Samsung has been making smartwatches since the beginning of time — OK, so not that long, but the company has been at it for the better part of a decade. While not all of the designs have been the most elegant, the watches have stood out and been built very well. In my opinion, the thing that has been holding Samsung back from being a true Apple Watch competitor is its software — and that's why I'm excited to see a Samsung Wear OS watch.
No, Wear OS (which Google is now calling simply Wear; we'll be changing our usage of the term over time to folllow suit) is not perfect, but when comparing Tizen vs. Wear OS — it's the basics that Google's software nails. The fact that even with the shortcomings that Samsung's homegrown wearable operating system has had, the company still makes some of the best Android smartwatches right along with excellent Android phones. With Samsung partnering with Google to make Wear OS better and release a smartwatch with that software on it, I'm so here for it.
As I sit here letting the reality that a Samsung device running Wear OS is on the way sync in, I am wearing my Galaxy Active 2 and thinking about how close it is to being my perfect smartwatch. Then I glance over at the TicWatch Pro 3 on my desk. The TicWatch Pro 3 is one of the best Wear OS watches available and is my daily driver, but it's hard to argue Samsung's hardware superiority.
While the Galaxy Active line of smartwatches from Samsung have a very different design philosophy from the TicWatch Pro 3, the Galaxy Watch 3 is in a closer vein to the Pro 3. The commonality that is seen between the two Samsung watches is the fantastic hardware.
Though Samsung's early smartwatches were far from elegant in design, they didn't lack quality. The current batch of watches are opulent in design and build.
Even as a fitness-forward watch, the Active 2 looks like a piece of jewelry. Though I appreciate the capacitive rotating bezel of the Active 2, the physical version on the Watch 3 is better. To get the excellent hardware Samsung is making these days, and the very useful rotating bezel, with Wear OS under the hood — yes, please.
Aside from the watch design itself, Samsung's hardware expertise in the health sensor space is another reason to look forward to its Wear OS smartwatch. Though the Galaxy Active 2 has been available since the fall of 2019, it has continued to get new features that utilize its sensor just as the newer Galaxy Watch 3 does. Samsung is one of the few smartwatch makers to have FDA-approved ECG monitoring on its watches in the United States. Some countries even have blood pressure monitoring available on Samsung smartwatches.
Samsung has a very comprehensive health platform of its own in Samsung Health. Now that Google's Fitbit acquisition has been completed, merging Samsung's health knowledge with Fitbit and Google Fit into a single device and platform is precisely what Android users have been missing out on. Though Apple Watch users only get a single smartwatch design, they have enjoyed a very integrated approach to great hardware and excellent health features. Hopefully, Android users will get the same now.
Part of what makes that Apple Watch experience unique is the tight integration between the hardware and software. Though Samsung smartwatches have always worked on any Android phone, they work a little better with Samsung phones — and in some cases have extra features. This is because Samsung controlled not only the hardware but also the software — like Apple.
Samsung's smartwatches running Tizen run very smoothly and have better battery life than most Wear OS devices. I look forward to that battery life on Wear OS.
Because Samsung is involved in the development of Wear OS, instead of simply putting Wear OS on its hardware, we should see a similar performance that we've seen from its Tizen devices. Though Wear OS runs better than it ever has on the TicWatch Pro 3 and the Qualcomm 4100 processor, Tizen performs better on Galaxy smartwatches.
While Tizen may perform great as a platform, it struggles in terms of third-party apps. There are some great apps for Samsung Galaxy smartwatches, but there aren't many. With the new Wear OS, users will get a unified platform, and the new Samsung watch will get access to some excellent Wear OS apps.
Tizen's other struggle is its handling of notifications. Samsung Galaxy smartwatches get notifications and do a far better job than devices like the Amazfit T-Rex Pro and the OnePlus Watch, but they aren't nearly as well done as what Wear OS offers. The notification system on Wear OS is one of the most significant reasons why I can't pull myself away from its devices, and I can't wait for a Galaxy Watch to become an option for me.
Is 2021 the year that Android users finally get the smartwatch we have been longing for?
2021 is going to be a very exciting year for smartwatches. From Samsung to the rumored Google Pixel Watch, and hopefully, some other brands since this new Wear OS is going to be available to other manufacturers as well.
We have had to decide whether we want a smartwatch or a health and fitness device for far too long. Yes, smartwatches have some fitness tracking capabilities and health monitoring available, but not at the depth that Samsung has offered in its smartwatches. If you went for a Samsung smartwatch, though, you would miss out on the benefits of Wear OS. Thankfully, this will no longer be the case.