While I was expecting to see brand-new smartwatches running Wear OS 3 in the coming months, I wasn’t expecting them as soon as July, and I certainly wasn’t expecting luxury watchmaker Montblanc to be the first out of the blocks with a compatible offering.
The company just announced its n (opens in new tab)ew smartwatch (opens in new tab), the Summit 3, and while the timepiece brings an expected assortment of upgrades to the table, the most notable improvement isn’t a one-button concierge service or the fact that it’s hewn from premium materials like titanium – for which you’ll be paying an eye-watering $1,290 / £1,105 / AU$2,030 – it’s that it comes running the latest iteration of Google’s wearable operating system, Wear OS 3.
Assuming no other brands get a device to market before Montblanc, the Summit 3 will be the first smartwatch in the world to offer a clean take on this latest wearable platform, when it touches down on July 15, and goes toe-to-toe with the best Wear OS watches on the market.
Let’s turn back time…
Google formally unveiled Wear OS 3 at its annual I/O developer conference in May 2021. Until that point, Wear OS had sat as a widespread but unloved platform in the wearables market; overshadowed by the Apple Watch’s watchOS and Samsung’s Tizen-powered Galaxy Watch line.
What made the launch of Wear OS 3 so significant was that Google had actually turned to Samsung for support, and in turn revealed that the South Korean company’s Tizen platform and wearables expertise were both being folded into the development of Wear OS 3; forming a “unified platform” designed to offer a more coherent user experience, with features and functionality that smartwatch fans actually wanted.
In August of last year, we finally saw the fruits of this new joint venture, with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 line granting us our first real-world taste of Wear OS 3 – sort of.
While, out of the box, the Google Play Store did indeed arrive on-wrist on Samsung’s new watches, the experience they offered (and still offer today) wasn’t the most authentic take on Wear OS 3.
In Samsung’s own words, its latest wearables run ‘Wear OS powered by Samsung’, and that distinction manifests in aspects like some of the pre-loaded apps, alongside the fact that some functionality remains exclusive to those who pair their Galaxy Watch 4 with a compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
We haven’t seen a true Wear OS 3 watch, until now
It’s for this reason that Wear OS 3 on the Montblanc Summit is such a big deal. Google promised that a handful of existing watches (such as those from Fossil, Skagen Falster and Mobvoi) would receive an upgrade to 3.0 sometime in the second half of 2022, but hasn’t provided any more specifics on a launch date.
Meanwhile, the promise of new hardware launching on Wear OS 3 has been equally intangible; with companies like Mobvoi and Fitbit promising something and only Google itself actually showing off the long-awaited Pixel Watch, which isn’t set to see release until “fall” (sometime between September and November), the race for the best smartwatch isn't hotting up any time soon.
With the Summit 3’s launch less than a month away, we don’t have long to wait until we see what Google’s own interpretation of Wear OS 3 actually looks and feels like; not some Samsung-specific skew that, by default, serves up Bixby (the company’s often-maligned digital assistant) instead of the Google Assistant.
Sorry, how much?
I mentioned ‘luxury’ and ‘premium’ at the top of this piece, and they’re words that have always been associated with the Summit smartwatch line (as well as the wider Montblanc brand).
As you might expect, a titanium-clad timepiece such as the Summit 3, which comes paired with the option of premium leather bands and sports the latest Qualcomm wearable chipset (in the Snapdragon Wear 4100+) isn’t aimed at the everyman.
So unless you reside in the niche demographic of those who are interested in the latest developments in Google's wrist-based platform but simply can’t wait for more modestly-priced Wear OS 3 smartwatches to arrive and those with higher levels of disposable income who are also in the market for a well-designed smartwatch, go right ahead.
If you’re like me, however, you might instead want to put the $1,290 Montblanc is asking for the Summit 3 towards more mundane things, like food and heating, at least until the Pixel Watch gets here.