After months of leaks, speculation and on-record hints from OnePlus CEO Pete Lau suggesting the company’s first smartwatch would run on Google’s Wear OS, the device will instead run from its own operating system.
Not for the first time, Google has been given the equivalent of a ‘thanks, but no thanks’. First, it was Samsung. Next, Huawei. Now, it seems smaller companies are to follow suit.
Instead of tweaking Wear OS to its taste, OnePlus has decided to bet on itself, preparing to launch a device that leaks suggest will boast long-lasting battery life, an affordable price point and plenty of tracking metrics.
It’s exactly the kind of smartwatch that would have given Wear OS a much-needed boost, even after it was given small signs of life through the Oppo Watch and TicWatch Pro 3.
And while this latest rejection naturally doesn’t tell us the whole story, it does perhaps shine a light on some of the issues Wear OS continues to hold.
The most glaring would appear to be a lack of ambition – or, at least, a focus on the wrong things.
While the smartwatch industry has pivoted heavily towards fitness and health tracking over the last few years, debuting devices that track everything from stress and recovery to heart rhythms and blood pressure, Google has appeared largely content with delivering solely solid notifications and third-party app support.
For the light smartwatch user, it’s still a very comfortable experience. Most, though, want a fitness platform that has more depth than what Google Fit currently provides, and want devices that have more extensive battery life or features.
Google isn’t solely to blame on that front, of course, but it does still bear responsibility for not giving its own platform a flagship smartwatch to lead the way. So, what next?
Well, luckily, it does have a very obvious ace in the hole.
With the acquisition of Fitbit, the company has the potential to right the biggest wrong of Wear OS – fitness and health tracking – and finally gain an identity that matches up with what plenty of consumers crave.
It’s easier said than done, though, and just how Fitbit is integrated remains the single biggest question surrounding Wear OS.
The most likely, of course, is that it takes the core Fitbit experience and lets it fill in the void – essentially supercharging Google Fit by putting Fitbit’s best features at the heart.
Instead of being data-light and unmotivating, the companion app would potentially harbour industry-leading sleep tracking and analysis. And instead of devices suffering consistent GPS and heart rate accuracy issues, they could become much more dependable to exercise from. All of this, too, backed up by the expert battery efficiency Fitbit gained when it acquired startups Pebble and Vector.
By stepping back and letting Fitbit provide a makeover to one of the most important aspects, it becomes an infinitely more attractive proposition for companies like OnePlus, Samsung and others. It goes from being an operating system also-ran to something that could finally match up to the balanced experience provided by Apple.
We’re only a few months removed from the Fitbit acquisition even gaining approval, so it’s not exactly fair to expect this kind of radical integration to be successful overnight. This latest episode, though, once again highlights why it was so important to the future of Wear OS.
If Google can pull it off, we suspect there won’t be any more instances of Wear OS being the bridesmaid.