Android smartwatches built on Google’s Wear OS platform have lagged behind the Apple Watch when it comes to performance, smartphone integration, and health and fitness features. But Google just paid $40 million for one of its biggest smartwatch partner’s intellectual property to play catch-up — perhaps with a watch of its very own.
Fossil Group, which makes a slew of Wear OS watches across 14 of its brands, on Thursday (Jan. 17) announced that it is selling its developing smartwatch technology to Google. It’s unclear exactly what that technology entails.
Fossil Group Executive Vice President Greg McKelvey, who is also the company’s chief strategy and digital officer, said Fossil and Google are developing a product together that will be “something totally new.”
“What we’re doing here is bringing a new category of product out there that’s not out there yet,” McKelvey said. “This product isn’t on the market for us yet and we think it’s going to be an attractive incremental offering.”
Fossil is almost single-handedly making Wear OS relevant. Its new $255 Fossil Sport is one of the first affordable watches on the market with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, which will in the future unlock longer battery life and more fitness features. Wear OS devices from its licensed brands, including Kate Spade and Michael Kors, are some of the more elegant smartwatches you can buy.
But the company is moving away from fashion-focused watches and will shift toward watches with more health and fitness features and tighter integration with Google’s services, according to McKelvey.
Google was rumored to be developing its own smartwatch last year, but Miles Barr, Google’s director of engineering for Wear OS, confirmed to Tom’s Guide last fall that the company was focused on helping its hardware partners make great watches.
That was 2018, so anything is possible in the new year. Fossil’s tech could help Google create the Pixel Watch that Android fans are clamoring for. (The Apple Watch doesn’t work with Android phones, and it’s unlikely that it will anytime soon.)
It’s possible, given that Fossil owns the fitness tech company Misfit, that its product with Google will offer more advanced health features, like the Apple Watch Series 4. (The Fossil Sport is marketed as a fitness-focused Wear OS watch, but doesn’t offer much in the way of unique fitness features.)
So will this partnership result in the first Google-branded smartwatch? McKelvey wouldn’t say, but Android fans have reason to hope.