Traveling back from MWC15, I went over my smartwatch notes and noticed many of the Android players demonstrated smartwatches which were not running Android Wear.
In an attempt to better understand the smartwatch market I’ve collected the names (and details) of the different operating systems used by today’s (and tomorrow’s) smartwatches. I’m happy to share with your the definitely incomplete list of wearable operating systems!
Smartwatch Operating System – A Fragmented World
Probably the OS with the fastest progress, Android Wear was recently reported to account for just 15% of smartwatch sales in 2014 (total of 700,000 devices). That’s not much, mainly because the platform was only introduced in the middle of the year and still suffers from serious limitations and battery life challenges.
Android Wear OS is designed to be paired with Android smartphones (version 4.3 and on), but there are already rumors that an iOS app will be available soon. Android Wear is available mostly as an open source, but just like with Android – Google is protecting its’ IP by adding a closed layer of services such as Google Now on top of the basic layers.
Android Wear supports both rectangle and rounded screens. There are already thousands of apps supporting Android Wear notifications but less apps that actually provide advanced functionality from the watch itself.
Leading Devices by; Samsung, Sony, Motorola (Lenovo), LG, ASUS, Huawei. Most of the development is done by Google.
Tizen for Wearables
Tizen OS is developed by Intel, Vodafone, Orange, Samsung. The lightweight version of this operating system is called: Tizen for Wearable and is led by Samsung, who happens to also develop Android Wear smartwatches.
Tizen for Wearables is an open source OS and can run standalone apps (without any connection to a host app on a smartphone) which is quite unique for wearable operating systems, it can also run integrated apps and linked apps.
Developed by Pebble Technology Corp, Pebble OS is a custom version of FreeRTOS – a real-time OS for embedded devices. Pebble OS can be paired with iOS and Android smartphones and provides integrated notifications as well as activity tracking. Pebble’s low footprint allows very long battery life.
Pebble’s first smartwatch model was the first smartwatch in the world to shift 1 Million units. There are over 6,000 apps and watch faces and the popularity of this platform is considered to be surprisingly high.
Recently, the OS added support for Android Wear notifications which means Android Wear apps with integrated push notification capabilities will also work with Pebble smartwatches.
If you are not familiar with webOS – here’s a story you simply must read.
The platform that was originally created by Palm, was targeted to run on phones, switched hands several times, and found itself inside wearables by LG, who’s also using it on other smart devices such as smart TVs and washing machines. Needless to say that like Samsung, LG is also creating Android Wear-based smartwatches.
Did I mention wearables fragmentation already?
WebOS is fully based on web technologies and has some powerful features, such as being able to run completely stand alone (which means the smartwatch can operate as a phone using SIM card).
LG recently released the LG Watch Urbane LTE which is the first watch running WebOS.
Read also: The amazing story of webOS
While writing these lines the Apple Watch is not yet released, but it’s fair to say it’s going to be a big hit.
The Apple Watch is running Watch OS, which is a subset of iOS, designed to run on smartwatches. Watch OS devices can only be paired with iOS devices (iPhones mainly) and cannot run apps in a stand alone mode.
Similarly to Android Wear – Watch OS will run the app on the smartphone and a small extension of it will reside on the watch. It seems like the first release will have one significant drawback: poor battery life (18 hours normal use), but knowing Apple – this will probably not stop millions of people from buying the watch.
Developed by Microsoft, the Microsoft Band is mostly a fitness tracker and doesn’t run an operating system.
However, the Band does have a built-in software which is kind of OS agnostic, and can run apps using the Microsoft’s Wearable Architecture paired with iOS, Android, Windows and Windows Phone.
The Band uniqueness is with the set of 10 sensors, supported by the Band software and as of early February 2015 – available for developers via an SDK.
Firefox OS for Wearables
Firefox OS is a Linux kernel-based open source operating system designed to provide a complete community-based alternative for mobile devices. Firefox OS for wearables is a subset of Firefox OS and is designed to run on low-cost wearables and “things” (smart devices). The OS has not been released yet.
Fitbit & Garmin
Its funny that two of the biggest players in the wearable market; Fitbit & Garmin, appears at the end of the list. The reason is that both Fitbit and Garmin smartwatches and smartbands do not run operating systems.
Both Fitbit and Garmin smartwatches (and activity trackers) can be paired with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and latest models by the two companies support notifications just like other smartwatches. Fitbit is considered to be one of the pioneers in fitness bands.
Smartwatch Market Landscape
It’s hard to find a report that shows the market shares of each of the wearable operating systems. The current reports talk about specific models and devices. It’s known that Android Wear is responsible for 15% of 2014 smartwatch sales (700,000 units) which is not a lot. Pebble sold 1 million Pebble smartwatches but Samsung was the leader overall with a long list of different models.
Here are the top 10 smartwatch companies for 2014:
To recap this blog post, here’s an overview of the leading operating systems for smartwatches, in a presentation format for your convenience.
Presentation: The Fragmented World of Wearable Operating Systems
This article was written for the mobile spoon.