Samsung announced an update for owners of its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, enabling them to swap out the Android platform originally used for its own Tizen OS – while also noting that this is “completely optional”.
In a statement, the South Korean giant said that the update will mean that users will have access to more apps – “about 140 apps worldwide available for Tizen OS, nearly twice what is currently available on the Galaxy Gear”.
It will also receive the “robust music enhancements” found on Gear 2, and improved interface, and improved health and fitness capabilities. The update is also said to bring better battery life.
Samsung has been somewhat fickle with its platform choice in the wearables space. While Gear was originally Android powered, Gear 2 has been Tizen from the outset, while the company’s Gear Live is among the first tranche of devices powered by Android Wear.
According to reports this week, this has put Samsung and Google into conflict, with claims that Larry Page, CEO of Google, had contacted Samsung about the fact it is prioritising its investment on Tizen wearables.
Google was also reportedly unhappy with the way early Android-powered Gear products were branded, with it preferring the company had waited until Android Wear was ready rather than forging ahead with its own implementation of the platform.
While Samsung has been pushing Tizen hard as an alternative to Android, in order to mitigate the risk of being totally reliant on a Google-driven platform, an agreement between the companies earlier this year was seen as marking a cooling of the relationship between the two.
Tizen has also been beset by delays beyond smartwatches and a digital camera, all from Samsung. While the company has unveiled a smartphone powered by the OS, it is not commercially available as yet.
The challenge the company is facing is in driving developer interest in order to ensure that it is able to go to market with an appealing apps and content proposition, in order to provide a credible alternative to the more established Android.
From what Samsung is saying now, it appears that its efforts do mean it has the jump on Android in the wearables space – hardly a significant victory, but a victory nonetheless.