Samsung really is making a Wear OS smartwatch – but why?

We ask why Samsung is rejoining the Wear OS clan
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Last month we reported on rumors that Samsung is preparing a shock return to Wear OS and now there’s some evidence to back things up.

After a Twitter tipster predicted the company was departing from Tizen to embrace Wear OS, eagle-eyed experts at XDA Developers have spotted a clue in Samsung code.

Developer Ivan Meler spotted reference to a device codenamed ‘Merlot’, which runs on Wear OS listed in kernel source code for the Galaxy S20 smartphone.

‘Merlot’ is listed among other Samsung smartwatches running the same Broadcom's BCM43013 combo Bluetooth / Wi-Fi chip, so it’s reasonable to assume this could be another forthcoming device.

While this rumor has more substance than the initial leak, it’s all far from certain. And we’re still struggling to fully accept that Samsung is ready to move away from Tizen altogether.

The company last used Wear OS back in 2014 for the Gear Live and Galaxy S smartwatches, before it reverted to its own Tizen OS.

That has delivered success for Samsung, and it’s spent much of the last five years second only to Apple in the smartwatch stakes.

But Tizen hasn’t solved all smartwatch problems. It still lags in terms of apps, and as a closed system Samsung will always struggle to attract developers. What’s more, it doesn’t deliver multi-day battery life which Fitbit, Huawei and Amazfit have all nailed.

There’s also no indication that this will be next generation Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 or Galaxy Watch Active 3.

We’d bet that Samsung introduces a new brand with Wear OS, to test the waters before making significant shifts away from its own Tizen platform.

So what does Samsung have to gain? Wear OS has had a torrid few years and according to CCS Insight data, accounted for just 3% of smartwatch shipments last year. So why would Samsung return to the platform?

Snapdragon Wear 4100 offers big battery life boosts, and Google has worked with companies like Oppo to enable them to add their own OS on top of Wear OS, making it a more complete OS.

Samsung and Google working in partnership could bring the Wear OS platform to life, with Samsung driving bigger volumes which in turn would be an impetus for developers to create apps for the platform.

Together the companies could drive a significant Wear OS reboot.

And with the likes of Oppo, Xiaomi, Citizen, Hublot, Motorola joining Fossil Brands, we could be about to see a second surge.

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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