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Samsung Google smartwatch OS at MWC 2021: One UI on top

There’s a new Samsung Galaxy Watch device coming from Samsung here in 2021, a device that’ll be the first to run software developed jointly by Google and Samsung. It’ll run its own Samsung-specific iteration of that software: A user experience called One UI Watch. As a Samsung representative said today, “One UI Watch will be available for Galaxy Watch on the new, unified platform [Samsung] jointly built with Google.”

Samsung confirmed this week that “its upcoming Galaxy Watch” will be the first to run both “the new unified platform and One UI Watch.” This new device and the software will be revealed in full at a separate Samsung event “later this summer.”

Google released their wearables operating system back in March of 2014. The first hardware partners were announced at Google I/O 2021, with LG, Motorola, and Samsung as the first manufacturers to release smartwatches with Wear OS. The year 2014 also saw Samsung release the Samsung Gear 2, running a wearable version of Tizen.

Here in 2021, Samsung and Google teamed up to bring Wear OS (or whatever they’ll end up calling it from this point forward) to Samsung watches. The software on the first new Samsung watch with Google’s software inside will not look like Google software on other wearable devices. The video below is a full capture of the livestreamed event at MWC 2021 for Samsung. Watch from around 9:12 to see all the smartwatch details:

The average smartwatch wearer will not likely notice how Samsung and Google teamed up for software on this and future devices. The launch of this software and this watch will more than likely affect the average person via promotional efforts by Google and Samsung.

More important than any sort of software collaboration, here, is the power of the two brands together, and their public-facing efforts to engage prospective customers. Samsung is the biggest brand in Android in the United States right now – it is in Google’s best interests that Samsung use Google software in their smartwatches, too.

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Mobvoi TicWatch E3 hands-on reveals next Snapdragon Wear 4100 smartwatch

Wear OS smartwatches are a dime a dozen but, unfortunately, most of them are running on rather old hardware. Majority of those, including ones launched just last year, are still using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset that debuted way back in 2018. The chipmaker does have one updated wearable platform but so far only Mobvoi has been using it in the TicWatch Pro 3. Now it seems that it will have a companion and Mobvoi is once again taking the lead with the TicWatch E3.

Running on the latest smartwatch chipset isn’t just about getting the latest and greatest. It also means, for example, better performance and better power efficiency, two very critical elements for a small device. It may also determine whether or not the smartwatch will be receiving a much-anticipated Wear OS upgrade later this year but a lot of that is still based on speculation.

In the meantime, however, Mobvoi seems to be preparing to launch the world’s second Snapdragon Wear 4100 smartwatch. From a brief hands-on shared by Russian Instagram user andrey_koftun, the TicWatch E3 looks a lot like the TicWatch Pro 3 despite its namesake. That can be clearly seen in the two side buttons and the lack of a rotating crown.

In terms of specs, the packaging confirms the Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor, a 2.5D display that isn’t OLED according to the source, IP68 rating, and VO2 Max tracking, among others. The charging cable is also reminiscent of the TicWatch Pro 3 which magnetically attaches to the back of the smartwatch. And, yes, it also runs Wear OS.

Given its “E” branding, the TicWatch E3 is likely to stand lower than the TicWatch Pro 3 on the pricing front. Mobvoi does have an event scheduled on June 16 where it might unveil the smartwatch. Hopefully, it will also have some news on whether it and the TicWatch Pro 3 are eligible to get the “Wear OS 3.0” update later this year, something very few smartwatch makers have committed to yet.



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How likable will the Facebook smartwatch experience be?

Facebook is reportedly working on a smartwatch of its own, which is slated to debut in the summer of next year. The wearable is expected to arrive with dual cameras onboard – almost a first for a wrist-wearable – feature health and messaging functions, and also act as a controller for the unannounced augmented reality device from the social media giant.

Rumors of Facebook working on a smartwatch have been floating for quite some time now. We have previously learned about the inclusion of fitness and messaging features on the supposed watch, but it’s for the first time that the camera aspect has been added to the package; this piece of news is equal parts exciting and concerning.

