Samsung and Google’s Wear OS hits the limelight at MWC 2021

Hey everyone – welcome to Tuesday, June 28, 2021. For this newsletter, I’m switching up the format a bit to feel more informative and educational. I hope you dig it as much as I do.


Samsung and Google’s new smartwatch OS makes its debut at MWC 2021

Summary

  • Samsung unveiled the new Wear operating system it’s been cooking up with Google at MWC, complete with its own One UI skin on top of it.
  • The demo didn’t confirm what the OS’ name will be beyond “One UI Watch” (the name of the skin atop this version of the software), but it was referred to as “Wear” multiple times during the presentation.
  • Currently, there’s no word when it’ll be released, but rumor has it the software will first run on the upcoming Galaxy Watch 4.

It’s officially MWC 2021 week, and there’s plenty of news circulating the internet. One particular topic I’ve been covering is the new version of Wear OS that Google and Samsung are collaborating on, and it finally made its debut at the show via a keynote Samsung hosted.

The software, while exciting, didn’t seem all that impressive during the event. Samsung demoed some of the apps that come pre-installed, the interface, and some of the tools developers can use to make your experience better. But this event, which was expected to reveal more details than it did, was more of a showcase of what’s to come.

That’s fine, by the way. Ever since Google announced its partnership with Samsung and the merging of Wear OS and Tizen OS for watches, people have been hungry for more details. Today’s keynote was basically an appetizer, served well before the main course which consists of a dedicated Galaxy Unpacked event that will showcase the software in all its glory.

For now, we’ve got a few important details about the new system worth talking about.

Samsung will be integrating its own One UI skin in the software, which was expected since Google said manufacturers can add their own skin to the new OS. The system looks a lot like Samsung’s phones and other devices that share the skin, complete with custom icons and all.

Everything from the settings app to the clock faces scream Samsung, so don’t use these screenshots as examples of what the stock version of the OS will look like. However, it does give us an idea of what the interface will look like on the Galaxy Watch 4 when it arrives in August.

One core new feature Samsung announced was automatic app installs. If your watch is running the new software, it’ll automatically install apps you install on your phone so you don’t have to worry about navigating a tiny app store on your wrist.

Speaking of apps, we got our first look at some apps like Google Maps, YouTube Music, Spotify, Calm, MyfitnessPal, Bitmoji, and more running on the new system. They look like similar versions of their classic Wear OS counterparts, so don’t expect very much new in terms of UI for them.

In addition, the new Wear OS will sync clock settings and alarms with your phone. You’ll also have the ability to block calls and texts right from your wrist. Samsung will also be supplying a new watch face-making tool to make it easier for developers to cook up fresh faces for watches.

Altogether, these new changes seem like a solid step in the right direction. No one has been able to supply strong competition to the Apple Watch and watchOS yet, but that could happen with this new system.

While it’s incredibly likely we’ll see the software make a proper debut with the Galaxy Watch 4, it remains unclear when Wear will ship to other smartwatches and have a proper release date. Obviously, I’m watching this story closely and I’ll follow up with more information as it’s made available.


Gadgets

TCL
TCL has announced its bringing three budget and mid-range oriented phones to the United States. The 20 Pro 5G, 20S and 20 SE are all now shipping in the States. The phone to be most excited for is the 20 Pro 5G with its large 6.67-inch 1080p curved OLED screen, Snapdragon 750G processor, 256GB of storage, and quad-camera setup on the back. It also has a 4,500mAh battery with wireless charging, and it connects to sub-6GHz 5G on T-Mobile and AT&T (Verizon support is on the way). It’ll cost $499 which puts it in the same ballpark as the excellent Pixel 4a 5G.

Lenovo
I love now at these tech shows, Lenovo just kind of dumps a slew of new gadgets and says “have fun, everyone!”

That’s basically what happened here. The company unveiled the new Smart Clock 2 (new design, wireless charging pad for your phone), the Yoga Tab 13 (doubles as a monitor for your laptop), the Yoga Tab 11, the Tab P11 Plus, the Tab M7 (3rd-gen), and the Tab M8 (3rd-gen). They’ve got all the details you could want about the new devices in a press release.

Qualcomm
There’s also a new smartphone chip in town. Qualcomm has unveiled the Snapdragon 888 Plus processor with a bumped-up clock speed of 2.995GHz (up from 2.84GHz on the standard 888) and 20 percent more power for the sixth-gen AI Engine. It’s expected to ship in smartphones later this year.

Samsung
Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Buds 2 have surfaced in new press renders provided by 91Mobiles. These leaks confirm the new color they’ll ship in: green. The buds are said to come with active noise reduction instead of cancelation, 60mAh batteries in either bud with a 500mAh cell in the case, and a glossy finish. They’re expected to be announced momentarily, so I’ll let you know if you should ignore this piece of news in the next newsletter.

OnePlus
Here’s another leak, this one for the OnePlus Nord 2. 91Mobiles and OnLeaks have published new renders of the upcoming Nord 2 smartphone with a larger camera setup on the back, a similar bezel-less display, and a good ol’ fashioned alert switch. 91Mobiles says the phone will come with a 6.43-inch 90Hz display, a MediaTek Dimensity 1200 processor, up to 12GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage. It sounds like a pretty speedy phone and a solid successor to the original Nord. It’ll probably come out early next month, if rumors are to be believed.

Honda
Cars count as gadgets, right?

