As of now the idea of wearables is a smart watch and in one case a pair of glasses (Google Glass). Pebble is so far winning in terms of a simple and to the point smart watch with their own custom Pebble OS. None of the major mobile software companies had done a smart watch. Apple’s got a rumored iWatch; Microsoft is no where to be seen; and Google only had the very beta Android-based OS on Google Glass, but now they’ve finally released their OS which looks to be geared towards smart watches but Google is hedging their bets and targeting wearables in general. It is Android Wear.
Android Wear, as you might expect, has one of the first features we look for in a wearable and that’s fitness. It’s able to collect a bunch of your movement data which can be processed and crunched by apps to give you more relevant stuff like calorie data. It’s also natural to assume that this fitness aspect ties in with Google Maps to, well, map your exercise is you’re moving around. Google has said Wear can get you “real-time speed, distance and time information on your wrist for your run, cycle or walk.” As of now we haven’t seen any fitness apps on Wear, so the closest you’ll get is the pedometer in Google Now.
Android Wear Features
Google Now is the right fit for a wearable. It gives you relevant information at the right time so that you don’t have fiddle with that small screen on your wrist. For those that don’t know, Google Now takes the data you give it and the data it parses from your device and Google account, and then serves up relevant info cards such as the weather at your location, your flight details when you reach the airport and a currency converter when you land in another country. Google Now also has voice search functionality similar to Siri where it just Googles your query and gives you the best answer from the results. You can use this on Android Wear though the “OK Google” command followed by your question. This means that Android Wear will likely need one of those low power-always listening features like we’ve seen on the Moto X.
A smart watch’s best feature has to be notifications and if done well it can liberate you from having to constantly pull out your phone from your pocket every time you feel/hear a notification. It’s done on Android Wear through passive vibrations for notifications synced from your phone. Google Now will also alert you this way. The notifications look good and we’ve seen with Pebble that if you get that right you can succeed.
Google wants Android Wear devices to become part of the multiscreen ecosystem including phones, tablets, laptops and even TVs, with Chromecast, or more of a remote because Google is pitching the idea of using your watch to pull up a song on your phone or even ‘cast’ a movie to your TV. This could be amazing if done right. Imagine when these watches hook into your smart home and driverless cars of the future!
Moto 360 and G Watch
Google has teamed up with the usual smartphone manufacturers, to produce Android Wear devices, like Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung. But what’s really interesting is that Google has even teamed up with name watch brands like Fossil to produce stylish watches over the coming year.
LG has already announced its LG G Watch running Android Wear, which will be one of the first Wear devices to ship, but other than that it’s a very conventional looking watch that left me and many others with a ‘meh’ feeling about it. Motorola on the other hand has impressed me way more than I had expected. The Moto 360 looks good enough to give a possible Fossil Wear device a run for its money. The device is downright stunning with a design that most people will likely want to wear. We don’t know a lot about these watch in terms of specs but we should hear more closer to launch.
Google hasn’t released any of the Android Wear developer tools or APIs, which is odd because you’d think they’d want to have something to show off at I/O but I guess they’ll give it to the developers then. For all we know you could find the Moto 360 in your I/O gift bag.
Android Wear, put simply, is a highly optimized-for-wearbles OS. It’s designed to have a only a few key features that make it fast and energy efficient all while having a UI that looks perfect on a small screen. And it’s got a couple of watches to boot, one which is ‘meh’ and the other which is amazing. Android Wear has great looks, a lot of potential and, most importantly, a head start on Apple.
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