AsteroidOS 1.0, an open source smartwatch OS, released for certain Android Wear watches
Most computers run either Windows or MacOS with a smattering of Linux here and there. Most smartphones run either Android or iOS with a smattering of Windows Mobile here and there. Most smartwatches run either Apple’s watchOS or Google’s Wear OS with a smattering of Samsung’s Tizen here and there. However, a team of developers is hoping to change that picture (at least for smartwatches), and this week is the next step toward their goal. AsteroidOS, billed as an “open source alternative” to other smartwatch operating systems, released its first stable version today.
AsteroidOS should be thought of as the Linux of smartwatches. While the OS is based on Linux (like Wear OS), the open source nature is similar to desktop OSes like Ubuntu and Fedora in that the source code is available to anyone that wants to modify the underlying kernel or other aspects of the software. Most of the staples of a competent smartwatch OS are here, including notifications sent from a smartphone, weather updates, a calendar app, and basic watch functionality (alarm clock, chronograph, etc.).
AsteroidOS 1.0, released yesterday, is the culmination of four years of work by Florent Revest and other developers. This release is compatible with several existing smartwatches, including LG’s G Watch line, all of Asus’ Zenwatches, and Sony’s Smartwatch 3.
There is also a Software Development Kit (SDK) for the OS, so aspiring app developers can start creating software for the new OS. Since AsteroidOS is built on Linux, the dev team was able to incorporate some Linux features, including OmpenEmbedded, Wayland, systemd, PulseAudio, and more, which means that it's feasible to port an existing desktop app to the watch OS.
While it’s exciting to see a new OS in active development, it’s a shame that it’s for an admittedly dying platform. Smartwatches seem to have outstayed their already short welcome, and while big players like Samsung and Apple will continue to make wearables, other companies are dropping out of the market. Sony is unlikely to continue the Smartwatch line, and there are rumors that Huawei may also make an exit sooner rather than later.
Personally, I have to question the viability of a niche operating system designed for niche devices. Smartwatches haven’t caught on like smartphones or tablets, and unless it can run on a wearable bearing an Apple, Samsung, or Fitbit logo, AsteroidOS is likely to remain obscure its entire life.