Why Samsung switching smartwatches from Android to Tizen maybe isn't that big a deal

Things have changed behind the familiar faces, but does that really matter?

Mobile World Congress

Samsung has announced their new wearables this evening, and one of the bullet points stands out a bit more than the others. Both the Galaxy Gear 2 and Galaxy Gear 2 Neo are running Tizen — an open-source operating system developed in part by Samsung.

This brings up a lot of contreversy from Android faithful — the original Galaxy Gear ran a version of Android — as well as a lot of questions about what Tizen is, and why Samsung decided to go with it. We're not going to jump too deep into the controversy, but we can try to talk about some of the questions and give a few answers.

The short version is that the sky is not falling, and Tizen on Samsung's new smartwatches can be a very good thing. The longer version follows below.

What is Tizen?

About Tizen

Tizen, like Android, is a Linux-based operating system, designed to be scalable for all manner of portable consumer electronics. Though it's a common misconception that Tizen is the continuation of MeeGo, it's actually the extension of the LiMo (Linux Mobile) project started in 2007. And it's not "just a Samsung thing", either. Tizen is a joint-effort from Samsung, Intel, Huawei, Fujitsu, NEC, Panasonic, KT, Sprint, SK Telecom, Orange, NTT Docomo and Vodafone, who all have members on the Tizen Association's Board of Directors. They work closely with the Linux Foundation, and aim to deliver a universal, free and open operating system for everyone. Think of Tizen as an alternative to Android or iOS, not a replacement for either.

One of Tizen's strengths is the application framework. Based on Bada, the native application framework supports HTML5, QT, GTK+ and EFL based apps,, and development is easy because you can use standard development tools like JavaScript and JQuery. As part of the Core Mobile Web Platform Community Group, Tizen runs HTML5 apps that can also run on Android, Firefox OS, Ubuntu Touch, and webOS without using a browser. It's developer friendly, modern, portable and open. Tizen is a good thing.

We're not going to get too technical here, but I encourage anyone interested to surf over to Tizen.org and have a look around. It's a great place to see all the dirty technical details, as well as get started with the SDK and development.

But what is Android?

About Android

When you get down to the nuts and bolts, Android is the Linux kernel, user-space applications, "middleware" and a complete framework for third-party applications. What we see on our screens is someone's vision of a way to interface with these components. Someone could just as easily create, for example, an interface controlled by joysticks, or a keyboard, or pure text.

In other words, what we see is not how Android is defined.

If we were to do away with "about" screens, you would likely never know what version of Android you were running, or that you were even running Android at all. This is by design. Android was designed to be powerful, but get out of the way and do it's thing with minimal user intervention. All the users — that'd be you and me — should see is the top layer UI unless we go digging for more.

And that UI can be used on other operating systems — like Tizen — as well.

A familiar user interface

Gear 2 Neo

We haven't had any time with the Gear 2 or the Gear 2 Neo yet. But we can learn a few things from what we've seen so far.

Samsung has taken the user interface used on the Galaxy Gear (with some modifications, of course) and "ported" — for lack of a better term — it to Tizen. To the user, none of this matters. When you get in your car, the engine and transmission only serve to take your input and move you along. Whether you're driving a Volvo, a Jeep or a Ferrari, you still have a steering wheel, headlight switch, gas pedal and brake.

Samsung is trying to do the same thing with the new Gears. The way you interact with them, and the way they interact with your phone, is familiar because of the interface. What's under the hood has changed, but unless you're a developer, none of that matters to you. What matters is that it works well, and that's something we'll have to wait until we get our hands on them to see.

The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo may both turn out to be flops, but that's not because they run Tizen. Tizen is certainly capable, and in some ways better (and some ways not as good) as Android. What matters is how Samsung plans to tie you, your phone, and the new Gear 2 together.

So why did Samsung do it?

Samsung software

This is an easy one. Samsung spent a lot of money contributing to the development of a new open-source operating system for their consumer electronics division. Some folks love Samsung, others think Samsung is evil, but in the end Samsung is a business and they want to get a return from their investment. Since you don't need Android on your smartwatch to communicte with your Android phone (see Pebble), and Tizen is so scalable, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo were a perfect place to use it. Samsung gets a return on their time and money spent developing Tizen, and has a stable and mature platform to build Gear-specific apps and functions on top of.

