Opinion

Samsung’s abandonment of Android Wear has Android Wear OEMs applauding

I wrote some months ago that Android Wear fans shouldn’t get their hopes up about a 2016 Samsung Android Wear smartwatch, and I still stand by the statements I made then. What’s new, though, is that it appears as if even Android Wear agrees with Samsung.

Back 4 months ago, it seemed as though Samsung was rebelling against what appeared to be a united Android Wear front with its decision to forgo crafting another Android Wear smartwatch. ASUS, Motorola, LG, and Huawei all appeared to be onboard with Google’s plans to carry Android Wear through another year. LG had its Watch Urbane LTE Second Edition out (due to defect, the company had to re-launch the smartwatch; see, Samsung isn’t the only one that has issued product recalls and second launches), and Motorola, ASUS, and Huawei all looked set for primetime again.

Some have said that Samsung’s desire to forgo crafting an Android Wear smartwatch is a terrible mistake, while others applaud the move. I could spoil the evidence for you, but I won’t. Three new evidences have come to light in recent days that, with hindsight, help us see that Samsung’s move was a wise one indeed.

Evidence #1: Huawei and Motorola take a timeout from crafting Android Wear smartwatches, LG passes up making another

ASUS has released its $250 ZenWatch 3, but it appears as if LG, Motorola, and Huawei have all decided to let Android Wear stand still for the year. All three companies have gone on record as saying that they won’t be making any new Android Wear smartwatches through the end of this year, at least.

LG has said that it wants to see what sticks; Motorola says that cellular connectivity comes with some undesirable tradeoffs; and Huawei wants a more efficient processor before pushing forward with cellular connectivity. While all these reasons can be overcome in 2016, the decision of these companies to “sit out the smartwatch dance” shows that Samsung may have had more foresight than the Korean giant’s been given credit for.

The truth is that cellular connectivity, contrary to Motorola’s claim, doesn’t have any significant tradeoffs that can’t be overcome (that is, if you overlook the black bar, a.k.a. flat tire, on the Moto 360) and that Samsung has pushed cellular connectivity since 2014 with the Gear S (it had 3G data instead of 4G). Huawei wants a more efficient processor, but processors will always become more and more efficient over time – so that’s not really a significant decision to sit it out. I’ll return to Huawei shortly.

As for LG, the company said that its decision to refrain from another smartwatch this year is that “we want to see what sticks,” LG spokesperson Ken Hong said in an interview with CNET.

Perhaps we should give LG a break compared to Huawei and Motorola who haven’t put out a new smartwatch in the last 12 months, but any OEM who sits on the sidelines can’t expect to learn from mistakes and move forward. Just ask any athlete: sitting on the sidelines makes your knees hurt and gets you out of shape — the exact opposite of what LG thinks will happen if it sits out the rest of this year and the start of 2017 in Android Wear.

Evidence #2: Huawei flirts with the idea of a Tizen-powered smartwatch, alternative to Android Wear

One large piece of news this week comes from Huawei, who has been mentioned as trying to find an alternative to Android Wear because, in a Samsung representative’s words, “Huawei was looking for an operating system (OS) other than Google’s Android as the US firm had not been very collaborative.” Huawei and Google have been chummy, surfacing in Huawei’s own Android Wear smartwatches: Huawei Watch (men), Huawei Watch Jewel and Watch Elegant (both female smartwatch lines), not to mention the Nexus 6P announced in 2015 as a collaboration between Google and Huawei.

With Huawei’s relationship with Google, it just seems odd that Huawei would want to consider a platform such as Tizen when the Chinese OEM knows that it would seem to be a slap in the face of Google and Android Wear.

And yet, while Huawei has said nothing definitive, it’s at least flirting with the idea of a Tizen-based smartwatch with Samsung. That, in and of itself, shows the unrest that even Android Wear OEMs are having with Android Wear. With one of Android Wear’s most loyal OEMs (Huawei) considering Samsung’s wearables platform, Samsung’s decision to abandon Android Wear makes even more sense than before. If “loyal” Android Wear OEMs don’t want to stick with the platform, why should Samsung?

Evidence #3: Android Wear 2.0 delayed until 2017

The last piece of evidence to show that Samsung’s abandonment of Android Wear is a move in the right direction is Google’s decision to delay the release of Android Wear 2.0 until 2017. For whatever reason, the one major reason to support Android Wear (for consumers, at least) has been put on hold. Yes, I’m aware that Google has delayed the rollout to appease consumers in hopes of getting positive feedback, but it seems odd that Google would have to delay such a major update when it’s had an entire year (and four months after Google I/O) to perfect the update.

Whether or not Android Wear OEMs were aware of the delay is anyone’s guess, but in light of Google’s decision, it makes sense that Huawei, LG, and Motorola would refrain from making new AW smartwatches. Why make smartwatches that run the same operating system update as the 2015 ones, with slightly modified hardware and a more expensive price tag?

