Swatch is planning to unveil its own proprietary smartwatch operating system either by the end of the year, or early 2019. It's being called "Swiss OS", and it was originally announced back in March of 2017, by the company's CEO, Nick Hayek. According to Wareable, the company is still planning to release the operating system. Also noting that Hayek had always said 2019 was a possibility, but it was widely reported that it would come out no later than 2018. So somewhere the wires got crossed.
Since Swatch is not currently in the consumer electronics field, it is taking its time. Which is important and smart for Swatch, seeing as they want to make sure that they get this operating system correct. Swatch is planning to debut the new operating system on a Tissot-branded smartwatch, but the company did not mention how many devices it is planning to use this new operating system on. Swatch has promised that Swiss OS would receive fewer software updates than the other wearable OS platforms out there right now, but it would also have "Swiss vault" -grade protection of user data. It's interesting that Swatch is touting this as a feature, as user data hasn't been a big issue with wearables so far. Swatch hasn't been using Google's Wear OS or Android Wear, at all, it has been sticking with relatively dumb or hybrid watches so far. But it is recognizing that there is a world for smartwatches out there and it wants to have its own operating system.
Background: With Swiss OS, that would add yet another competitor to the wearable operating system market. While Google wanted everyone to use its platform, like it did for Android, it is finding that more and more companies are developing and using their own platform for wearables. This is partly due to the fact that Wear OS is a bit locked down, compared to what else is out there right now. For instance, Samsung has been using Tizen for its smartwatches, pretty much since Google launched Android Wear (it did do that first Android Wear watch in the Gear Live, but that was it). Huawei has recently been touting its Lite OS for its wearables, including the new Watch GT it announced earlier this month. And now seeing Swatch working on its own operating system shows that companies are looking to control everything about the smartwatch. Unfortunately, for companies like Swatch and Fossil, to use Google's Wear OS, they have to share data with Google, and that may not be something they want to do. They are also limited to a single processor, and doing what Google wants, with the software. Meaning that there is less customization, especially when compared to Android smartphones.
We've been hearing quite a bit lately about how Wear OS is pretty locked down compared to regular Android. This is something that we kind of knew already, as Google was not allowing companies to really customize the look and feel of Wear OS much, other than the watch faces that it can include. But now we're hearing that it's pretty limited in the hardware, and especially battery life. Where if you want a decent sized smartwatch with good battery life, you have to go out and make your own operating system, which is unfortunate, but that's what is happening now. We heard from Huawei that you are stuck using just one processor for Wear OS, which is the latest Qualcomm chipset, instead of using a more optimized chipset for the hardware you are using. It really changes the game for Google and its partners here, as they are basically building smartwatches for Google and not its customers. This could be why we've seen such a large drop in the number of Wear OS smartwatches announced in 2018, compared to 2017 and even 2016.
Impact: Swatch's Swiss OS may not have a big impact on Google's Wear OS, however if more companies opt for this route, it will. This is because, currently, it's only known that Swiss OS will be on one smartwatch from Swatch. Though that will likely change once Swatch does get Swiss OS ready and out the door. Swiss OS will be able to be more customized for Swatch and allow the company to really do what they want to do with its smartwatches, without needing to rely on Google. That is something that Google isn't going to be too happy about and will likely want to fight back against. Whether that is working closer with its partners to improve Wear OS so that more partners want to use the platform, or making it easier for partners to customize it towards what they think their customers want. It's tough to say at this point.
Swiss OS is coming out at a rather interesting time for Swatch as well, and the smartwatch industry as a whole. This is a time where Google and Qualcomm have just outlined the future of Wear OS. With a new chipset from Qualcomm in the Snapdragon Wear 3100, and then the latest updates for Wear OS, which include a dark mode, and making it easier to scroll through notifications. Wear OS is slowly getting better for users, but Swiss OS sounds like it could be the king of wearable operating systems. Of course, we will need to wait until later this year (or next year) to find out just how good or how bad this new operating system is going to be for Swatch, but it does sound rather promising. Though the main thing that Swiss OS is likely going to have over Wear OS is going to be battery life. Battery life on Wear OS and Apple's Watch OS is pretty paltry, coming in at around two days or even less, depending on how you use your smartwatch. And this is the number one complaint. Many people want more battery life out of our smartwatches than just two days. Swiss OS should be able to offer that, since it is paring back on the apps and features.