Enticing because smartwatches with camera have not been accepted well before and dual cameras open up various use case scenarios. Nerve-wracking because Facebook doesn’t come with a good reputation of handing user data. So a Facebook wearable with camera on the front? It will be a hard sell.

Probable experience

Facebook’s intended foray into smartwatch market will further the social network’s intention of being a frontrunner in the hardware space as well. It has been selling the Oculus virtual reality headsets and the Portal lineup of video-calling devices, but this is for the first time Facebook is contemplating a smart wearable that should complete in the already saturated market filled with stalwarts like Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Google-owned Fitbit.

Facebook’s interest of selling a watch is pretty certain. The company is unlikely to turn down the idea, even though it’s for now only in the rumors and nothing is officially known in this regard. In fact, we don’t even know what it would be called, a Facebook Watch moniker is the best known.

The watch is expected to run a custom version of the Android operating system and pack in Facebook’s suit of apps including Instagram and WhatsApp. Not a novelty really, but how well the native apps will interact with the hardware is where the real difference will lie. To that end, the social network is believed to enter external partnerships to create a wholesome experience for the smartwatch, which will come with an app to interact with phones.

Facebook is already believed to have spent over a billion dollars in the development of its forthcoming smartwatch. Dual camera is one uniqueness that would pull in some buyers, but other than that, it’s only the user experience that would make the difference between a winner and a deal-breaker.

As of now, there is no other mentioned feature that is really a standout in the Facebook watch. Moreover, Facebook has no firsthand experience in such hardware, it’s a pioneer in another line of business wherein it’s maligned by issues of privacy. Maybe a collaboration with an existing watch company could be the way forward, but there are no real signs of that, which leaves us to believe Facebook is neck deep into conceiving its own device.

It’s early days to predict how it will be received – Google has tread the path pretty well – presumably, Facebook will pull it off as well. Let’s understand the features that the watch is expected to arrive with.

Connectivity

Facebook watch is likely to come with LTE connectivity. For this, The Verge reports, social network is working with the top wireless carriers in the US. With cellular connectivity, the watch should be able to function independent of a phone to make and receive calls, send and receive messages and do more, for instance, to send messages using Facebook’s services.

Cameras

Privacy is one of the major reasons why none of the bigger brands developing smartwatches has included a camera in their devices. Now, with Facebook trying to bring what is an obvious addition to the smartwatch with not just one but two cameras, things are really looking promising. How well the tech behaves in guarding user privacy, that’s maybe a story for another day.

The company is likely to launch a smartwatch with a display featuring two cameras that can be detached from the stainless steel casing to be used as say a GoPro – to hang at the back of the backpack or attach to the helmet while riding – to click photos and record action videos even when the phone is not handy.

Generally a smartwatch compares nowhere to the utility of a smartphone, it’s only a secondary device you pair with the phone for convenience. With the detachable display carrying two cameras, the utility is definitely in for a change.

The watch’s display will carry two cameras. A front-facing lens for video calling and a rear-facing 1080p camera with autofocus, which is actually going to be the key camera when the display unit is snapped out of the casing. It would allow the user to share their clicks instantly over Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – which otherwise allows mobile uploads only.

Fitness

The planned Facebook watch is not only going to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung with the camera gimmick. It intends to fight it out, ever so slightly in the health and fitness arena as well. The watch is likely to arrive with a heart rate monitor.

To gain user trust to sell a watch with such a feature, Facebook will have to suggest how it intends to safeguard/use data. Apple at its recently concluded Developers Conference has strengthened its stand on privacy protection and Facebook will have to at least matchup. There is no information on whether the watch will include workout modes, SpO2 and body temperature sensors (which are new smartwatch additions because of the pandemic situation).

Availability

Facebook is already working on next-generations of the unannounced watch; therefore, the imminent release of the first-generation Facebook smartwatch is just around the corner. Reportedly, the watch could arrive as early as the summer of 2022.

It is unclear how the smartwatch will be priced, but reports hint at around the $400 mark. A premium price tag as this for a first-gen wearable is really down pulling, but then this is only a speculated figure. The actual price would be known only in the coming months when we are likely to hear more about this smartwatch. Interestingly, the watch will arrive in white, black, and gold hues; though blue is the first color that comes to mind when I hear “Facebook smartwatch.”