Because Samsung is part of the team that develops Tizen, it can also iterate and add new features on its own time, not Google's. Because the Gear UI (I'm going to call it GearWiz) is a simple event-driven layer on top of the OS, features can be added almost at will to the operating system with minimal change in what the user sees. We're creatures of habit. We like version two to look and act like version one — hello iPhone.

This doesn't mean that Samsung is abandoning Android on their smartphones. That's just silly, and people need to stop saying it. Android puts billions of dollars in Samsung's bank account, and they don't have to spend money developing it from the ground up. When that changes, then we can discuss Samsung abandoning Android. In the meantime, be ready for a new Galaxy S device, and a new Note in 2014, and they will run Android. Same with 2015, I'll bet. Android is easy money for Samsung, and every company likes easy money.

So should I buy one or what?

Galaxy Gear

This depends on how functional the new Gears are — not what operating system they run. One of the most capable and best-selling smartwatches so far is the Pebble, and it doesn't run Android. I'll wager that most people couldn't tell you what operating system runs on their Pebble (it's a modified version of FreeRTOS) but they can tell you it runs pretty well. That's because PebbleOS is small, tasks and timers and threads are handled very well by a fast kernel, and the user interface is simple and clean. Android on the Pebble would be overkill, and adversely affect it's performance.

The same things can be said for Tizen. While the OS Samsung is running on the new Gears is certainly more complicated than the FreeRTOS Pebble is using, it is likely still smaller and faster than Android. It's also not as feature-rich, and doesn't have the vast application support that Android has. There are trade-offs, and what may be best for one device (like your phone) may not be best for another device (like your smartwatch).

