Back in the Fold
The big wearables news at Google I/O wasn’t the oft-rumored Pixel Watch, but rather the fact that Samsung is coming back into the Wear OS fold. The company is working closely with Google to build a far better version of Wear – coming soon hopefully – that should finally be a more competitive alternative to Apple’s watchOS and will rely heavily on Samsung’s expertise in areas such as battery management and fitness (along with significant input from Fitbit of course). The result should be a more cohesive strategy for Android-focused consumers, while giving watch OEMs the ability to customize the OS.
The NPD Take:
- While the step back from Tizen is a bit of a surprise, as it was the potential backbone of a Samsung OS ecosystem (Samsung smart TVs also use Tizen), the move brings many benefits to both Google and Samsung. In many ways, Google gains the most: Samsung is the dominant Android-focused watch OEM currently and pulling it back into the Wear OS fold is key to building a stronger defense against Apple. At the same time, Samsung will benefit from a broader range of third-party apps
- This is a key defensive strategy for Samsung and Google: Apple is clearly pulling away in the smartwatch category and that is a threat not just within the watch sphere but also the smartphone market: 11 percent of new iPhone customers say they bought an iPhone so they could use an Apple Watch.
Music to Our Ears
Google also announced that it is launching a YouTube Music app for Wear OS at long last. YouTube Music was supposed to replace the previous Play Music app that was killed off last year, but there has been quite a gap, at least on the smartwatch side, leaving customers looking for alternatives. Now, hopefully, the new app will help protect the consumer base from further defections – either in terms of music solutions or hardware
The NPD Take:
- The gap in music strategy Is a perfect example of how Google has not paid enough attention to its wearables strategy over the past few years. Bluntly put, it left its most loyal customers – those that purchased music via the Google options – without a way to play those tunes on a Wear OS smartwatch. It’s time for Google to place a lot more focus on the wearables category.