Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

Do you go Samsung or Google? Here's our verdict
Tizen v Android Wear

It's fair to say that no-one has truly answered the smartwatch question yet. Google's Android Wear and Samsung's Tizen OS provide two of the best options (if you don't want to go for the Apple Watch) and offer two different approaches. But which one do we like using the most?

From notifications, apps and the hardware that you can find them running on, we've spent a good deal living with both to help you decide whether Tizen or Wear 2.0 is the one for you.

Read this: The best Android Wear watches to buy in 2017

Got any more questions about how the two operating systems match up? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tizen v Android Wear: Smartwatches

Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

Features and apps might sway your ultimate decision but your gut feeling on which smartwatch platform to choose will probably be based on the hardware itself. And it feels a bit odd to describe these smartwatches as hardware these days, as on both sides tech companies are doing a much better job of disguising the tech as truly wearable accessories.

Essential reading: Samsung Gear S3 review

On the Tizen side, you have Samsung's current flagship wearable, the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier and Classic. It's still running on the smaller Gear S2 as well.

Also don't forget about 2014's Samsung Gear S and the even more vintage Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, which you can still pick up online. We'll focus our attention on the Gear S3 and S2 for the purposes of this feature but if you want to dive into the details of these older models, head to our individual Samsung reviews.

Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

If you're interested in Android Wear, you now have serious choice and that collection of Wear watches is set to get bigger now that Android Wear 2.0 has hit the scene. To pick out a few recent additions, there's the LG Watch Sport and Watch Style, Huawei Watch 2 and Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45. You've also got the Moto 360 2 and the Moto 360 Sport (with GPS) from Motorola, the Huawei Watch and the Asus ZenWatch 3. The Sony SmartWatch 3 should also still on be on any Android Wear shortlist.

Casio is onto its second Android Wear smartwatch with the WSD-F20, the New Balance RunIQ has just launched and Polar's M600 is our current sporty Wear fave to work out with.

Bottom line, if you want choice Wear is your one, but let's not discount Samsung's smartwatches altogether. The Gear S2 is still one of our favourites, and while the Gear S3 watches are on the larger side, we'd be inclined to say it's still a nicer looking watch than the LG Watch Sport.

Android Wear v Tizen: Compatible phones

Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

A big plus for Android Wear is that it is compatible with not only any Android phone running Jelly Bean 4.3 or later but also iPhones including the 5, 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus if they're running iOS 8.2 or later. While it had been a pretty limited experience on an Apple smartphone, that has since changed with the introduction of Wear 2.0. Now the Android Wear on iOS experience is more on par with what you'll get pairing to an Android smartphone, although it's still not exactly the same.

Essential reading: When is Android Wear 2.0 coming to your device?

While Tizen had initially been a Samsung-phones-only setup, that has since changed to add support for Android handsets, and now it's also compatible with iPhone 5 and newer handsets. As we spoke about in our Gear S3 review, you're not getting the full fat experience, but the features that do make the cut work with little issues. You can download apps and access sports tracking, however dealing with notifications is limited.

We haven't spent a lot of time with Wear 2.0 on iOS, so we can't make a judgement just how well the two OS platforms crossover yet, but it's definitely a positive that both can be used on multiple platforms.

Tizen v Android Wear: Interface and features

Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

Now we get down to it. Android Wear 2.0 has landed; the new Gear smartwatches are now up to version 2.3.1 of Samsung's own operating system.

For Android Wear, version 2.0 sees a big overhaul of the overall experience from a new-look UI to the new ability to download apps directly from the watch. Voice navigation stills plays its part but has effectively been replaced with Assistant, Google's take on Alexa.

Now physical hardware features like the traditional watch crown can be used to interact with the menu screens and a few Apple Watch-inspired features are in tow as well including Complications, which lets you add small widgets to any watch face.


Features wise, there's plenty to get to grips with, including standalone calling and cellular data on some models like the LG Watch Sport plus Wi-Fi support so you don't need Bluetooth on all the time. Google's services are second to none, too - Maps, Voice, Gmail and the like. Both also offer the ability to make purchases from your wrist with Android Pay and Samsung Pay available in select countries. One advantage Samsung has here in the Gear S3 is support for Magnetic Secure Transmission, meaning it can be used with card strip readers - therefore making it more widely compatible than Android Pay.

Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

In terms of getting around the UI, right now we prefer Tizen OS to Android Wear. It's a simple setup, more reminiscent of a smartphone screen (specifically TouchWiz) but less hectic and potentially confusing than both Android Wear and Apple Watch. The integration with the rotating bezel, too, is lovely and means you don't cover up what's onscreen with your fingers. Put simply, it relies on less of your brainpower to quickly access what you need to see and, for a smartwatch, this is crucial.

You can connect Tizen to Wi-Fi too and the Gear S3 Frontier has LTE which allows it to be used as a standalone device, for instance with AT&T's NumberSync.

Cosmetically, the interface is a little cartoonish and Samsung's own services won't always stand up to Google's. Voice memos, in particular, are disappointing. Though for instance, you can get HERE Maps for Tizen which is a pretty good alternative. Speaking of apps...

Android Wear v Tizen: Apps

Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

We're not particularly blown away by either of the app selections for Tizen or Android Wear yet. There are more Android Wear apps, for sure, and in terms of useful, geeky or fun indie titles, you'll find more to download. With the arrival of Wear 2.0 and its support for standalone apps, the library has been growing with more capable applications that make the platform feel stronger than ever.

It's worth remembering that Android Wear supports alerts from pretty much any app you have on your Android phone too. So you may just tell us to quit our bitching if that's all you require of your second screen.

