The recent announcement of the Apple Watch makes the battle between the smartwatches a new reality in the mobile technology space. Google’s Android Wear operating system framework allows developers and wearable manufacturers to build smartwatches and more that pair up with other mobile devices. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is an example of a smartwatch that needs another Samsung smartphone (and a high-end model at that) to function; the Apple Watch tethers to the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 (various models) in a similar fashion.
Google’s Android operating system was able to win the market share battle with iOS by offering users flexibility. Will Android Wear do the same thing to allow Google to eventually win the smartwatch war? Let’s take a closer look at the details.
Android Wear Improvements to Allow Users to Ditch the Smartphone
Google is planning several updates to their wearable operating system before the end of 2014. The linked article was published before Cupertino’s Apple Watch unveiling, so it remains to be seen if Google changes their strategy based on Apple’s recent combination press event and U2 concert. With the Apple Watch not slated to hit stores until 2015, the company has time to refine their thoughts before the “smartwatch Armageddon” begins in earnest next year.
One notable improvement slated for an Android Wear update is the ability for the operating system to eschew tethering to a smartphone. One of the biggest weaknesses noted in reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Gear is the device’s dependency on being used with another Samsung smartphone, and even the Samsung phone models were limited to newer editions. The popularity of the Apple Watch itself might be tempered somewhat by its inability to work by itself, as many users potentially enamored by the smartwatch might not want to shell out for an iPhone 6 as well.
Smartwatches powered by Google’s wearable operating system are slated to gain the ability to be paired with a Bluetooth headset, a feature surely to be imitated throughout the wearable market. The company’s director of engineering, David Singleton, commented on this new feature. “So we’ll have an update coming that allows you to pair a Bluetooth headset with your watch. And that means you can play music stored on your watch directly on your Bluetooth headset,” said Singleton.
Considering Apple’s huge investment in Beats, let alone iTunes’ role with revolutionizing how music is purchased, delivered, and listened to, it is hard to see Cupertino foregoing similar functionality in their own smartwatch. But as a hardware manufacturer, the company needs to sell smartphones more so than Google, so this is an area worthy of further analysis as the wearable market matures.
GPS Device Support Another Android Wear Enhancement
Google is also adding GPS device support to its smartwatch OS, so if you like to jog you won’t need to lug along your smartphone to track your efforts. Expect mobile fitness devices to support this feature beginning in 2015. Considering Apple’s big fitness push with iOS 8, the new iPhones, and the Apple Watch, the world of mobile exercise looks to be another potential battleground between the two dominant mobile operating system companies now competing in the wearable space.
David Singleton noted that many app developers — and thousands of apps themselves — currently support Android Wear even without many examples of wearable hardware in the marketplace. If you regularly peruse the Play Store, now might be a good time to familiarize yourself with what’s out there from an app standpoint. As developers familiarize themselves with Wear API, expect apps to better support the new technology.
Ultimately, users want to channel their inner Dick Tracy when it comes to the smartwatch, and Dick never had to deal with a virtually attached phone when using his watch while fighting crime. In this nascent era for the technology, Google is making a play to remove the tether between smartphone and wearable. This technology war between Apple and Google now has a new battlefield, and as a technology user, you stand to benefit from the innovations born out of the fires of competition.
Photo Credit: Marizio Pesce