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Apple Watch leads the smartwatch market but Wear OS still has hope

Given the increased attention to personal fitness and health in the past months since the pandemic hit last year, it’s really no surprise that smartwatch sales have considerably risen during that period. Given its focus on health and fitness as well as its track record in saving lives, it is also no surprise that the Apple Watch continues to lead that market all the way to the first quarter of 2021. It isn’t too late for Google’s Wear OS, however, and it might finally catch a break in the coming quarters, presuming its partnership with Samsung bears good fruit.

Compared to the same first quarter last year, the smartwatch market grew by 35% year on year. Counterpoint Research doesn’t point out the cause but it’s easy to see the trends given world events within those 12 months. People have become more conscious of their personal health and smartwatch that can detect irregular heart rhythms or arrhythmia and blood oxygen levels are particularly popular among consumers.

Counterpoint Research does focus on which brands and platforms are leading that market. Again, it’s no surprise to hear that the Apple Watch still leads the race, even increasing its share of the pie by 3%. While Samsung’s shipments did grow, it still ended up losing a portion of its overall market share. Huawei is still in second place above Samsung but its figures continue to decline as expected.

In terms of platforms, Wear OS barely has a presence but that could be changing soon. The market research firm points to the recent announcement of Wear OS integrating Samsung’s Tizen OS for smartwatches, suggesting that such a partnership could help increase both interest in and shipments of Wear OS smartwatches. Samsung can also benefit from this since its future Galaxy Watches will have access to more Android phones in the process.

Google is definitely playing a lot of cards here, especially as it is still in the process of finally acquiring Fitbit. The latter, best known for its fitness trackers, also uses its own custom OS, even on some of its smartwatches. Whether those will eventually run Wear OS still isn’t certain but if they do, Google’s section of that chart could very well increase significantly.

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Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch is the do-all fitness tracker

The Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch will cost you approximately $400 – let’s talk about why. The Garmin Venu 2 does everything the original Venu does, but ALSO adds an array of new features. This watch works with GPS (and GLONASS, GALILEO), heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer, ambient light sensor, pulse ox blood oxygen saturation monitor, and a battery time of up to 10 days in smartwatch mode. It has a touchscreen, color display, and is able to connect to Android and iOS devices.

In addition to the features included in the original Venu, this device is available in two distinct sizes and multiple colors. This version has “enhanced battery life” with both rapid recharging and a battery saver mode – which for the Venu 2 means it’ll have up to 11 days of up-time, and the 2S rings in at 10 days (both in smartwatch mode).

This series also has new HIIT workouts with on-screen animations, as well as activity profiles for HIIT, hiking, bouldering, and indoor climbing. Venu 2 works with Health Snapshot to record and share health stats, and has a “Fitness age” system.

With the fitness age system, the watch “estimates the body’s age” given activity, resting heart rate, chronological age, and either body fat percentage (if you’ve got a Garmin Index scale) or BMI. The Venu 2 also adds new sleep score and insights with Firtbeat Analytics. Below you’ll see a presentation video from Garmin about this new Garmin Venu 2 series.

The Garmin Venu 2 has a 45mm watch case and a 22mm band. The Garmin Venu 2S has a 40mm watch case and an 18mm band. The bands work with “industry-standard quick release” silicone band connections, and the watch has a stainless steel bezel.

The display is an AMOLED touchscreen panel protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. If you’re looking at the Venu 2S, you’ll have a 1.1-inch diameter display with 360 x 360 pixels. The Venu 2 has a 1.3-inch diameter display with 416 x 416 pixels. Both have 5 ATM water ratings, meaning they’re able to withstand pressure equivalent to a depth of 50 meters. That means you’ll be protected against splashes, showers, diving, snorkeling, swimming, and your basic rain and snow.

Both the Garmin Venu 2 and Garmin Venu 2S will cost you approximately $400 USD. These watches were made available for purchase through Garmin (dot com) starting this week.

