Much like they did with Android 4.4 KitKat last fall, Google basically caught everyone off guard on Tuesday, rolling out a wearable-exclusive platform we had no idea existed. Actually, scratch that, because we knew full well a Jelly Bean sequel was coming months ago, we just didn’t expect the Nestle branding, while Android Wear is an absolute bombshell.
It really came out of nowhere, as until a few days back, we weren’t even sure Google had one single smartwatch in the pipeline. Now, it’s almost game over for wearables running anything else but Android Wear. Tizen? Don’t make me laugh. The proprietary Samsung-built OS inside the Gear Fit? It’s DOA.
Apple might still have a shot at challenging Wear-based smartwatches, though their oft-rumored, highly anticipated iWatch should probably see daylight soon to keep Cupertino’s hopes alive. That is, as long as Google’s hardware partners price their gizmos sensibly, and deliver a better turnaround time than, say, Google Glass.
Will they? Exactly how soon can we expect gadgets like the Moto 360 or LG G Watch to go up on store shelves? And when it comes down to it, what’s Android Wear’s deal? Here’s everything we know about the OS at the moment, after piecing together info from Google, Motorola, LG and various people with all the right connections:
Interface, features and functions
Google insisted from the get-go Android Wear is designed specifically with wearable devices in mind, but it’s not quite a brand new build of the operating system. It’s more like an extension of existent versions.
It combines plenty of features you may be familiar with from either Jelly Bean or KitKat, also adding a few innovative things in the mix. At its core, Wear is hugely reliant on Google Now, and I guess you could say it’s a very simple, uncluttered, almost rudimentary platform. Which, if you think about it, is perfect.
There’s great emphasis on health and fitness monitoring, as well as multiscreen functionality and notifications. In fact, if anyone plays a word association game with you and asks to convey the first phrase that comes to mind when thinking Android Wear, it should be “notification”.
While still very much viewed as accessories, smartwatches become a little more independent with Wear, showing their “masters” all sorts of useful information on their wrists, from weather to text messages, meetings, travel guides, sports scores, etc., etc. It’s not exactly a smartphone for your wrist, but close enough.
The pièce de résistance software-wise is probably voice interaction, as in many ways you won’t need to touch the devices to get them to listen to you, obey and deliver. Neat, huh?
Quick, what’s Samsung Galaxy Gear’s biggest flaw? Pricing? Maybe, though it’s getting better. How about compatibility? Sounds right, since the watch can only be used in association with certain Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets.
Meanwhile, Motorola has already confirmed the Moto 360 will work with all handhelds and slates running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or above, and rumor has it each and every upcoming Wear accessory is to follow suit in that sense.
Sure, it’d have been nice to see some real standalone wearables announced, however it’s not like we don’t all own JB or KitKat-powered phones.
As for developers keen to jump on the Android Wear bandwagon, a special preview is available for tests and optimization of various apps on both round and square screens. In fact, the sole reason Google announced the platform so early was to give devs enough time to enrich it. Go on, do your thing, make us proud.
By far the coolest thing about Wear, just like with the Android ecosystem in general, is it abounds with choice, diversity, variety. The Moto 360 and LG G Watch are only the beginning, as Samsung, HTC, Asus and even Fossil Group have all committed to come up with their own takes on hardware built around Google’s newest piece of software.
The roster of processor-making partners is impressive too, with Qualcomm, Intel and MediaTek leading the pack.
Back to the 360/G Watch duo, it’s great to see the former going the circular design route, and the latter the rectangular path. I won’t tell you which I prefer, but I very much appreciate the choice.
Set to start selling the first, in early summer, the G Watch is a thick cloud of smoke right now, though unofficially, we do “know” its display measures 1.65 inches in diagonal and boasts 280 x 280 pixels resolution. The CPU’s make and model remains a question mark, as does the battery size and expected autonomy.
512 MB RAM and 4 GB storage are found inside the hood, suggesting LG’s freshman smartwatch effort may cost about as much as Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. No deal? Take a look at the exquisite design again, think about the smoother, more convenient software, and maybe you’ll reconsider.
Motorola’s Moto 360? It’s poised to break cover during the summer too (probably in July and August), and it might well be pricier than both the G Watch and Galaxy Gear. Blame it on the fancier design, which apparently could hinder the manufacturing process and prevent Moto from ever staging a large-scale global release.
Offered with your choice of metal and plastic straps, the wearable will reportedly be water-resistant (not fully waterproof), feature wireless charging, an orientation-free frame, a display measuring 46 mm (roughly 1.8 inches) in diameter, and no camera.
Oh, so maybe it won’t be so costly after all. Fingers crossed for solid battery life though, and a solution to the producing pickle. After all, it’d be such a shame for a splendid product like this to end up as vaporware.
How about it, are you more excited about the Moto 360 or LG G Watch? Do you see a bright future for Android Wear, despite no independently operable wearables being in the works? You have the floor.