HTC’s rumored smartwatch may shun Google’s Android Wear operating software, according to a new report from the Chinese tech-leaks service Upleaks. If so, that would make HTC the latest Android smartphone maker to edge away from Google’s wearable-technology software in order to go it alone against the Apple Watch.

The Upleaks report offered a slew of alleged details about a device codenamed “Petra,” a smartwatch HTC may debut at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona next month, according to rumors.

In particular, the Upleaks post asserts that Petra will run a real-time operating system developed internally at HTC, one that will “support” both Android and Apple devices. Presumably that means the watch will be able to link up wirelessly to either iPhones or Android smartphones, although exactly how that will work or how useful it will be remains anyone’s guess.

That kind of cross-compatibility is a rarity in the smartwatch world—outside, that is, of Pebble’s iconoclastic line of wearables.

More Details, More Questions

According to the Upleaks post, the Petra will also:

  • Use the ST Micro STM32L151 chipset
  • Feature a 1.8-inch PMOLED flexible display
  • Claim a three day battery life—thanks, apparently, to the chipset’s ultra-low power consumption
  • Offer Bluetooth and a GPS sensor
  • Be waterproof to a depth of three feet
  • Come in three sizes and two colors
  • Launch in the first quarter of 2015

Upleaks has been generally reliable in the past. This past October, the Upleak Twitter account posted images of HTC’s Nexus 9 tablet ahead of its official announcement. The site also tweeted accurate leaks about the as-yet unreleased LG G Watch back in June 2014.

Still, there are plenty of details still up in the air. It’s not clear, for instance, if Petra is part of the recently announced partnership between HTC and fitness company Under Armour. Or, for that matter, that Petra is even a full-fledged smartwatch, much less HTC’s only—or even primary—offering in the space. Last year, for instance, there were rumors of an HTC-made wearable based on Qualcomm’s ill-fated Toq smartwatch.

HTC also has an existing commitment to Android Wear that’s now in question. Back when Android Wear was first announced, HTC was confirmed as one of Google’s smartwatch partners—but since that announcement, we’ve seen exactly zip from HTC on that front.

Android Wears Out Its Welcome

HTC isn’t the only Android stalwart who might want to get out from under Google’s thumb. Samsung continues to eschew Android on its wearables in favor of its homegrown mobile OS; all but one of its smartwatch offerings have run on the open-source Tizen operating system (the underwhelming Gear Live being the lone exception). Meanwhile, despite offering two Android Wear smartwatches, LG seems to have a new smartwatch based on WebOS in the works, which was spotted at CES this past January.

It’s probably no coincidence that hardware makers are tugging at the leash as the Apple Watch nears launch. Apple, of course, will have complete control over the device’s hardware and software, a combination that has led to unprecedented success with the iPhone over the last few years.

LG, Samsung, and now (apparently) HTC would undoubtedly love to manage something similar on their own. Moreover, if HTC makes its smartwatch cross-platform compatible, it could have a much bigger consumer base than those of either the Apple Watch or Android Wear.

On the other hand, going it alone means losing out on the huge ecosystem of apps that Android and Android Wear have at their disposal. We’ll know for sure once MWC kicks off in Spain in a few weeks.

Lead photo courtesy of Google

brian p rubin

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