Google and Samsung team up for new smartwatch OS; Android 12 revealed
Google has announced plans to merge its Wear OS smartwatch platform with Fitbit and Samsung’s Tizen and revealed a major design overhaul for the next version of Android.
Announced during its 2021 I/O conference, Google’s new focus on Wear OS – now rebranded as simply Wear – follows years of neglect from the firm which has seen its market share dwindle to a fraction of that enjoyed by Apple’s wearable smartwatch platform.
While Google has forgone releasing any major updates for Wear in recent years, the platform was also hamstrung by its reliance on Qualcomm as its sole provider, which has neglected to release a wearable chipset capable of competing with Samsung’s Exynos or Apple’s S series processors.
Now Wear OS and Samsung’s Tizen OS will be merged, with Samsung planning to release the new software on its upcoming Galaxy Watch 4 and other firms also expected to release devices. Unfortunately, for current users of both Tizen and Wear OS, the new platform will not be ported to older devices.
Google said that improved performance for the revamped OS will see apps start up to 30 per cent faster on the latest chipsets with a smoother user interface, animations and motion.
The watches should also see longer battery life with under-the-hood optimisations made to the software to minimise the amount of power it uses by taking advantage of low-power hardware cores.
That includes the ability to run the heart rate sensor continuously during the day without draining the battery too heavily, as well as the ability to track sleep overnight.
While Wear OS was strictly designed to minimise the amount of software customisation available to watchmakers, Wear has been designed to allow greater customisation at a system level.
Google will also redesign many of its homegrown Wear apps including Google Maps, Assistant and YouTube Music for the new platform.
Android 12 was also shown at the conference featuring the most significant visual redesign in years. It assumes a blockier look than previous versions of Android, with big and bold colours applied to widgets and apps that makes it more reminiscent of Apple’s iOS.
Google has also worked extensively on animations to give Android a smoother feel, as well as cutting the amount of CPU time to carry out some basic operations which should help to improve battery life.
The quick settings panel will now include sections for easy access to Google Pay and smart home devices moving them from the lockscreen which was used in Android 11. The privacy dashboard has also been revamped to give users a better idea about how apps are using their data.
Project Starline was also introduced at I/O 2021 which is a virtual communication tool designed to make users feel like they are sitting just across the table from one another via the use of a “magic window”.
Google has made use of machine learning and real-time compression to create realtime 3D models of the person on the other side of the call. Currently, prototype versions feature custom-built hardware and can only be found in a few of Google’s offices, but the firm plans to make the technology more affordable and accessible over time.
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