In what can only be described as a sole proprietor, Google has it released a YouTube Music app for Apple Watch … before making a similar version for its own smartwatch platform, Wear OS.
This is striking for a number of reasons. To begin with, Google has been working on implementing a number of integrations to YouTube Music. Earlier this week, YouTube Music on Android TV got something major upgrades. Back in August, Google did it too, so you could play personal playlists from YouTube Music via Google Assistant. As you might expect, in both cases Google prioritizes its own platforms. But that is not the case with Wear OS.
Usually, Big Tech tends to push for new features and updates for its own platforms first. For example, Android users are the first to get a more robust set of third-party integrations with Google Assistant. iOS users will have to wait. And Apple is, well, Apple. You know it is will prioritize its own ecosystem first—in hell with everyone else. That’s why Google pushing a YouTube Music app for Apple Watch first is a pretty big departure.
But Iit is not super surprising considering the smartwatch market. On the one hand, you have the Apple Watch. It is by far the most popular smartwatch with somewhere between 50-55% of the market, depending on Which one research agency doing math. This often comes as a surprise 74% of phones running globally Android and Apple Watch only support iOS. In the first quarter of 2020 actual sales of smartwatch saw a 20% increase in sales, where Apple, Samsung and Garmin have the biggest advantage. Use OS …not so much. According to 9to5 Google, although more Wear OS watches were sold in 2020 than in 2019, its market share actually fell from 23.7% to 22.6% in the 1st quarter of this year.
But what this really means is that iOS users more often than not just choose the Apple Watch because it really is the best smartwatch option for them. The same cannot be said for Android users. Smartwatch options for Android are much more fragmented, and for years there was no real Apple Watch alternative that Android users could really rally behind. Samsung came closest, and its latest flagship, Galaxy Watch 3, is probably the one Android smartwatch that can go toe to toe with Apple. The thing is, it does not run Wear OS. It runs Samsung’s proprietary operating system, Tizen, and it stores the best features for Samsung users, leaving non-Samsung users at a disadvantage.
It means that, more often than not, Android users are split between Samsung and more fitness-focused smartwatches that also run their own proprietary operating system, including options from Garmin and Fitbit. In fact, the only one Another Android-friendly flagship smartwatch that can compete with the Apple Watch is the Fitbit Sense, which, again, does not run on Wear OS.
While 2019 was somewhat boring in terms of new flagship smartwatches, 2020 was a whole other story. Samsung came out strong with its Galaxy Watch 3. Fitbit apparently pulled a miracle out of nowhere with Sense, Versa 3 and Inspire 2. Both companies managed to catch up with Apple and win the US Food and Drug Administration clearance for clinical electrocardiogram functions. Garmin released that Forerunner 745, and Polar is modernizing its Vantage line and add a beautiful amazing entry-level smartwatch Unite. Use OS for comparison completely crush the bed.
Despite Qualcomm’s introduction a new Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip, which is expected to enhance the Wear OS experience, which is only a smartwatch powered by what is available this holiday season: Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3. Fossil, that is most prominent producer of Wear OS watches, launches a slightly cheaper version of its series 5 of watches powered by the latest generation processor, Snapdragon Wear 3100. This means that the earliest we are likely to see real progress in Wear OS watches is snext year. The updates Google rolled out to Wear OS this fall was overwhelming, which focuses more on streamlining the interface than enabling more of the advanced features we’ve come to expect in flagship smartwatches.
It’s not that Google can not see the value in wearables. The company’s acquisition of Fitbit is proof that, like all lipstick, it pays to “surrounding computing. “It’s just that any real improvements to Wear OS will take time. Hell, it might even just be easier at this point to scrape it and start over, should be approved by regulators Fitbit agreement.
Meanwhile, it seems that even Google knows it has a bit to gain by putting Wear OS first. It’s sad because it just means that Android users, especially those without Samsung phones, have the fewest choices when it comes to a good smartwatch. Uunfortunately it does not seem to change anytime soon.