The smartwatch market has been growing steadily since the first smartwatches came years back. However, Google’s Android Wear hasn't exactly reached the peak where some people were hoping it to reach by now. The disappointment has forced smartwatch fans to look for an alternative, in the form of Tizen or Apple Watch. But some Android fans aren't yet giving up. Rather than waiting for Google to either step up or step down, they are instead coming up with an alternate smartwatch OS, based on Android. Yes, the modular smartwatch maker BLOCKS have announced an Android Oreo-based OS for smartwatches called Project OpenWatch. The Project OpenWatch offers smartwatch makers an alternative, one that is powered by Android as well.
Project OpenWatch is open source project that provides a Linux kernel and an Android Oreo Board Support Package for watches that use the same MediaTek MTK6580M chipset used in the BLOCKS smartwatch.
Isn't Android Wear itself based on Android? Of course it is. But it’s not exactly the same Android you find on your phones or TVs. Before Android Wear came along, smartwatches had to settle for modifying the main Android version to work on extremely cramped hardware. Project OpenWatch is also something like that. It is based on Linux kernel and Android Oreo but configured to work on smartwatch chipsets in the market.
The existing smartwatch OSes, Apple’s Watch OS, Google’s Android Wear, and Samsung’s Tizen, do not support the plug-and-play modules. The process of having to buy a brand new device just to upgrade or replace a single component feels very archaic. So BLOCKS developed its own Android-based software.
The goal of the Project OpenWatch initiative is to provide an OS that can be installed on existing smartwatches, including BLOCKS’ own modular watch, as well as any third-party developers seeking to create their own custom smartwatch operating systems.
Apart from the BLOCKS Watch, OpenWatch will also support a number of other watches including the Zeblaze Thor, Lemfo LES1, and Kingwear KW88, KW98, and KW99, at launch. Developers from CarbonROM and LineageOS have also started working with OpenWatch code, BLOCKS claims. They hope to make the smartwatch ROMs publicly available starting March 15th.
BLOCKS doesn’t have plans at this time to release a fully-fledged OS themselves. The current focus is on an aftermarket firmware, something you can install on a watch that originally shipped with a different operating system. But if things pan out good, who knows they could introduce a viable challenger to the already dying Android Wear. Exciting times ahead for the smartwatch market.