Conclusion

Samsung made its decision (despite saying that it wasn’t done with Android Wear just yet) to refrain from any Android Wear smartwatch development because of its own Tizen wearables platform, but the most recent developments between Google and its Android Wear OEMs is more than reason enough to say that, in hindsight, Samsung made the right choice.

I’ve been told time and time again that despite what I may think, Android Wear isn’t dead and that the platform is still thriving. However, the above evidences tell a far more grim story than advocates want to admit. With a major update stalled, Google being “anti-collaborative,” and Huawei, one of its major OEMs, considering Tizen as a better alternative, the only thing Android Wear has left is the sheer number of apps and developers (which are two things that can erode quickly in time, should Tizen’s appeal continue to grow).

At this point, Tizen looks to be not only Samsung’s refuge, but the refuge of Huawei and all other Android Wear OEMs, since Android Wear OEMs will only serve Google’s purpose if they remain with Google. No matter how great the apps and hardware, without having a unique pre-installed software experience, a device is as good as dead on arrival.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, critics must face the inevitable truth that Android Wear is headed nowhere.

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n900mixalot
n900mixalot

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Tizen like a lot of people seem to think. Truth is, if Samsung came out with a Tizen Note, I’d be all over it … stupidly of course since I know that they (Samsung) absolutely hate their fans; i.e., they treat us like garbage they can just throw away. Or maybe it’s just me and I’m picking the wrong Samsung devices. In any case, I would not turn down a Tizen Huawei Watch. The Android version is gorgeous, and I know that Samsung is invested in Tizen. I also think their switching to Tizen… Read more »

khoder almatrah
khoder almatrah

I used the gear s and loved it soo much, then the charger cradle kept breaking. Samsung wouldn’t fix it saying its physical damage, they knew it was a design issue but too expensive for them to fix it. I cut my losses and bought my first android wear huawei, i like it but it lags soo much from new and bluetooth calling audio quality is soo poor. So i decided to get gear s2 my freind recommended it, but then his strap broke and samsung wouldnt cover it. I wasn’t surprised, but he was angry because it was a… Read more »

n900mixalot
n900mixalot

They do the exact same thing with their phones. They make a great product, but if the easiest thing to fix goes wrong with it, it’s always your fault and not covered. Unless the phone has a battery defect that could cause it to explode. I have a Gear S as well, a beauuutiful device. Cradle broke, like everyone else’s. There weren’t any available anywhere. Samsung wasn’t selling them. First they told me to submit a claim. I submitted a claim and was told they wanted my cradle back and would ship out a replacement. THEN, they wanted me to… Read more »

nkolsen
nkolsen

If Samsung only had the developer support, it would be great. But as long as there are no apps, no support of 3rd party hardware etc etc. Then I’m sticking to aw.

guicholuis96
guicholuis96

Hello, you know if still the problem with the straps breaking S2 gear? Broke me the 2 come with the clock so I just bought an edition of mendini but I fear breakage.

warlockba
warlockba

I had both android and tizen smartwatches so far. Except the sluggishness on the android (had it a few times), the two platforms are pretty much equivalent. The problem with the Android wear is, that they squeeze a lot of active stuff on the same screen, and the more apps you have on it the worse it gets – and you have a pletora of apps and watch faces which can mess it up completely. However tizen is pretty poor on the app side – and even there once you install a higher number of apps, or a skin which… Read more »

ProdByEchelon
ProdByEchelon

I knew Android Wear was a bust from Day 1. It was just so useless.

Ginge22
Ginge22

I hated the fact that Samsung didn’t use Android Wear at first, but after a solid year of using the Samsung Gear S and the Huawei watch, my tune has changed. I’ve noticed a significant amount of lag with the Huawei watch over time. It gets really annoying. Things aren’t as smooth as they should be. Not the case with the Gear S… everything is smooth and I’ve had zero instances of lag. Samsung was right, I was wrong.

Sebastian Shaw
Sebastian Shaw

same here
i ordered lg g watch urbane 2nd edition because it is the only android wear watch with cellular connection
i also had gear s during that time
but gear s despite lack the variety of applications still beat watch urbane 2nd edition
but samsung decided to use e sim in gear s2 and s3 and in my country operators doesnt use e sim system yet
i hope either my countries operators will use e sim or sammy decide to bring swapple sim card slot which i preferred a lot

n900mixalot
n900mixalot

Hm … I have the same combo except I haven’t used my Gear S because of a broken cradle … After dealing with Samsung on that issue, and the Gear Fit (same cradle problem), I swore off of their watches for good. I haven’t missed Tizen or my Gear S, but I still keep it because it is a great looking device.