Google Assistant’s arrival on the Galaxy Watch 4 has been like a look time coming, for a variety of reasons. First, Samsung’s attempt at its own in-house assistant, Bixby, was essentially a non-starter from day one. Second, the two companies have been openly discussing their joint plan for taking on the Apple Watch since last year’s Google I/O. Oh, and then there was that belated April Fool’s prank.
The latest Galaxy Watch arrived in August, sporting a hybrid version of Google’s wearable operating system the companies christened, “Wear OS Powered by Samsung.” It was a return to the OS after nearly a decade of focusing on the open-source Tizen, now offering a kind of hybrid approach between the two. The deal meant Samsung’s devices dramatically improved their access to third-party apps through the Play store, while Wear OS got a big boost in market share ahead of the Pixel Watch’s release.
Also beneficial for both parties is increased access to Google services on Samsung’s wearables. Starting today, Galaxy Watch 4 owners will be able to download and use Google Assistant on their wrist, bringing enhanced voice commands to the small screen. “With access to both Bixby and Google Assistant, consumers will have access to more advanced voice assistant functionality right from their wrists,” Samsung notes, with a nod its first-party assistant, which is somehow still hanging in there.
I quite liked the Watch 4, which I reviewed it last August, noting that it, “builds on both companies’ smartwatch strengths.” Google has, no doubt, promised Samsung increased focus on Wear OS, which has largely been treading water in a market dominated by a single player. Of course, that focus will arrive with increased hardware competition when the long-rumored Pixel Watch arrives in the fall.
There’s an open question whether such a device can win over first-time smartwatch owners or convert Apple Watch users. If not, Google will likely be fighting for Samsung’s current sliver of the wearables market.