Google Gives the Smartwatch its Blessing With Android Wear
I run, but never walk. I have hands, but no arms. A face, but don’t talk. No eyes, though my name disagrees. Oh, I also just got smarter. I’m a watch.
Although calculator watches have been around since the 1970s, true mobile computing hasn’t come on a wrist strap until the past couple of years, rising in popularity when the Pebble smartwatch became one of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns.
The market is still extremely new, though, and most ecosystems have yet to carve out a proper place for the smartwatch. Watches like the Pebble and Samsung Gear definitely fill a niche, but both lack true integration with our existing cloud services and serve mostly as expanded notification services.
Sundar Pichai–Google’s SVP of Android, Chrome, and Apps–just announced at SXSW last week that Google would soon be dropping a wearables SDK for developers, and Google came through in Spades earlier this week with Android Wear and the announcement of some incoming watches and future hardware partners.
Android Wear appears to be heavily derived from Google Now, just in watch form. The full range of features has yet to be unraveled, but it appears to be Google Glass on a wrist strap. Whether it will completely cannibalize from Google Glass, of if each will have their own place in the Google device ecosystem remains to be seen. Although many geeks will gladly wear both regardless of how many features are replicated.
Right off the bat, Motorola and LG both have devices incoming, but the the Moto 360 was the only one featured alongside the Android Wear announcement. In addition to LG and Motorola, Asus, HTC, and Samsung are also hardware partners as well as several fashion brands, such as Fossil.
The Moto 360 appears to be a gorgeous device based on the released images. The 360 features a circular watchface and what appears to be a very vivid display. More information will be available closer to the launch this summer, but information on the display and battery life should be the most eagerly awaited.
LG’s smartwatch is supposed to launch “next quarter,” but not many additional details were given. We’ll likely see quite a few OEMs releasing watches this year since we already have a smartwatch incoming from HTC (maybe we’ll heat about it at their event on the 25th).
It’s unclear what Samsung’s plans are in the category since they have the biggest existing watch portfolio and just recently released their new lineup running Tizen instead of Android. They are listed as a hardware partner, though, so they will either be releasing new hardware eventually, or we will see yet another OS switch for the Gear lineup.
The partnership from Fossil is likely the most intriguing as it suggests the beginning of an industry shift. This will definitely put more smartwatches on more wrists. In the same way that smartphones replaced phones, smart watches will replace watches.
We have yet to see anything in this category from Apple, but Jonny Ive and Tim Cook have an uphill battle to fight unless Apple can also establish a large portfolio of watch manufacturer support. When manufacturers like Fossil are making Android Wear devices, Apple producing their own watch lineup won’t be enough to hold a proper marketshare.
It won’t happen overnight, but our products are all getting smarter. Provided Android Wear is not too intrusive and doesn’t significantly detract from the simplistic experience the world has expected from analog watches over the last 100 years, we will likely see more than half of watch wearers using a smartwatch in less than a decade.