I'm sure we're buying at least one of each. Let us be the test monky and see how they work, what they are lacking, where they excel, and if they are worth you spending your hard-earned dollars on. We'll know more in April.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Price? Posted via Android Central App
  • If you have to ask... Posted via my hTc one with a cracked screen!
  • Fair enough Posted via Android Central App
  • MAJOR PROPS for a PROPER ARTICLE explaining these circumstances with NO BAIS toward SAMSUNG which wouldn't have been done on many other android sites I will be nice and not put those sites on blast here. Bottom line business is business and ANDROID isn't the only boat floating in the ocean other boats exist too. I applaud SAMSUNG for starting small and trying to bring other option to their users and android in general. At the end of the day Samsung can make this work and it all begins here. Posted from my Galaxy Note 3 on Tmobile via Android Central App
  • OK then. I don't think tizen will be huge for Samsung. I'm more interested in Ubuntu Phone and Sailfish -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Posted via my thumbs and Google Keyboard. (Defective) N7 2013
  • You clearly have no idea what bias is, or what being biased towards/against something means. After all, you are self-proclaimed Samsung fanboy.
  • *Sigh* https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/5003065856/h17AFDB0D/
  • "jump too deep into the contreversy..." Controversy spelled wrong.
  • "spelled" spelt incorrectly.
  • ^^^Grammar nazi^^^ I don't use, or acknowledge the word ""troll"".
  • Whether you acknowledge being a troll or not is immaterial to the fact that you are one.
  • If one is going to correct someone else's spelling, one should not use incorrect grammar.
  • Wrong. http://grammarist.com/spelling/spelled-spelt/
  • If Huawei is behind Tizen, i'm behind Tizen.
  • What if Huawei did something that blew our fooking minds ....
  • Lol @ GearWiz. You have a dirty mind, Jerry, lol. Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • I like "WizWear" better... Posted from my "KNOX-FREE" 4.3 Sprint GS3 Maxx...!!!
    (ZeroLemon 7000mA battery and ZeroShock Case)
  • Lmao Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • Mmm if there was a remotely idea of getting a gear Samsung watch.. Now it's gone with with the wind.. I'll wait for the Google now smart watch instead :-) Posted via Android Central App
  • I can already tell, some websites and people are going to take this out of proportion. Queue the "Samsung is ditching Android for Tizen" comments on other OS websites, lol. Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • Exactly that's why I am glad android central has led the way for technology sites with NO BIAS. That won't be done at droid-Life or Android Headlines as well as BGR or other we hate SAMSUNG tech sites. If want education and like to read about reality concerning an issue with android and need logic this is definitely the place for it. Posted from my Galaxy Note 3 on Tmobile via Android Central App
  • Says the guy who simply said "hogwash" about the Knox security vulnerability found about a month ago. Yeah, you sure do "like to read about reality"... only if it puts Samsung in a good light.
  • +9000 I actually completely agree with this comment. How anybody could even stomach sites like BGR is beyond me, brother. Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • I agree. I'm sick of that site! And for me, it takes a long time to get sick of a particular site. I don't go to PhoneScoop nearly as much as I used to, people don't comment much at all at that site like they did years ago. I don't use, or acknowledge the word ""troll"".
  • Nobody beats ANDROID CENTRAL Period
  • Plain and simple
  • Every other site (other than the Verge, Android Authority, and XDA) definitely sucks monkey balls, period. Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • Lol Posted from my newly Kit Katted Droid Ultra
  • Android Police is pretty good. Posted via VZW Moto X on the Android Central App
  • Them too, lol. Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • +1 I don't use, or acknowledge the word ""troll"".
  • If I didn't dislike Samsung before (and having used their products, that can be a big IF), then your endless trolling for them certainly gives me a nudge farther in that direction. Dollar for dollar, nobody astroturfs for Samsung like richardyarrell. Period. Plain and simple.
  • I can also see some websites not making a big deal and acting cool.
    Oh wait that is this article.
  • Lol Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • Two Wrongs dont make an Rigth... Good: having IPX waterproofing, 3 Days Battery Life HOPE -Whatever not enough-, IR Blaster. BAD: Still UGLY IMHO, especially the NEO period. Long Way to see Custom Apps, No Stalker CAM Again ( May not be noble, but a good selling point), NO HANDS FREE -That's was an very good hit on the original GG differentiating from rivals with something usefu, while a bit ridiculous, does well-. My Prediction: JUS ANOTHER FAILURE. My Suggestion on the Gear 3, 1- Switch HW platform to some Just Enough to Drive HTML5 code, re-imagine as some kind of web-connected display, Give it an ePaper Display similar to the one on the latest Kindle, RETURN HANDS FREE Function, Discard Camera at all, not good for Stalking, not less good for Video Call, and I should prefer to attend an videocall on my phone screen, than on one much smaller, GIVE IT A WEEK BATTERY LIFE, If You Cant, Keep It Buried, or the market will buried it, Provide TRUE SERIUOS WATERPROOFING, Design it as a capsule wich th user can swap bezels, stripes, etc giving space to heavy personalization.
  • If Sammy didn't want to someday at least try to abandon Android I doubt they would have invested so much into Tizen since Android is free afterall. Is it possible Tizen is plan b if things go sour with Google? Or behind the scenes, is that relationship already sour? I have no clue, just guessing but I don't think Tizen is just a hobby for Samsung
