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Here's what Google and Fitbit need to do to keep pace with Samsung and Apple in the wearables space

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Review
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Review (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

If you paid attention to the wearable world in 2021, you know that the hottest topic of the year revolved around the new Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 smartwatch. This wasn't just another Galaxy Watch; it became the first Android smartwatch to run on the new Wear OS platform — and remains the only Wear OS 3 watch today.

If you didn't know, Google and Samsung joined forces to bring Samsung's Tizen OS and Google's Wear OS together into a single platform. While this was exciting news at the time, much of the following news tempered our excitement.

We eventually learned that not all existing Wear OS watches would be eligible to upgrade to this new platform — including all previous Galaxy Watch models, which would remain on Tizen OS indefinitely. To worsen the blow, the handful of eligible watches would not receive Wear OS 3 until early 2022.

As you can imagine, these realizations were met with frustration by many existing smartwatch users. The Galaxy Watch 4 took Wear OS in the right direction, but most users will agree that some serious changes are still needed. Still, if Samsung can do better when it comes to acknowledging issues as they arise and offering sensible solutions, it will likely hold its position as one of the most trusted wearable names on the market alongside Apple.

Google hasn't done itself any favors by allowing Samsung to be the one and only smartwatch on the new platform in the last few months since its launch. It acquired Fitbit a couple of years ago but hasn't released any Fitbits with the Wear OS ecosystem. Rumors of a Pixel Watch have been floating around for quite some time, but Google has yet to deliver.

With very few other smartwatches updating to Wear OS 3, Google will need to bring out the big guns to keep people interested in its smartwatches and keep pace with Samsung and Apple. A 2022 Pixel Watch could win over some skeptics, but that's just the start. Google needs to make other vital changes to keep Wear OS competitive and stay relevant in the smartwatch game.

Improve software

Apple Watch Series 7

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

While the new Wear OS platform is a step in the right direction, Google still left something to be desired when it comes to its new software. In previous years, Wear OS has been notorious for various software bugs and laggy performance, and Wear OS 3 hasn't fully solved this issue. If it can prioritize improving software and performance as these problems come up, it will make up ground on Apple.

Apple isn't perfect by any means, but it's constantly improving existing software.

Apple isn't perfect by any means, but it's constantly improving existing software and releasing new versions of watchOS. The Apple Watch Series 7 runs on watchOS 8, which received a lot of praise from existing users. The UI elements are visibly larger to make the most of the bigger display. Additionally, watchOS 8 greatly improves the messaging experience for users. Now, you can easily use Scribble, Dictation, and emoji all in the same message. These may seem like small details, but that's what allows Apple to maintain a leading position in the wearable space.

By comparison, response to the Galaxy Watch 4 software has been more of a mixed bag. Much of the initial feedback was positive, but some people found the Galaxy Watch 4 to be a letdown. From delayed responsiveness to overheating issues to subpar notifications, it left too much room for improvement in key areas.

With previous Galaxy Watch models and Tizen OS, Android users typically had a seamless and cohesive experience between their phone and their watch. You also get this type of experience with an iPhone and an Apple Watch. Unfortunately, this fluidity that users rely on seems to have gotten lost in the new Wear OS platform, so it would be nice to see Google work on resolving these issues for future updates.

Not everyone is sold on the idea of the new Wear OS platform just yet, and understandably so. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 remains the only watch to actively offer the new operating system. As such, not everyone is going to be willing to jump ship so early in the game. The platform is still relatively new, which means Google still has an opportunity to listen to user feedback and implement improvements in future software updates.

Focus on battery life

Fossil Gen 5 LTE Charging

Source: Derrek Lee / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

If you've ever owned a Fitbit wearable, you know these devices offer superior battery life. This is especially true when you compare it to existing Samsung and Apple watches. For example, the Fitbit Charge 5 is a tiny but mighty tracker that offers a week of battery life on a single charge. Its smartwatches also offer impressive battery life, with the Fitbit Sense providing at least six days of juice.

The new Galaxy Watch 4 only offers around 40 hours of battery life depending on usage. This is better than the 24-hour battery life found on most Wear OS watches, but it could still be better. Apple continually disappoints its users with weak battery life that necessitates daily charging. Most Apple users have accepted this fate, but Google would turn heads if it can offer double or triple Apple's capacity.

Hopefully, the collective minds of Fitbit, Google's Wear OS, and Samsung's Tizen OS will help Google find a way to take battery life up a notch. If these three powerhouses coming together can't accomplish this, who can? Considering that Fitbit devices have been offering great battery life for years, you'd like to think there's some middle ground to land on.

