Samsung’s next Galaxy Watch could run Android instead of Tizen OS

Samsung’s next Galaxy Watch could run Android instead of Tizen OS

Update 1 (03/02/2021 @ 04:30 PM ET): A small tidbit of evidence points to Samsung developing a Wear OS device code-named “merlot”. Click here for more information. The article as published on February 19, 2021, is preserved below.

It’s been several years since Samsung released a smartwatch running Android. You have to go all the way back to 2014 when the original Gear Live launched to find a Samsung wearable equipped with Google’s Android Wear (now known as Wear OS). Since then, the company has used its in-house Tizen platform, but a new report claims that could change.

Reputable Samsung insider Ice Universe said on Friday that an upcoming watch from Samsung will use Android, not Tizen. We assume that means the wearable will run Wear OS, but it’s also possible the device will feature Samsung’s own UI based on Android. The Tweet doesn’t divulge too much information, so we’re now left to speculate about Samsung’s plans.

If the report is true, it would be a huge boost for Wear OS, which has floundered in recent years (to put it mildly). Seeing support from Samsung could help reinvigorate the platform and finally give Android users a worthy alternative to the Apple Watch. Right now, there are only a small handful of smaller companies showing consistent support of Wear OS. Not even Google has released a smartphone running the platform.

The question is: Why would Samsung jump to Android when Tizen has evolved into such a good wearable platform? By all accounts, the Tizen experience is superior to Wear OS, so this almost seems like a downgrade. We’re not entirely what’s behind the alleged move, but we’re hoping to get answers soon.

In a separate report from GalaxyClub, Samsung is said to be working on two new wearable devices (SM-R86x and SM-R87X). It’s speculated that the devices will fall in the Galaxy Watch Active product line, with a release expected sometime this summer. Information beyond that is still a mystery, but they could launch with Wear OS.

Google’s Wear OS platform possibly making a comeback wasn’t the headline we expected in 2021. But if this report is true, maybe we’ll finally see the software blossom into something that can actually go toe-to-toe with Apple’s watchOS.


Update 1: “Merlot” device may run Wear OS

XDA Recognized Developer ivan_meler was digging through the latest kernel source code release for the Exynos Samsung Galaxy S20 (SM-G980F) when he discovered a new device code-named “merlot” in the WiFi driver. “Merlot” is referenced alongside “WearOS”, which may suggest this device is running Google’s Android OS for smartwatches. The device is expected to use Broadcom’s BCM43013 combination Bluetooth/WiFi chip and is mentioned elsewhere in the kernel source code alongside other Samsung devices that use Broadcom chips, including the Galaxy Tab A7 LTE and the Galaxy Watch 3. Sadly, there are no other references to “merlot”, either in the kernel source code or in the One UI 3.1 firmware. We’ll continue to look for evidence of “merlot” being Samsung’s Wear OS smartwatch.

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Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.