What is RTOS, the ‘most popular’ smartwatch OS for Android phone users – Times of India
RTOS or Real Time operating systems have been around for a long time. It has been powering a range of devices and technologies like heart pacemaker, your car’s anti-lock braking system, flight ticket booking platforms and even RADAR for quite a long time.
But most consumers got curious about RTOS only recently when OnePlus decided to ditch Google’s WearOS and opted for RTOS or FreeRTOS in their first smartwatch– the OnePlus Watch.
Why are brands using RTOS for smartwatches and fitness bands?
RTOS has a lot of different applications which differ from device to device. Also, how it is configured, type of RTOS deployed– hard real time, soft real time or soft real time — depends on the purpose it is being used for. Obviously, the RTOS used on an aircraft carrier is not the same as the one used on your new smartwatch.
So, technically, what smartwatches use is FreeRTOS. It is a type of Real Time operating system which is light and made to run limited applications on a single chipset and has limited memory. In a business sense, RTOS can achieve better performance, battery life and also save money on the bill of materials due to its limited hardware requirements.
Another advantage is that the money saved on chipsets can be used to offer a better quality display. So, that’s one of the reasons why we are now able to get smartwatches with good quality AMOLED displays and over seven day’s battery life at affordable prices.
Also note that FreeRTOS is not something new in the wearable space. We have already seen brands like AmazeFit, Samsung (in the Galaxy Fit range of smart bands) and others launch devices in the past. Brands like Xiaomi and Realme too are using their own proprietary OS based on FreeRTOS to power their affordable smartwatch models.
And this is what makes RTOS or rather FreeRTOS the ‘most popular’ smartwatch OS among Android phone users. In fact, few of the current/new smartwatches in the market run on Google’s WearOS.
Why is it called Real Time OS?
This platform is made to cater to time-bound apps where data needs to be processed without any buffer/delay. This simply means that the processing time is the key in RTOS and that processing needs to happen on very less memory and limited hardware resources.
Why are wearable brands deploying RTOS? For a low-cost smartwatch or fitness band where the margins are thin due to the high competition, RTOS serves as the right platform to get a fast device that consumes less battery without any major chipset costs.
Is FreeRTOS better than Google’s WearOS?
Google’s operating system for wearable devices has so far not been as successful as its operating system Android for smartphones. Google started with Android Wear and later rebranded it to WearOS. But very few models running WearOS are actually affordable and at the same time it makes all models look the same.
With FreeRTOS, brands get more customization options, they can have their own UI and offer their own companion apps. This means using a OnePlus Watch will be different from using a watch by AmazeFit or Xiaomi. Also, with limited hardware costs it helps brands offer features that matter to users more– custom UI, better battery life, faster performance and good display quality.
But there are disadvantages as well. FreeRTOS is nowhere close to offering the choice of apps that is found on WearOS. If you are using a smartwatch running FreeRTOS then you are entirely at the mercy of the brand’s companion app and its app store. You will have a limited choice of apps, watch faces and other customisations. On the other hand, Google gives you the freedom to download apps or even watch faces that you want.
So, which is better? If you just need a smartwatch to monitor health, show notifications and do other day-to-day tasks while getting good battery life then FreeRTOS works out. But if you want more flexibility in apps and reliability in terms of software upgrades the WearOS may be better for you. And if the low price of the smartwatch is all that you care about, then grab whichever you think offers a better display, battery life and design. This is because almost all smartwatches for Android phone users offer a similar set of features.
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