Samsung’s smartwatch rumored to be Google-free—and it’s a sign of things to come

Rumor is that Samsung is switching the Gear from Android to Tizen.
Rumor is that Samsung is switching the Gear from Android to Tizen.
Image: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man
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Sources tell USA Today that Samsung is going to make a very public break with Google and its Android mobile operating system at this year’s Mobile World Congress, between Feb. 24 and 27 in Barcelona. If the anonymously-sourced rumor proves true, Samsung will announce that its much-maligned Galaxy Gear smartwatch will be getting a much-needed upgrade, and will lose the Android operating system it was running on.

In its place, Samsung’s updated Gear would run the Tizen mobile operating system, an open-source alternative to Android that Samsung has been pushing hard, apparently in a bid to wean itself from a dependence on Android as the primary operating system for its smartphones.

Images of a forthcoming Tizen-powered smartphone from Samsung have already leaked, though that release appears to have been delayed repeatedly.

There could be other reasons Samsung would want to put Tizen on its watches—one might be better performance or battery life. And there’s the possibility that Samsung sees Google’s rumored forthcoming smartwatch as a big enough threat that Samsung needs to differentiate the Gear before Google’s smartwatch is even announced. Also, considering that the Gear smartwatch was met with poor reviews, it makes sense that it could be a safe platform on which to experiment. What does Samsung have to lose?

It’s perhaps ironic that Tizen’s killer app could be that it could run as many as “hundreds of thousands” of existing Android apps.