As wearables become an ever more present part of the technology ecosystem, the larger companies involved are beginning to show their hands. Google for the most part has remained pretty quiet about wearables even though there have been many wearables based on Google’s Android operating system. Today marks Google’s break of silence with the announcement of Android Wear and indicates their seriousness and support of the wearable ecosystem. After all, many companies see wearables as a large potential growth business where other businesses have dwindled. Even though companies like Samsung have already released wearables based on Android (Galaxy Gear), they have also already moved away from Android in their subsequent versions which feature Open Source Tizen instead.
Based on what we’ve read and seen so far, Android Wear is clearly designed to be a much more cut-down version of Android that allows developers to treat wearables as secondary assisting devices. In the demonstrations that Google showed in their videos, the smartwatches were companion devices that complemented a smartphone in their pocket through the Google Now Search functionalities built into Android. Almost everything that Google has shown as part of Android Wear has been connected to Google Now in one way or another, but when you consider that nobody has developed for this version of Android quite yet, it makes sense.
Google is releasing a developer preview of Android Wear so that developers and manufacturers looking to build devices using Android Wear are able to start work immediately. Google’s goal with Android Wear is to combine user voice functionality with pertinent contextual information around the person that they probably already get from their smartphone, but isn’t readily available on their wrist. Personally, I use Google Now very heavily and it works like a charm for me, and because of that, I can only imagine how useful it would be on my wrist as well. They also want to encourage health and fitness tracking through Android Wear, which isn’t surprising when you consider how many wearables either already do that or aim to do so soon.
What I believe may be one of the most important features of Android Wear has to do with how much hardware is needed to run the operating system. Right now, most Android-based wearables don’t withstand more than a day of battery life and that’s primarily because they are running on smartphone-class SoCs rather than ultra low power SoCs. If Google can get this operating system to run on much lower power chips, I believe that this could be the boost that Android needed to make wearables a possibility. Afterall, the wearables with the longest battery life right now don’t run on Android, and I think Google wants to and needs to change that.
Not just that, but they’ve already outed a lot of their partners in the wearable spacing, naming Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm; and fashion brands like the Fossil Group to bring you watches powered by Android Wear later this year. Also keep in mind that Fossil makes watches for most of the designer brands, which means that a designer-branded smartwatch is not far off once Fossil has mastered creating a smartwatch.
Motorola in conjunction with this announcement has already announced their Moto 360 smartwatch, which actually looks a lot like the round smartwatch in the photos above and in the video below.