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Huawei Band 6 almost looks like a smartwatch

Even with the advent of smartwatches, smart fitness bands, which have been around before those smart timepieces, have continued to thrive. Beyond software differences, smart bands have always been distinguished by smaller or at least narrow displays compared to the circular or square screens of smartwatches. There have been a few outliers, of course, and Huawei’s latest fitness tracker is one of them. The Huawei Band 6 has a tall but large display that, unless you’re looking closely, could easily be mistaken for a smartwatch.

Granted, the line that separates smartwatches from smart bands can be arbitrary, especially for brands that use their own custom OS and not something like Wear OS which is specifically for smartwatches only, at least for now. The Huawei Band 6 may not have access to the same apps as Huawei’s dedicated smartwatches but it does allow users to switch to different watch faces with different themes.

That ability comes in handy with the Huawei Band 6’s 1.47-inch AMOLED screen, which it claims to be 148% bigger than its previous fitness band. Unlike many fitness bands, it is also wider and its overall design gives off a stretched Apple Watch vibe. Those keeping tabs on the international wearable market, however, will most likely also see traces of the Honor Band 6’s DNA in its design.

Despite the smartwatch-like appearance, the Huawei Band 6 is a smart fitness tracker through and through. It has also the staples of such devices, from 24/7 heart rate monitoring to all-day SpO2 tracking. The larger size also has the benefit of fitting in a battery that, along with more restricted OS functions, promises to yield two weeks of uptime.

Coming in four color options of Amber Sunrise, Forest Green, Graphite Black, and Sakura Pink, the Huawei Band 6 will be launching for 219 RMB, roughly $35. Although one of its predecessors, specifically the Huawei Band 3, did reach US shores, the chances of that happening this time around is extremely slim.

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Amazfit T-Rex Pro smartwatch promises to be even tougher

OnePlus just launched its first-ever smartwatch and, for some people, the OnePlus Watch’s classy style is perfect for every occasion. Some, however, need a wearable that’s built like a tank that can survive the same environments and operating conditions their wearers go through. For that purpose, Amazfit, whose parent Huami traces its roots to the famed Xiaomi, created the T-Rex Pro smartwatch to be as tough as its prehistoric namesake while not going extinct.

Amazfit actually already launched a rugged smartwatch that looked the part last year under the name of T-Rex. As this new model’s name suggests, the T-Rex upgrades that rugged quality to the next level. It’s pretty much a laundry list of specs and tests, from 15 military-grade tests to 10 ATM water resistance.

A tank of a smartwatch, however, wouldn’t be much if it didn’t have features to match an active lifestyle in the wild outdoors. The Amazfit T-Rex Pro boasts support for the four main global navigation satellite systems so you won’t get lost even up in the mountains. It also has a blood oxygen saturation sensor to make sure you’re getting enough oxygen through all that intense activity. The smartwatch also boasts over 100 sports modes as sleep-quality monitoring.

The Amazfit T-Rex Pro features a 1.3-inch AMOLED display that can stay always on to give the information you need at a glance all the time. Like Amazfit’s other smartwatches, it runs on its own custom RTOS but is still compatible with Android and iPhones, of course. Thanks to that OS, the smartwatch boasts 18 days of battery life, a lot longer than your regular Wear OS or even watchOS smartwatch.

The Amazfit T-Rex Pro will be available in the US starting March 23. It will retail for $179.99 and will come in three colors and “skin-friendly” silicone straps that, for better or worse, you can’t swap out to replace.

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OnePlus isn’t waiting until next week to reveal its first smartwatch

OnePlus is supposed to reveal the OnePlus 9 series during a event next week, but you wouldn’t know it judging by how much the company has confirmed over the last few weeks. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these devices have already been revealed and the OnePlus marketing machine is just ramping up, given all of the teases and images the company has shared recently. Today, the company is back at it again, revealing the look of the OnePlus Watch.

Technically, it was Unbox Therapy that revealed the look of the watch on Twitter, but considering that OnePlus was tagged in that post an ultimately retweeted it, it’s safe to say that Unbox Therapy had the company’s blessing in publishing this image. OnePlus says that it has “a lot more to show on March 23rd,” which is when that OnePlus 9 reveal event is slated to take place.

