Samsung’s MWC preview of the One UI Watch platform gives us a big reason to be excited for the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 4 or whatever wearable the company plans to launch later this summer.
Right now, it’s just referred to as “the new Galaxy Watch,” and it’s confirmed to arrive at the next Samsung Unpacked event. It’ll be the first smartwatch to run the upcoming, unified version of Google Wear OS.
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Similar to how Samsung’s smartphone software is built on Android, the One Watch UI will add a brand-specific layer to future Galaxy smartwatches. So while it’ll favor Google’s suite of programs and adopt a card-based navigation, the new Galaxy Watch will get optimized features that make it a better device for Samsung users.
Apple’s watchOS has always held an edge in, well, enabling an edgeless experience. Seamless software integrations between iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more have made the Apple Watch the best smartwatch every year. Sure, the Apple Watch 7’s hardware will probably be great, but watchOS 8 is really what Samsung should look to beat with the One UI Watch platform. So can it?
One UI Watch: What’s new for Galaxy Watch
Samsung has only teased One UI Watch, but from what we’ve seen it’s meant to act as an extension of Samsung smartphones. Not only do the smartwatch menus look more like those on the smartphone — now, when a user changes certain settings on their phone, it’ll also be applied to their watch.
Samsung showed off how the integration works for blocking phone numbers and adding international clocks, though it seems like more of these extensions will materialize when the next Galaxy Watch debuts.
When a user downloads new apps from the Google Play Store to their Samsung smartphone, the smartwatch version of those apps will automatically show up on their new watch, too. Better yet, Samsung said it's working with third-party developers to ensure compatible smartwatch versions of popular apps are available. That means we should see more apps with One UI Watch than Tizen previously offered.
Beyond smoothing out the connection between Samsung smartphones and smartwatches, developers will have more options for bringing their own branding to the Galaxy watch face library. Using a proprietary editing suite, designers can create watch face themes, align text, curate fonts and add animations.
Is it enough to beat watchOS 8?
If you’re familiar with watchOS, you might be thinking that the One UI Watch’s upgrades don’t seem all that special. Minus the watch face design tool, Apple already mastered most of the promises Samsung has made for future Galaxy Watch users.
Apple has practically perfected the extension of the iPhone experience to the Apple Watch, so much so that Apple Watch experiences are benefitting the iPhone experience in reverse. Users don't just want to see their iPhone information on their wrist, they want to see their Apple Watch information on their handset, too.
While the Galaxy Watch is very good, Samsung hasn't earned that degree of device synthesis yet. Getting there requires a foundational changes that are more functional than flashy — changes we've haven't seen much of since the company released the original Samsung Galaxy Watch running Tizen in 2018.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 ditching Tizen for Wear OS is a game-changer. Obviously it's the boost Google needed to redeem its Wear platform, but also the foundational change Samsung may have required to rethink its smartwatch strategy against Apple.
Until the new Galaxy Watch comes out in a few months, we won't know if the new One UI Watch skin on top of the revamped Google Wear will be enough. But it seems primed to challenge watchOS in a way no competing smartwatch software has managed to before.
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Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.