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Looks like Louis Vuitton is planning to launch another smartwatch

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But where is Wear OS?

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Leaked images of the rumored new Louis Vuitton watch
Like the name suggests, it lights up
Image: Gadgets and Wearables, Louis Vuitton

It appears that Louis Vuitton is launching yet another version of its Tambour Horizon Connected Watches. According to Gadgets and Wearables, this one lights up thanks to 24 LED lights. It’s not dissimilar to Louis Vuitton’s bizarre $2,890 light-up speaker that looks like it belongs in a space opera. There’s a lot that could be written about this thing, from its ostentatious design to its simple feature set. But the big thing to note here is the watch may purportedly forgo Wear OS in favor of a proprietary operating system.

Several reports of the announcement have been taken down or redirect to other content, but remain in Google News.
Screenshot: Victoria Song

Several other outlets initially ran the announcement, including HypeBeast, HypeBae, and Wareable, but have since been taken down or now redirect to other pages. Details on the actual hardware and software were vague, and The Verge reached out to Louis Vuitton and its parent company LVMH, which confirmed the watch existed but didn’t provide further details.

So far, there’s no name for this custom-built OS. All that’s been reported is that it’s got a touchscreen and a swipe-based UI. Swiping in various directions supposedly brings up notifications, metrics, settings, and, in an interesting twist, a “My Travel” screen that stores plans and boarding passes. Given that this would be an haute couture smartwatch, there would also be customizable watch face options and fairly basic health tracking. The other odd, but perhaps telling, tidbit is that the proprietary OS was “made for iPhone” but also described as Android and HarmonyOS compatible.

If true, this wouldn’t be the first time a traditionally Wear OS smartwatch line quietly pivoted away from the platform. The recently announced Moto Watch 100 also decided to run proprietary software called Moto OS — even though Motorola-branded smartwatches have historically run on Wear OS. Earlier this year, the Huawei Watch 3 and the OnePlus Watch also decided to gamble on their own RTOS-based software. It’s too early to say whether this trend will last, but it hints that Wear OS’s growing pains may just be beginning.

It was monumental news when Google announced it was partnering with Samsung to create a new unified platform that mashed together the best of Wear OS and Tizen OS. But while it was an opportunity to unify the fragmented Android wearable space, there were a lot of caveats, too. For starters, Wear OS 3 won’t arrive for eligible smartwatches until mid-2022 at the earliest. Keyword: Eligible. Based on Google’s official guidance and announcements from partners like Fossil, it’s pretty clear that Android smartwatches powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chips won’t make the cut. That’s a massive hardware dilemma, as only a handful use the current Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform. It’s also troubling, considering it wasn’t until this past summer that Qualcomm seemingly realized it’d dropped the ball and announced it was working on a new wearable chipset. Basically, Wear OS still has a hardware problem.

Louis Vuitton’s first smartwatch, the Tambour Horizon launched in 2017, ran Google’s operating system
Image: Louis Vuitton

Case in point: Wear OS 3 worked well on Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch 4 lineup. Those smartwatches run on Samsung’s in-house Exynos W920 chip, which runs circles around both Snapdragon Wear 3100 and 4100. So, if you’re a non-Apple smartwatch maker, you’ve got two options. You could take Fossil’s route and build a 4100-powered watch that will eventually run Wear OS 3, though not as well as Samsung’s watches. You’d also have to hope that Qualcomm manages to quickly release a wearables chipset that isn’t based on incredibly outdated technology. Or, you could just bypass the headache altogether with a proprietary OS, at the expense of more advanced features.

The reality is, right now, Android users are left in a lurch with few appealing options. Switching to Wear OS 3 was always going to be messy, but there’s a lot of potential from what we’ve seen of Wear OS 3 on Samsung’s watches. However, Samsung is like Apple. Its products work best if you’re knee-deep in its ecosystem. Barring a Pixel or Fitbit Wear OS watch run by a powerful Google chip (which may actually happen), non-Samsung users are likely going to have to wait a while for an equivalent smartwatch.

In the interim, it looks increasingly likely we’ll see more Android-friendly smartwatches running proprietary software. That’s not necessarily bad. The Fitbit Sense, Amazfit GTR 3 Pro, and Huawei Watch 3 are all examples of serviceable smartwatches that chose this route. Then again, so did the OnePlus Watch, and that was a bug-ridden nightmare at launch.

Essentially, it’s all up in the air. We won’t be able to confirm whether Wear OS will be missing from the new Louis Vuitton smartwatch until it officially launches. We also won’t know how Wear OS 3 will fare in the long run for quite some time. The only thing we can say with utmost certainty is don’t buy a new 3100-powered smartwatch.