Samsung owns Tizen and Google owns Wear OS. You’ll find Tizen exclusively on Samsung smartwatches and Wear OS on hundreds of devices. From a product choice perspective, there’s a whole lot more choice with Wear OS but that doesn’t matter. You’re here because you want to know which is best for you.
The only new Samsung smartwatch you can buy right now is the Galaxy Watch, which is in our opinion is the best smartwatch on the market. There’s only a handful of Wear OS competitors that stand up to it in late 2018. These are the Huawei Watch Sport 2, Fossil Q Explorist HR (Gen 4) and the Skagen Falster 2.
In this guide to Tizen and Wear OS, we’ll jump right into the important stuff (apps, user interface, notifications and compatibility) to help you decide which is the best smartwatch ecosystem for you. We hope it helps.
Tizen vs Wear OS: Apps
Wear OS has more apps than Tizen. But not a whole lot more good ones. Simply put, you’re not going to miss out on much.
Even though Wear OS has more apps than Tizen the only one you’ll miss with Tizen is Google Play Music. Tizen still has Spotify, Uber, Map My Run, Find My Car - you know, all the cool stuff you want on your wrist. There’s no Google Maps but there’s a great Galaxy Watch maps app called Here WeGo for navigation.
Unlike with smartphones, apps aren’t the be all and end all with smartwatches. People just don’t use their smartwatches in the same way as their phone. They use their smartwatch to push notifications to their wrist, listen to music over Bluetooth and control smaller aspects of their life, such as their morning alarm.
These things are handled by a device’s ‘core apps’ - those that come pre-installed. You don’t need third party apps to get the job done.
And so, what we have here is simple: with the Tizen vs Wear OS debate, core apps matter most and we’re split as to which are best. These are just basic apps after all. If you have an Android smartphone, Wear OS will feel familiar to you but we’re leaning towards Tizen as a more polished experience overall. We’ll look at why now.
Tizen vs Wear OS: User interface
With its rotating bezel, Tizen on the Galaxy Watch leaves Wear OS for dead. The look and feel of both operating systems are polished.
With both operating systems, hardware plays a role in user experience but in Tizen more so, because one of the ways of navigating the OS is with a rotating bezel.
This is unique to Samsung and Tizen for now, and it’s exceedingly good. It’s the reason why Tizen and the Galaxy Watch are so highly rated.
There isn’t a Wear OS smartwatch on the market with a rotating bezel. Samsung is literally the only company doing it. You scroll through apps and their interfaces by rotating the bezel. It’s just so much faster to set a timer, scroll through an email or check a Twitter feed by rotating the bezel on the Galaxy Watch than it is by swiping the screen on a Wear OS smartwatch. And of course, every element of the UI is touch active, so you can navigate it by way of the touchscreen if you like. It’s your choice.
The equivalent for a Wear OS smartwatch is a rotating crown, which only comes on a few smartwatches. For the most part, Wear OS smartwatches make do with a touchscreen and to be honest that puts it at an immediate disadvantage. Navigating Wear OS is tiresome at times because the displays are always so small. It can take several taps to get to the app you want and several taps more to make it do something.
It looks very nice though. Nicer than Tizen (funky bezel scrolling animation aside). It feels polished and every app has a good icon. The settings and core menus are logically laid out and you get a real sense of continuity across devices, because Google doesn’t let manufacturers tinker with the software too much. This means all Wear OS smartwatches offer the same user experience when you get down to it. They are differentiated by watch faces and hardware. This is where any originality shows.
Tizen vs Wear OS: Notifications and compatibility
Both play well with Android but neither play well with iPhone. When it comes to notifications, both operating systems are equal.
The Galaxy Watch (Tizen) pulls notifications from 20 apps as standard. You access notifications on the left side of the watch face, swipe up to delete them from your phone or tap on them to respond. You can scribble short responses or speak them and the Galaxy Watch will dictate for you. It works great. You can scroll through notifications with the bezel or touchscreen, it’s up to you.
Wear OS was recently updated which means some of the information you’ve read about how it handles notifications will be outdated. You now swipe up to access the notification stream and you can use Smart Replies from within the stream without having to open the notification. You swipe down on the stream to open quick settings. The new system is much better than the old one, and a match for Tizen.
Regarding compatibility, the Galaxy Watch is compatible with smartphones running Android 5.0 or higher, iOS 9.0 and later, and smartphones iPhone 5 and newer. Wear OS is compatible with the same, so no difference there.
However, in our experience neither Wear OS or Tizen play nice with iPhone. They really struggle with iOS because of Apple’s closed ecosystem. Samsung Pay doesn’t always sync freely and iMessage doesn’t sync with either operating system. Samsung and Google are working on this, but the bottom line is if you have an iPhone, the Apple Watch is your best bet. Have an Android phone? Tizen works fine. Wear OS works fine. Both operating systems are designed with Android users in mind.