Google and Samsung recently announced they were teaming up to create a new smartwatch platform, but we haven’t seen what those watches will look like — until now. Samsung just previewed the unified Wear OS, with its own unique twist, of course.
The “entirely new Galaxy Watch experience” isn’t exactly the same as the forthcoming unified platform Samsung’s working on with Google. Think of it as a layer on top of that platform, similar to how Samsung customises Android for its smartphones. From what we’ve seen of the One UI Watch preview, the experience will feel kind of like Oppo’s forked version of Wear OS on its Oppo Watch — which actually worked quite well overall.
The two main things Samsung teased for One UI Watch at its Mobile World Congress event were automatic app installation and an improved watch face design tool. The teaser for automatic app installations gave us some real Apple Watch vibes — in a good way. One of the pain points of Tizen OS was even if you had apps on your phone, they wouldn’t show up on your watch. With One UI Watch, whatever watch-equipped apps you download on a Galaxy smartphone will also pop up on your Galaxy Watch. That’s currently how it works on Apple Watches, and it makes for an easy setup experience. Given that the unified platform also opens up Samsung’s wearables to a richer third-party app ecosystem, this is a pretty significant upgrade.
The feature also seems to more cohesively link Galaxy Watches and phones. The watch’s settings layout also mirrors the one on your phone, in that it’s a scrollable list. That mirroring doesn’t stop with layout. If you block a phone number or message from your wrist, that’ll also be synced on your phone. The reverse is also true. If you’ve got multiple clocks from different timezones on your phone, that’ll also be synced to your wrist. The fine print, however, indicates you’ll need a Samsung phone to get these particular features. Samsung smartwatches have always worked best with Galaxy smartphones, however, so this isn’t much of a surprise.
We also got a peek at the new watch face design tool. It probably won’t interest the average user (unless you have a penchant for design). However, Samsung promises the tool should help Android developers to better customise faces to match a user’s moods, activity levels, and personality. Samsung has had some snazzy watch faces in the past, though nowhere near the number you can find on Wear OS. This looks to be a direct response to that.
Overall, both the features teased today seem to address some of Tizen OS’s previous weak points. Samsung says the new Galaxy Watch, which it’ll launch later this winter at an Unpacked event, will be the first to feature both One UI Watch and the new unified Wear platform. We’ll have to see how well these experiences mesh together, and of course, we have some questions as to how this unified platform will work on non-Samsung watches. But so far, it looks like a promising start.