fact both are using Touchwiz. Which has been developed full DESKTOP GUI Window Manager with all it’s MAIN FEATURES Still in it! If you go to Tizen Wiki, you see that it’s being developed by the Open Source Linux Foundation as a Full Open Standards based OS, complete with W3C HTML 5 Web Widgets as it’s internal application framework. No other OS has yet switched to the complete set of Standards based on coming HTML 5! Which gives it a head start the coming Age… Read more »

ironbat
ironbat

android wear is a joke

luisgomesrj
luisgomesrj

I really think that android wear is not ready yet…seems its still in development. Im really happy with my tizen on gear not only for battery. Google now? Do you really use it with your smartwatch? Maybe a good option for those places that google now works fine, not worldwide.

ManOfSteele
ManOfSteele

This guy has a good point. I mean think about it… Google has done a fantastic job with Android. Look how well optimized it is! Look how little battery all of just Googles apps take (close to 50% just running in the background), look how sleek Android Wear is as an OS!… The only way Samsung could improve their watches is by making them available to anyone with an Android phone, but I understand why they don’t. Their Tizen phone has been well received in India and all of their other products are running Tizen with the exception of their… Read more »

ProdByEchelon
ProdByEchelon

NO! Android Wear is horrible and limited. Tizen offers so much more. If the Gear S had Android Wear, I would’ve gotten the Moto 360 over it

hot_spare
hot_spare

I seriously don’t know what the author has studied, but there is a reason why tech journalism is going down the drain. Sammobile is very good for firmware, news etc., But please think twice before making such ridiculous claims.

hot_spare
hot_spare

Absolutely flawed argument. I don’t know if the author has any judgement of the actual business. 1. Number of apps don’t matter in a smart watch. Nobody will ever need your Citibank, Feedly, Riptide , Instagram to work on the smartwatch. A (smart)watch’s primary function should be a) notification b) instant quick replies c) note taking ability d) health and exercise modules e) media control f) alarm/reminder functions. Apart from these you may think about a few more miscellaneous functions. All these things doesn’t require tons of apps. 2. If you say smartwatch should be with Android, why not also… Read more »

Nine54
Nine54

Great points by @hot_spare and @CHYCKYN. The issue laying beneath the surface here is that the “WinTel” paradigm of hardware vendors licensing OS software from other companies is being challenged. Google wants hardware vendors to essentially produce dumb screens that provide users with Google’s experience. But, the hardware vendors realize how important the software is to the user experience and don’t want that to cede that to Google. Plus, Apple has shown how owning the software gives it more control over the price it can charge for the hardware and, in turn, the company is raking in profits. Although it… Read more »

Chyckyn
Chyckyn

This article has little merit, Android was on The 1st gear for quite a while and that didn’t help it. Ppl wanted longer battery then came tizen, as a gear owner I rather tizen, yea it’s not as supported but performance is like night and day. Android wear boast apps simply because it stems from Android and porting or constructing the thousands of readily supported apps can be done with less work, but it comes with crap battery life and tizen is the opposite. The problem is developers are playing it safe, tizen has already proven it’s a light, efficient,… Read more »

avenging
avenging

Well sai. I disagree with the article too. Samsung had android wear in another model but tizen watches sold more

dmakun
dmakun

I could not have said it better! Fantastic and articulate writing Sir (& if you’re a madam, I apologize). I agree 100% with your reaction to this article.

Digarch
Digarch

Android wear is too limited in terms of functionality. The tizen platform is very light on power consumption had got a greater potential of achieving the desired results. I personally think Samsung should open its tizen gear devices to other android devices including windows and iOS. This will provide developers with a wider platform and encourage the development of apps.
Android wear is too restrictive and doesn’t afford OEMs the opportunity for differentiation. For instance, android wear doesn’t have sim card support for an independent wearable experience.

RichardDav3
RichardDav3

I love Tizen on my Gear 2. I actually hate Android Wear. It is completely based around the idea that you have an active Internet/phone connection.

PeerBr
PeerBr

Nice article. The Gear line is tempting, however it is overpriced and Tizen is an absolute no-go.