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The month kicked off with a slew of new wearable smartwatches launched at IFA 2017, from Fitbit’s Ionic to Samsung’s Gear Sport the newest fitness focus smartwatches also run the companies proprietary operating systems each with their own app libraries. For them to succeed Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin must now race to stock their app stores with the best apps.

That’s good news for smartwatches, because the influx of wearable apps, may do for smartwatches what it did for smartphones in 2009 when Apple launched its app store and lets be real, they need that push. Even though smartwatches have been selling better than expected lately, the entire product category has been poorly received in general and not just because most Ugandans can’t afford or have no use for smartwatches– they just haven’t been accepted yet.

Operating System battle

First, lets quickly recap the three Operating Systems we are talking about. With the Fitbit Ionic, the wearable maker also debuted its first ever Smartwatch OS called Fitbit OS. To that end, Fitbit also launched a web-based console, called Fitbit studio so anyone with a browser can code an app for the Fitbit Ionic. The company also uses relatively simple and popular standards like SVG, JavaScript, CSS which saves developers the need to learn a whole new language. Given Pebble’s popularity and success in the USA and Europe, it wouldn’t be surprising if developer’s didn’t need creating apps in earnest for the Fitbit OS.

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Then there is Samsung’s Tizen OS. Now in it’s 3rd iteration this is the most mature platform of the lot. Well of course excluding the likes of Apple’s watch OS and Android Wear, since those are more multi functional and designed for a more main stream audience. Tizen is a platform is the platform the powers Samsung’s new Gear Sport watch, and the new Fit 2 Pro and already offers 31,000 apps and watch faces. Its an open source Linux based platform that also powers printers, camera and TVs. Linux is also a popular standard  standard which a lot of developers already know although its not as common as JavaScript and CSS that Fitbit uses.

Gear Spot and Fit 2 Pro
The Samsung Gear Spot and Fit 2 Pro

Samsung has a head-start in this race because of relative maturity and the company’s ability to attract big name partners. The Gear Spot and the Fitbit  and the Fit 2 Pro are the first wearables to offer Speedo’s tracking app. Tizen’s app numbers continue to grow given the steady popularity of the devices it powers.

Also lunched at IFA, is Garmin’s Vivo active 3 smartwatch, which runs the company’s Garmin OS. Like its competitors Fitbit and Samsung Garmin OS can also let you track your workouts run apps, and make contact payments on your wrist. Using its connects IQ’s open development platform Garmin was also able to recruit partners like Uber and track to create a small selection of thrid-party apps for its OS. Truthfully speaking, its offering is still misly compared to Tizen but at least its evident the company is trying.

 

Design Sales

Of course, hardware and style are important factors that determine success of a smartwatch as well. Samsung’s gear spot looks the most likely traditional watch here with its round face. Fitbit’s Ionic is keeping with the company’s distinct geometric aesthetic which looks like a block tracker, but its fans will be happy to over look that for the Ionic’s advanced sensors and brilliant display.

The Garmin ViVo Active 3

Garmin, with its expertise in GPS technologies still proves to be a favorite in for running enthusiasts. Although Samsung retains its led in app development  but for now it is still to early to call it the winner just yet. Fitbit’s Ionic –while young — was created by one of the people behind one of the most popular smartwatches in history. Meanwhile Garmin has a dedicated cult following of runners that have specific needs.

So whats the way forward?

Like we saw with phones that make app development easy, (remember Firefox OS?) a high number of comparable apps isn’t enough in OS take off. Companies must first make sure there are a compelling suite of apps at launch and they can do this by offering their own app stores or turning to partners. Also, companies truly understand this principle having sort collaborations with Uber and Spotify.

So now the race is on now to see who can ink the most number of deals in the shortest amount of time.

The company that will likely take the crown, will be the one that finds success in boasting app quality app growth in its ecosystem and then it will have to take on arguably the industry’s most popular device the Apple Watch the ultimate round of smartwatch woes

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