An open-source alternative to Android Wear OS for smartwatches emerges

Linux-based AsteroidOS for smartwatches is in beta, but it could be a while until it's a viable alternative

Can the Android Wear and Tizen operating systems on smartwatches be challenged? French computer science student Florent Revest believes so.

Revest has developed AsteroidOS, a flavor of Linux for smartwatches, still in early beta. It has been tested on LG's smartwatches and a port is under way to Asus' Zenwatch 1.

AsteroidOS has basic smartwatch features like a calculator, calendar, stopwatch and heart-rate monitor features. Asteroid 1.0 could be ready for three to four smartwatches later this year, Revest said.

Like PCs and mobile devices, smartwatches usually come with an OS installed. Installing another OS like AsteroidOS could break a watch's warranty. Just as with mobile devices, installing a new OS on a smartwatch can be risky. Users have to be technically skilled or they could render devices nonfunctional.

For now, AsteroidOS is an enthusiast project, and a playground to explore applications that could be built for the emerging smartphone market. 

It also is an early effort to develop an alternative OS for wearables, but its success remains an open question. Alternative OSes like Ubuntu, Firefox and Sailfish have been tried in smartphones, but failed to topple Android. Apple's devices are closely wrapped around the company's proprietary operating systems.

But Revest sees some advantages of having an alternative like AsteroidOS for smartwatches.

The OS gives users more control over smartwatch features. Users typically have limited control over data transmitted out of Android Wear smartwatches, and AsteroidOS will give fine-grained control over apps so there's more privacy for user data, Revest said.

AsteroidOS is also open-source, allowing developers to hack smartwatches to test new features and applications, Revest said.

"Someone created a stopwatch that is now included by default in Asteroid and there are other apps to write," Revest said.

As 3G/4G/LTE connectivity and more sensors are packed into smartwatches, more applications are being added. Android Wear smartwatches have time, notification, fitness tracking, location, cloud and health features.

Revest is looking for more programmers to write applications and testers to port the OS to various smartwatches. Making wearable applications is different from programming for PCs or mobile devices because of the different screen size and user interface, Revest said.

The user experience revolves around presenting relevant information like notifications at the right time. In Android Wear, "cards" are created to present important information while keeping resource usage minimal so the battery lasts longer.

The Linux-based AsteroidOS was built from scratch with the OpenEmbedded tool, with features drawn from other distributions. It has some drivers from Android, and middleware from the NemoMobile project.

The OS can be flashed directly to a smartwatch, or can be used as a secondary OS through an SD card.

Though AsteroidOS is only for smartwatches, a fair amount of features from the OS could be re-used on smartglasses and other wearables, Revest said.

Revest is a developer and student at French engineering university INSA Tolouse. He has developed gadgets like a Raspberry Pi-based autopilot quadcopter, and presented a paper on AsteroidOS at the recent FOSDEM conference in Brussels.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?