Now, let's not forget that Fitbit isn't exactly known for offering the most sophisticated software on the planet. Therefore, it's understandable that a more advanced system like Wear OS will eat up more battery life. All of that being said, it would still be nice to see more than a day or two of battery life on these watches in the future.

Add new health and fitness features

Fitbit Versa 3

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Apple may not be marketing its watches as fitness smartwatches, but it has made an effort to offer more advanced health and fitness tracking in recent years. Users have access to blood oxygen (SpO2) tracking, electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, an always-on altimeter, and more.

The company also launched its own subscription service called Apple Fitness+, which competes with Fitbit Premium and other similar services. When you combine that with the fact that Apple is reportedly working on introducing blood pressure measurements, Google should be taking notes.

While many Fitbit wearables already offer advanced health features such as ECG and SpO2, Google should focus on bringing these features to Wear OS watches — including the rumored Pixel Watch — if it wants to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung. Sure, smartwatch features are great, but the premium health and fitness tracking features are a big part of the reason that Samsung and Apple wearables continue to succeed.

The Galaxy Watch 4 took advanced health tracking to the next level.

Most people will agree that Samsung has done a superb job of creating wearables that seamlessly merge fitness tracking and smartwatch features. The Galaxy Watch 4 took advanced health tracking to the next level with the Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) sensor.

This innovative Body Composition measurement tool is designed to give users a better understanding of their general health and fitness with key measurements such as body water and body fat percentage, skeletal muscle, and basal metabolic rate.

When Google's acquisition of Fitbit became official, it was announced that Fitbit would be behind the fitness tracking experience on the new Wear OS platform. For the first time since the acquisition, we finally have proof that this may be happening soon.

If you're a fan of Google Fit, you know that past Wear OS watches did a decent job of tracking your health and fitness metrics. It doesn't come close to the experience you'll have on a Samsung watch, though. However, adding Fitbit integration into that mix could be a game-changer for Google's Wear OS watches.

It's time for LTE

Fossil Gen 5 LTE Messaging

Source: Derrek Lee / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

LTE connectivity may not be the most popular smartwatch feature, but Google needs to start offering it as an option if it wants to keep up with Samsung and Apple. Last year's Fossil Gen 5 LTE is proof that Google understands this concept, but it still has a long way to go to catch up to its competitors.

To put things in perspective, Samsung has been offering optional LTE connectivity since the first Galaxy Watch was released in 2018. Apple introduced it on the Watch Series 3 back in 2017. To be fair, Mobvoi did release the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE in 2019. However, this outdated watch is hardly relevant anymore, especially when you consider that it's running Snapdragon Wear 2100.

Users who want a seamless experience between their phone and smartwatch may also want LTE connectivity. Having the option to leave your phone behind when you go for a run is important, especially to users who are buying a smartwatch to improve their health and fitness. Google will need to think about hopping on the LTE bandwagon if it wants any chance at keeping up with Samsung and Apple.

Bottom line

Considering how much effort the company has put into its wearables in recent years — from acquiring Fitbit to working with Samsung on the new Wear OS platform — it's hard to believe that it won't at least try to deliver on some of these fronts.

Do you think Google will do what is necessary to keep up with Samsung and Apple? Only time will tell. I, for one, will remain cautiously optimistic that 2022 will be a pivotal turning point for Google in the wearables space.

Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time, she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.

