Google rebranded Android Wear as Wear OS by Google yesterday. It’s a marketing change meant to signal the wearable operating system does not require Android (even though that hasn’t been the case in years), but it practically changes nothing. What Wear OS really needs is a champion that will not only showcase what the platform has to offer but also push Google to make the OS competitive.
The only really good news yesterday was that the upcoming Wear OS will be getting more than a name change. Google promised “new features and improvements” coming “over the coming weeks and months.” But even that doesn’t instill much confidence — every operating system gets new features and improvements on a regular basis.
By “champion,” I mean Wear OS needs a device that blazes a path for the rest of the space. If you look at the 33 smartwatches that are getting the Wear OS update, not one stands out:
— Emil Protalinski (@EPro) March 16, 2018
I can’t point to a single device and say, “That one, that smartwatch, is a serious contender” or “That Android Wear watch sold like hotcakes” or “I can’t wait for company x to make another y.” The list is overwhelmingly boring.
Remember all the hype surrounding the Moto 360? Many still love that watch, even though it launched more than three years ago.
But by “champion,” I also mean a company that will lead the way for all the other Wear OS device manufacturers. Google doesn’t have a Pixel watch, although that rumor resurfaces every once in a while. But that’s not quite it either. Pixel devices don’t exactly fly of the shelves.
For Android, Samsung is the undisputed champion, both in sales and in design. Unfortunately, Samsung dropped out of the top five wearable companies list in Q2 2017, hasn’t made a return since, and is more interested in its own Tizen operating system than Wear OS anyway.
In fact, as I noted yesterday, the top three wearable companies — Apple, Fitbit, and Xiaomi — don’t use Wear OS. They account for almost 50 percent of the market.
Huawei is the only company in the top five that offers Wear OS devices. It was in fifth position in Q4 2017 with 6 percent of the market, and didn’t crack the top five for the whole year.
Wear OS is on life support, rebranding or not. Google needs to bring it back to life, but it can’t do that alone. If a hardware company doesn’t step in to make Wear OS shine, fans won’t ever get another device to get excited about. Wear OS will continue to get pummeled by Apple, Fitbit, and Xiaomi.
But hey, at least now it won’t drag the Android brand down with it.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.