That Unbox Therapy is sharing this image today isn’t much of a surprise. We’ve been expecting OnePlus to reveal the OnePlus Watch alongside this new phone lineup, not only because of leaks, but also because OnePlus itself started teasing it earlier this month. It’s really starting to seem like OnePlus gets too excited for its own good in the lead up to these reveal events.

It was just a couple of days ago that OnePlus chief Pete Lau confirmed that the smartwatch won’t be running Google’s Wear OS when it arrives, which is a pretty bold move. OnePlus hasn’t made a smartwatch before, so the decision to go in a different direction in terms of operating systems is one that could make it difficult for it to find a sizable audience.

Of course, it might turn out that the OS Oneplus is developing for its smartwatch is actually a really great one that draws people in regardless. Time will ultimately tell on that front, and we’re definitely looking forward to seeing what the OnePlus smartwatch has to offer on the 23rd. The OnePlus 9 reveal event is slated to happen that day at 7 AM PDT/10 AM EDT, and we’ll be covering the show as it happens so be sure to check back here for our coverage.

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Omate O6L Pro smartwatch for kids packs software SIM and 4G LTE

Omate is back with another Nanoblocks smartwatch for kids, this one featuring 4G LTE connectivity and a software SIM. The new O6L Pro model is visually similar to the 3G version of the Omate x Nanoblocks smartwatch the company introduced back in 2018, but with updated tech that powers a number of features, including video calls, messaging, and more.

The Omate O6L Pro smartwatch features a 1.3-inch capacitive touch display, as well as a speaker, physical SOS button for emergencies, a built-in noise cancellation microphone, and a 2-megapixel camera for capturing selfies and participating in video calls.

The key feature included with the O6L Pro is the software SIM, making it the first kids’ smartwatch to offer this feature. Buyers get free unlimited 4G LTE services with the watch during its first three years, as well as free unlimited location services that power the SOS and tracking features.

As you’d expect from a wearable made for kids, the device has an IP67 rating. The O6L Pro is available in purple and black colors, plus there’s a limited edition version that features a nanoblocks band. With that latter offering, kids can place tiny plastic bricks on the watch’s band for a fun look.

Multiple purchasing options are available; the O6L Pro Black and Purple are both priced at $239 USD. Alternatively, you can get a ‘twin’ pack with two watches for $429 USD. The nanoblocks version of the watches are $10 more expensive at $249 USD each.

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Samsung Wear OS smartwatch rumor is splitting the Internet

Samsung was actually the first manufacturer to come out with an Android-based smartwatch even before there was Android Wear, now Wear OS by Google. It used a modified version of Android that, unfortunately, meant Samsung had to do things its own way yet again. Eventually, it decided to just ditch Android altogether, aside from at least one model, and created its own experience around Tizen OS. Now, however, a single rumor has users taking sides on whether Samsung switching to Wear OS is a good thing or not.

To be clear, Ice universe actually mentions Android replacing Tizen on a new Samsung watch. This leaves the door open for either a custom Android-based smartwatch OS or a one-time Wear OS thing again, just like the Samsung Gear Live in 2014. Nonetheless, the mere fact that it won’t be the usual Tizen-based OS is enough for users to either clap or raise their fists.

On the one hand, switching to Wear OS would open the door to more apps, especially popular ones that aren’t available on Tizen. That includes Google’s own apps, particularly Google Assistant and connection with Google Home. It’s probably arguable that, small as it may be, Wear OS’ app ecosystem is bigger and more alive than Tizen’s.

On the other hand, Tizen has also had more opportunities to refine itself that some even consider it a better smartwatch OS than Wear OS. Development on Wear OS itself hasn’t exactly always been active and consistent. That said, just like on its smartphones, Samsung does tend to abandon older smartwatches sooner rather than later, leaving them with older versions of the OS.

There are definitely pros and cons to this unexpected switch, presuming Samsung is really making that switch. If it does, it will be the first major smartphone maker in a long while to actually dive into Wear OS again, after the likes of LG and Motorola jumped ship years ago.



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