21 Comments
  • Google should just keep the Fitbit OS. Battery life on my Sense is better than any Apple or WearOS device.
  • I agree! The only thing I miss about my fitbit sense after getting the galaxy watch 4 is the battery life.
  • It's bad enough that we have to charge our phones every day. Like i want to have another item to remember to charge. I do like how it can hold a charge for 5 days, and less than 30min for a full charge. WearOS needs to get to that level before i buy one.
  • This! My first real smartwatch was the Versa 3. While I always wanted a smartwatch I couldn't ever see a need for one until I wanted to keep track of my health better. I was surprised as to how feature-rich Fitbit OS is. I was able to get 4-6 days on average. The GW4 came out and I decided this was going to be the time I finally try WearOS. I was so disappointed. It still doesn't have Google Assistant which blows my mind. The battery life is the worst, worst. Anyone telling you they get more than a day with this must be using it in watch-only mode powered off. The only feature it has that I can't replicate on the Versa3/Sense is the remote camera feature. Otherwise there is some equivalent to almost everything else. I ended up selling the GW4 about a month ago, picked up a Sense, and gave my youngest brother my Versa3. I will only be giving the Fitbit WearOS device another go. Maybe with their experience in battery optimization, they can make some real improvements. I don't have a lot of faith in WearOS getting better though.
  • Battery life is a red herring for most users. Almost everyone removes their watch while they sleep, so it's a perfect time to charge. What really matters is that the battery lasts all day, and that's not really a problem for any watch on the market. The only time it's an issue is for people who want to use their smart watch for sleep tracking, or people who use their LTE watch all day without their smart phone. LTE does kill the battery life quickly.
  • Totally wrong. States opinion as fact. I'd say almost everyone sleeps with their watch one, some don't, but I've never known or slept with anyone who bothers to take it off. Smartwatches even have sleep tracking. Battery life is why I switched from a Galaxy Watch OG (3 days) to a Huawei GT2 (14 days), and the Galaxy Watch 3 or 4 have worse battery, crappy 1 day. I had to turn off most features on my Galaxy Watch to reach 3 days. Now I leave every setting on (except Always On Display, no need for it). Couldn't stand how I had to charge it so often. Charging a phone is enough! Much happier with the less equipped GT2. It does most things you really need from a watch. Would be nice if it did contactless payments, but it is Huawei. What really matters is 3-5 days minimum. Of course, they all manage 1 day, less than 1 day and it's not even useable. Expecting what's standard anyway isn't much an expectation.
  • Hilarious. You complain about me stating opinion as fact, then you turn around and state your opinion as fact : "I'd say almost everyone sleeps with their watch on."
    I don't know anyone who sleeps with their watch on. Where does that get us? I guess in your mind it's only fact if it's your own opinion.
  • It seems extremely unusual that so much effort is being put forth on sleep tracking by all these companies if people aren't even wearing their watch while they sleep. My guess is they have data showing the opposite, and that people do sleep with it on.
  • I have not slept with mine on maybe 5 times since last February. I usually charge mine when I shower.
  • "I guess in your mind it's only fact if it's your own opinion."...lol. Dead on. With that logic he is obviously a liberal.
  • I remove my watch and put it to charge every night. As long as the battery lasts the whole day I'm good with it.
  • "Google hasn't done itself any favors by allowing Samsung to be the one and only smartwatch on the new platform in the last few months since its launch." Hmm are you sure? Google doesn't control OEM produc lifecycles. It's the OEM's fault + Google for not releasing their own.
  • What do OEM product lifecycles have to do with the adoption of WearOS? They are saying the weird agreement Samsung and Google have made regarding the release of WearOS hasn't helped adoption because it has been limited to one series of watches. Samsung supporting the phone for x amount of years has nothing to do with the current adoption of the platform.
  • Will stick with my Huawei GT2 until they can manage 3-5 days minimum. Samsung intentionally REDUCED the battery size so it went from 3-4 days on the original Galaxy Watch to only 1 day, I can't see Samsung doing it now sadly.
  • Just curious what googles plans for Fitbit are. Isn’t going to be like every thing else they buy and toss it to the side?
  • Strip it for IP and either sell the skeleton. merge it, or defunct it.
  • not sure why this is so hard... garmin does it with stabler features. what good is a watch you need to charge to 100 before any activity because anything longer than a couple hours will drain it ? i regret wasting money on my lte gw4 now.
  • I wear my gifted Versa 2 while working out and to sleep. The other times, my thirty five year old Rolex Submariner. Other watches? If I need another, it will be an Adventure G Shock Solar. Don't need an Apple or Android watch. Got my Android phone!
  • Just buy an Amazfit product and never worry about any of those others again. As a fitness wearable\watch I have never had anything as good as my T-REX Pro. 18-20 days with almost all functions on and Bluetooth connected for notifications. I had a Charge 3 (good but small screen and horrible Fitbit app) Versa (better screen but still horrible Fitbit app and syncing). Then a Samsung Galaxy Active. Decent, good screen and functionality and good app. Horrific battery life. 2 days tops and that was screwed down on functions. Amazfit makes a style and form factor for any look or durability. And their Zepp app if full of details and most importantly I have never had connectivity or sync issues. The main aspect and feature that puts all others to shame is the battery life. Our daughter has the SE Apple watch her grandpa bought her and that thing doesn't even last a day and a half. To me that's useless.
  • I went from. Ticwatch that had battery life of 1 day max to my new Fitbit Sense thats 5-6 day battery life and love it. I've started sleeping with it on to track my crazy sleep pattern and SP O2 level etc and so far I'm pleased with the switchover. Plus Sense going for 199.00 is heck of a deal since it includes Google Assistant as well
  • I understand everyones comments about battery life. Fortunately I have been working from home for almost two years, so placing my Apple Watch 7 on the quick charger while I shave/shower is usually enough to keep me going for another day. Its usually only a problem when I am away for a couple days. I tried using the GW4 paired with my Pixel 6 Pro and the experience was terrible. Really hoping that Google offers a better experience for non Samsung phone users.