Google has just renamed its display platform Android Wear under a new name: Use SO . This news comes less than two months before Google I / O the annual developer conference in which Google announces its new initiatives and extensive software applications. In general, Google's new hardware works (though not always) in October.
Maybe Wear OS is an indicator that Google's smartwatch strategy is about to change. That would be a good idea, since at this time it is not exactly driving away the competition … and Apple Watch, in particular.
The Apple Watch recently took over the top spot in global apparel sales, according to IDC, although it is only compatible with iPhones. Fitbit has just announced the Versa a promising smart casual watch that will interact with any iPhone or Android and has a starting price of only $ 200. The wearable market is growing. But where is Google in that image?
Fossil Group, maker of many of the Android Wear watch products from last year, reported some promising numbers: "In 2017, Fossil Group almost doubled its portable accessories business to more than $ 300 million, including 20 percent of watch sales in the fourth quarter, "said Greg McKelvey, head of strategy and digital officer at Fossil, as part of Google's Wear OS ad.
It seems that Android Wear, sorry, Wear OS, is still in the game. But the problem, for me, is that I've never found Android Wear watches to be particularly cool. Google relaunched Android Wear over a year ago with new software and additional intelligent features, in addition to separate phone features. But Apple's clock strategy has advanced faster, with better hardware. The Apple Watch S3 can be a phone, now. You can also Samsung Gear S3 that runs on Tizen. Google, meanwhile, stopped adding cellular functions to watches after the dull LG Watch Sport last year.
And recently, instead of focusing on the new features, Google has switched to the badociation with a lot of fashion See the brands of Fossil Group mentioned above, including Michael Kors, Misfit, Skagen, Kate Spade New York and Emporio Armani, flooding the market with too many similar products. Even more strange, for me, is how many Android Wear watches include features such as GPS, optical heart rate tracking or NFC, the latter of which allows mobile payments.
Everything about the compatibility of iPhone
The change of name of Google is clearly part of a move so that its clocks are different from Android. According to Google's press release, the goal is "to build a portable platform for everyone."
That's a similar approach to what Google Home has adopted: it's something that Android does not need. And, in fact, that has been the focus of Google all the time: offer everyone quick access to Google. Google applications on the iPhone, on iPads, Google on the web, through Chrome, on Chromebooks.
Android Wear watches work with iOS, but not particularly well. The problem, to a large extent, is that Apple software for connected devices is more blocked. Reply to notifications, transfer music, control phone settings: it will not happen as in an Apple Watch. Smartwatches, despite starting to be independent with cell phones, still depend on phones to be close. The iPhone has a large contact surface and is a difficult platform to use.
But it's important: according to Google, one in three owners of Android Wear watches also used an iPhone. That is a large part, clearly, of the name change.
It should also be an opportunity to reconsider what a Google smart watch should be.
A new operating system should rethink the idea again
After years of using smart watches, I learned this: I do not use applications often. I totally trust excellent custom watch faces. I use voice commands to do things, but not all the time. Most of the time, I only control time and some basic statistics. And if something is not easy to do and quick to access, I will not use it.
Google is making great advances in voice AI, and it is becoming a mbadive AI presence in general. I want a watch to reflect that, to be an intelligent badistant. But I do not want all that breath to go up my neck and try to bother me. I want it to be a clearly functional and clean design device with good battery life and a solid track of physical activity. To be relaxed, or committed and more useful in a way that I would really like. Also, something that could be a smart home connected, a small Google Home on my wrist.
Maybe Google can take a step forward and challenge what Apple defines as a smart watch, create a bolder vision. At this moment, Wear OS, Android Wear, whatever you want to call it, feels like a bunch of non-great software stuffed with fashionable watch designs. Google has good round faces, but I want the rest.
I'm still waiting for a Google watch
It's a muddy situation. And it moved away a lot from a vision of a singular and killer Google clock product.
Google should make its own smart watch. I said it before and now I feel it's even more true. The new hardware division of Google, led by former Motorola Mobility chief Rick Osterloh, has already made phones, VR headsets, speakers, cameras and headphones.
Could the smartwatches be next?
Maybe, in a few months, Google will do something else. But I'm keeping my expectations under control.
Best smart watches: our current favorite wristwatch.
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