Honda has announced its first of two electric vehicles for the United States will be called the Prologue. The car, which is extremely lacking in details at the moment, is expected to begin shipping in 2024. CEO Dave Gardner is “roughly” targeting an annual sale volume between the Passport and Pilot, which seems ambitious but can likely be done given the hype around electric cars. Meanwhile, the second EV will ship in the latter half of the 2020s and likely sell at greater volumes to propel the company to its 2040 goal of sales consisting of 100 percent EVs.

Software

Microsoft
Okay, there’s way too much news about Windows 11. Here’s a breakdown of some of the latest.

  • Microsoft has released the first official preview build of Windows 11. It’s rolling out to people enrolled in the Dev channel of the Windows Insiders program. The build has a lot of the major features the company announced like the new UI, Start menu, File Explorer, widget area, notification panel, and Microsoft Store. Android apps aren’t here yet, though, but I assume that’ll come sooner than later.
  • There’s a ton of chatter that Windows 11 could be released in October. Demo screenshots of the software display the date of October 20th which could be a hint of when the new OS will be released to the general public. Obviously, Microsoft’s not commenting on precisely when the software will be released other than “this holiday season.”
  • As far as support for PCs goes, Microsoft is gonna hold off on saying who can and can’t install Windows 11… for now. There’s a ton of confusion around what PCs will support the software, and the company isn’t prepared to clarify anything just yet. We do know that processors dating back to Intel’s 6th-gen Skyle and non-Zen AMD processors won’t “officially” support Windows 11 due to out-of-date security and reliability requirements, but you’ll probably be able to install it anyway using unofficial methods if you so desire.

Microsoft has also released its xCloud video gaming streaming feature in Xbox Game pass for everyone, including those on Apple devices. The service works through a web browser for devices without a proper app (a.k.a. Safari on iPhones, iPads, and Macs) and gives you access to over 100 games at up to 1080p 60fps. More details are available on Microsoft’s blog.

Snapchat
You better hold off from updating Snapchat on iOS. The company’s latest update to the app is causing it to hit a serious crashing loop that doesn’t seem to go away. I assume Snap is aware of it and will issue a fix in the near future, but so far there’s nothing.

Parler
An excerpt of Michael Wolff’s new book, published by New York Magazine, highlights negotiations between the Trump organization and Parler, a social media app popular with conservatives for its low-moderation standards. According to the excerpt, the two entities were working on a deal that would see President Trump move over to the social network after his presidency ended and receive 40 percent of Parler’s gross revenues. However, Trump’s team wanted Parler to ban anyone who spoke against the president, which raised a red flag for the network and caused the deal to fall through the cracks. These negotiations apparently took place the morning of January 6th before the Capital Riot.

Entertainment

YouTube
YouTube has announced that YouTube TV is getting support for 4K playback and offline downloads, but at a cost. The new features are a part of a new $64.99/month standard package from YouTube TV which includes everything you get in the $49.99/month plan plus 4K and downloads. Right now, there’s not a lot of 4K content, but there’s plenty to download for offline viewing. In addition, Dolby 5.1 surround sound is rolling out for all subscribers.

Amazon
Amazon has announced a new promotion to convince people to subscribe to its Amazon Music Unlimited service: if you’re a new subscriber, you’ll be given six free months of Disney Plus. The promotion is currently available in the United States and Canada. In addition, current subscribers of Music Unlimited can take advantage of three free months of Disney Plus, if they want.

Netflix
Netflix has added a unique new feature to its Android app: you can now watch partially downloaded content. Normally, you have to wait for the full show or movie to download before you can stream it, but so long as some of that content is stored locally on your device, you can hit play. Netflix says it’s currently working on bringing the feature to iOS, but no timeline was given for when we can expect it to roll out.

Business

Facebook
Another trillion-dollar company is here. Facebook’s market cap has grown above $1 trillion and held for the first time, adding the Mark Zuckerberg-founded entity to a growing list of companies that have hit similar evaluations. It’s said the dismissal of the FTC’s case against Facebook helped the cap grow to these lengths.

Foursquare
Foursquare’s CEO Dennis Crowley has announced he’s stepping down and will become a board member. Crowley announced the news in a Medium post that detailed how the things he wants to do “don’t fit neatly in the Foursquare of 2021.” The company, founded in 2009, started as an app that let users check in to anywhere on the map and gamified the experience by letting people earn badges and other forms of status. Nowadays, the company serves as a B2B thanks to the incredible amount of location data it possesses.

Apple
Apple is trying to stop serious leaks of upcoming products from happening, and one way they’re doing is threatening to sue reliable Chinese leaker Kang. Spotted by MacRumors, the Cupertino company is trying to stop Kang from sharing sensitive information that could wind up in the hands of competitors. The threatening document also suggests the content Kang shares could lead many to think rumored devices will eventually come when they might not. I recommend reading MacRumor’s piece on this topic because of how interesting it is.


Is Microsoft trying to kill the EXE file?

With the new Microsoft Store in Windows 11, the company is inviting basically anyone to release an app through it to make it as easy as possible to install. That sounds an awful lot like Microsoft realizes how crummy an experience it is to deal with EXE files, especially when it comes to common apps like Google Chrome.

I realize macOS has a similar problem with DMGs, but it seems like Microsoft is trying to replicate an App/Play Store experience with the Microsoft Store by opening it up to everyone. I can definitely see the store becoming the place you go to get apps on your Windows PC, so long as Microsoft implements the process correctly.

What do you think? Will we eventually see companies like Microsoft do away with files like EXE in favor of simple downloads from a single marketplace?

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