Read this: The best Samsung Gear S3 apps

Tizen is definitely lagging behind in apps though it does have Spotify (finally!), Uber and Nest, which uses the rotating bezel to adjust your thermostat. There are apps such as Mr. Time Maker which lets you play around or create watch faces and Samsung has a few smart home and car deals with its own SmartThings platform and Volkswagen.

But apart from a short list of big partnerships and a smattering of popular apps, it's not really clear whether devs are prioritising this OS. Plus beyond the watch faces, neither operating system is *that* customisable in terms of the look of the interface. Still, as we're starting to mull over, maybe smartwatch apps aren't the make or break we thought they were.

Tizen v Android Wear: Health and fitness

Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

Android supports GPS and smartwatches like the LG Watch Sport, Polar M600, the New Balance RunIQ, Sony SmartWatch 3 and Moto 360 Sport have taken advantage of this. Polar has arguably come the closest to turning Android Wear into a platform for real fitness enthusiasts and there's still definite potential here

In terms of basic tracking, you can use Google Fit to track the likes of walking, cycling and running. It monitors steps, distance and estimated calories burned as standard then adds this data to stats collected by dedicated fitness wearables on your Android smartphone in Fit.

Wear 2.0 also adds a series of workout challenges and standalone apps are making their way to the platform with Strava among the first to take advantage of the built-in GPS on the likes of the M600, and others have been following suit.

Read this: The best Google Fit compatible apps and devices

With both Gear S3 models now equipped with GPS, you can now use Tizen as a proper running watch. There's also a whole host of sensors including a heart rate sensor and barometer for outdoor pursuits. Automatic exercise recognition is also included and works with multiple activities while rep counting helps you keep a check on sets of lunges, crunches, squats and burpees.

Samsung's Health platform continues to improve with every software update and feels more complete than Google Fit in comparison. As far as replacing sports watches are concerned, both still have some way to go, but we'd be inclined to say that Samsung does a slightly better job of it. If you care about the third party fitness app support, then Android Wear is the way to go.

Android Wear v Tizen: Verdict

Tizen v Android Wear: Which smartwatch OS is right for you?

Tizen or Android Wear? It's just one consideration when you're deciding whether to buy a Samsung Gear S3 or an Android Wear watch. Design, price, customisation - everything has to be just right for you to give up your wrist space for one of these devices.

If you're plugged into Google's services or you need a specific sensor, feature or finish, it's worth diving into the specifics of what each Android Wear smartwatch offers. If you've never worn a smartwatch before, you have a compatible phone and you want a device that is easy to use from day one, try on a Gear S3 or Gear S2 for size.

Also, remember - there's a whole bunch of hybrid smartwatches disguised as analogue watches from Fossil, Withings and co. This isn't part two of the smartphone race, everyone is doing their own thing and it's worth looking beyond Android Wear and Tizen before deciding where your allegience lies.


Shop for recommended Android Wear watches on Amazon

Huawei Watch 2
Huawei Watch 2
$299.99
Asus ZenWatch 3
Asus ZenWatch 3
$229
Polar M600
Polar M600
$329.95
Casio Pro Trek Smart
Casio Pro Trek Smart
$499

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15 Comments

  • yogibimbi says:

    Umm, the Casio has GPS? Now, that's news.

    • s.charara says:

      Corrected, my mistake. 

  • FFFclub_Moscow says:

    Samsung Gear S2 has a modification with supports 3G and GPS. This model can be operated without using a smartphone.

  • tstreete says:

    This review confuses the Gear S2 classic for the Gear S2 3G. Classic does not have 3G (yet), none of them have 4G, but the Gear S2 "sport" 3G does have GPS. Please clarify for your readers. 

    • -Jason says:

      I could be mistaken, but I believe 4G is available on all 3 carriers; at least according to Samsung's site for the Gear S2.

    • JoeyNTasha says:

      My Gear S2 Classic from T-Mobile not only has 4G, but it also has GPS

  • damienMS says:

    and windows phone 8.1 ?

    Cheap DZ09 does it well,with Bluetooh,   while expensive brand watches only do Android, and iOS if lucky!!

    Is it fair to let windows phone users down ??

    • dearjym says:

      Windows phone users...LOL

      • BudaDragon says:

        I literally just laughed out loud.  Good times

    • back_after_this says:

      What's a "windows phone"?!?!?!

  • warpathchris says:

    Also the recent Nike+ Running app update to Nike Run Club has completely broken compatibility with the native Gear S2 Nike+ app. The update also broke syncing with Google Fit. No word from Nike on a future fix.

  • Schlermie says:

    Samsung makes such a cool smartwatch. Why do they keep royally screwing us with Tizen?

  • Mikep43 says:

    Hi I just bought an gear s2 neo not realizing it rubs Tizen. I'm trying to use an android wear app so I can use voice commands to control my car.  Any ideas ,?

    Thxs

    Mike 

  • Gadgety says:

    The Hardware: 

    Samsung's watches have a more frugal 14nm processor than any Android Wear device,  and that turning great bezel.

    Samsung has a habit of abandoning their hardware when bringing out new stuff.

    The Apps:

    Samsung is far behind. If you use Google Now/OK Google/Google Keep, or any type of voice entry Android Wear is miles ahead. The great Watchmaker app, up until now exclusive to Android Wear, for downloading free watch faces, or making your own, is coming to Tizen.

  • FoVITIS says:

    Try ok Google... Write... Whatsapp message to..... With wear and Tizen.... Oh see... Tizen can only send sms...

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