  • Stop guessing my friend ANDROID IS DEAD IF SAMSUNG EVER LEFT THIS PLATFORM. Posted from my Galaxy Note 3 on Tmobile via Android Central App
  • I don't think it would be that easy to get people to switch to tizen. Yes, Android would lose ALOT of Market share, and probably be at 10-20%, but it would not be dead instantly. Also I think Samsung isn't about to abandon Android. -------------------------------------------------------
    Sent from inside a cave. Yes, T-Mobile covers caves. N5
  • There's over a billion Android devices. Back in November, it was reported that Samsung held 63% of the Android pie. That leaves 37% for the rest of the manufacturers. 37% of 1 billion is 370 million.
    Yeah, Android would definitely be dead without Samsung. /s
    What an idiot.
  • You dont just leave an OS ecosystrm with 1 billion users and have the same success. Samsung would struggle hard if they switched all phones to Tizen going forward. Leaving Googles api's behind means leaving what makes android great. Tizen is a good thing for Samsung. It can run anything from watches, washing machine and TV's. Tizen means that Samsung has one OS for all its electronics just not their phones.
  • You're assuming Galaxy users would abandon Android along with Samsung. Some probably will but I bet half to most won't. Posted via Android Central App
  • There no way I would buy a Samsung phone if it was running Tizen, I'd be back to HTC in a heartbeat.
    Samsung would be digging their own grave abandoning Android.
    I have a Gear S Tizen, and it's great except S Voice sux balls next to Google Now, that's my main complaint, the lack of Google apps for Tizen, and I don't see Google rushing to develop them.
    Give Tizen Google Now and Gmail and I'd be happy with it. For now the Gear S is better than the best Android Wear based watches, but i expect that will change in the next year, especially when Apple comes along to show everyone how it's done
  • The combination of Samsung and Android is working so well that I have a hard time believing Samsung is even considering Tizen on its smartphones. Such a major change doesn't seem worth the risk, especially when it's already hard enough to remain on top. Nevertheless, it's a bit concerning that some people feel Samsung has the power to kill Android, or lower Android's market share to a mere 10%. Even discussions of this kind of Samsung dominance is likely a turnoff for some consumers. I know Samsung has a lot of passionate fans who would stick with the company through a change of platform; however, I don't think that's the case with typical smartphone buyers. Most don't have that kind of brand loyalty to a particular phone manufacturer. Over the years, I've used everything from Motorola, BlackBerry, Sanyo, LG, Nokia, Samsung, Apple to HTC. They all got the job done. It's mainly about what device I like at the moment. And currently, Android is my first requirement when shopping for a new smartphone, so I think it would be a mistake for Samsung to switch to Tizen on its smartphones, although I agree it isn't a big deal with smartwatches.
  • If Samsung abandoned Android would you abandon this website? If so, God I hope Samsung abandons Android. Posted via Android Central App
  • While Sammy give Android a healthy boost, they didn't "make" Android, and they won't break it either.
  • Samsung would be stupid to abandon Android Haha Posted via a device much better than yours.
  • Agreed, lol. Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • Thanks for giving a rundown of Tizen Jerry. Honestly had no clue what the hell it was. If pebble isn't running Android n everyone loves it so damn much then I'm looking forward to Tizen for sure.
    Still, Functionality is key, can't wait for you to get your hands on em...or get em on your hands.. whichever lol Posted via Android Central App
  • This. Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • Is there an undercover war going on that we don't know about?
  • I'm sorry if I missed it, but do we know if these will remain to exclusively work with Samsung devices?
  • I might be in just for the IR blaster Posted via Android Central App
  • I personally don't care whether the Samsung Gear smart watch runs Android or Tizen OS. As long as it gives the intended functionality and is compatible with the Galaxy S5 and eventually the other Galaxy S flagships(Galaxy Note included), I'm sure it won't matter that the watch is not running Android.
  • Very informative well written article.
  • +1 Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.
  • Samsung abandoned Android when they made the first Galaxy Gear support TouchWiz only. This is no different.
  • Doesn't surprise me that they switched to Tizen for their smartwatch they had to use it for something with all the money Samsung has vested in the OS, now if the Google watch ends up using Tizen for their smartwatch as well then that would surprise me lol Posted via Android Central App
  • Tizen or gear my own is fine good service .... Posted via Android Central App
  • Deal should try deal best to make Samsung customers enjoy deal service ..... Posted via Android Central App
  • Does it matter on the Pebble? I don't understand some folks' outrage about this Tizen... smh...
  • So samsung is using a proprietary is for their failed smart watch. They can control the apps better. And I'm sure use this on their washing machines and refrigerators. It will be interesting to see how well round 2 sells. It seems to be a smaller deal than some people might think. Posted via Android Central App
  • Hi Jerry! Which one you do prefer, the Pebble or, Samsung Gear? I know you did try both.
  • Why can all OS's interact like this? Like porting between iOS and Android? Can calls to the OS to do something be simplified so much to create a list of actions? I'm guessing part of it is that you could think of infinite commands to call on the OS. And people think of new ways to accomplish tasks? Then at what level could it be possible to get a unified set of commands or create look up tables to match between OS's?