If Samsung can’t fix Wear OS’ sales numbers, nothing can.
We finally got to see everything we wanted to see about the Galaxy Watch 4, and there is plenty of good stuff there if you want an Android wearable. Whatever concessions Google and Samsung had to make to create this partnership seem to have been worth it based on the level of interest in the watches and their reasonable prices. Even I’m thinking about getting one, and I lost all interest in Wear OS a long time ago.
For consumers like you and I, this means we have the chance to buy what looks like a good product for a reasonable price. That’s important because I’m more concerned about how the consumer benefits than I am about how much money a billion-dollar company makes. But for the Wear OS platform, this is important in a much larger way — if Wear OS 3 powered by Samsung can’t drive adoption — nothing can.
Yeah, I know other companies will inevitably make new watches. Google has Fitbit now and those things matter, too. I know there will be other watches from Fossil and Mobvoi with the potential to be just as good, or better. I’d even bet money we see luxury brands like Tag Heuer release new watches powered by Wear OS 3. For enthusiasts, and if you’re on the internet reading an article about Wear OS watches, you are an enthusiast — those are important products that give us more choices or can even be a better fit.
Other brands are important, but not important enough to carry Wear OS on their shoulders.
Fitbit will matter to the crowd who wants a device for fitness tracking, which is a lot more people than most of us realize. Some people will buy a fitness watch based on the brand name alone, and Fitbit is a good brand name. I’m not forgetting that these watches from other companies, including Google, aren’t a factor. They’re just not the deciding factor.
The thing is, once you leave North America, you stop seeing so many iPhones. Android’s market share globally hovers around 75 to 80%. In some places, you’ll likely never see someone using an iPhone. I’m not trying to dump on Apple or start some sort of culture war here. I only mention it because it means that most people worldwide can’t use the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch is just better than anything running Wear OS — and I hate that.
I’m not an Apple shill. I think the company makes great products that work perfectly for many people, and that’s awesome. Companies that use Android also make great products that work perfectly for many people, which is equally awesome. You should buy what works best for you and not care what someone on the internet says about it. I have an iPhone and an older generation 3 Apple Watch here, though, and unless you have used both the Apple Watch and even the best Android smartwatch, you don’t really know how much better Apple’s platform is. I hate saying it as much as you hate reading it because I don’t want to use an iPhone, but probably would use an Apple Watch. I just can’t.
Wear OS’ problems are two-fold: clunky software and really crummy hardware. To compete with the Apple Watch both have to be fixed, and since Samsung has abandoned its own Tizen-based watch platform, the Apple Watch is the only competition. An Apple Watch is a lot like an iPhone. It has really great hardware combined with software that might be more limited compared to Android, but what it can do it does very well. Yes, there are software bugs, and it’s not perfect. But “it just works.”
This is what Wear OS and the devices using it have to make happen. If Samsung can make a product that “just works” running Wear OS 3, there are over a billion potential customers. Customers who can’t buy an Apple Watch (or have no desire to buy one) want more than a Bluetooth watch that gets notifications or a fitness tracker. I believe Samsung can do it.
There are so many potential customers for the Galaxy Watch 4.
If Samsung can’t build a great Wear OS watch and make it available for everyone who wants it, nothing more can be done. No other company — including Google’s own Fitbit — can design, manufacture, and distribute a product the way Samsung can. No other company will be able to make a high-quality product and sell it at a reasonable price. No other company can save Wear OS.
I have no idea what Google had to do to get Samsung onboard the Wear OS train outside of giving up some software control. Maybe that was enough. Maybe Google has to grease the wheels in other ways. I think it was worth it, though.