Friday, 10 February 2017 12:47

Google announces Android Wear 2.0

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Android Wear is to wearables like smartwatches, as Android is to smartphones – it underpins both form and functionality. Google has announced Android Wear 2.0, a version that makes the operating system competitive again.

Android Wear 1.0, released in June 2014, was a good start as a counter to Samsung’s Tizen OS and Apple’s Watch 1.0. It gave device makers like Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG, Moto and others the smarts to power watches. It was an open system.

But critics said that it was pretty “ho-hum” compared to Tizen and Apple, and the smartwatch category has rapidly declined while the fitness band category has rapidly ascended. iTWire has the back story here.

In fact, Android Wear 2.0 has been so long in gestation that many of the brands decided to put new models on hold until (a) the smartwatch category picked up and (b) it matched the functionality of the other OS.

Version 2.0 is now here and the first watches are the LG Watch Style and Sport.

LG Android wear 2

If you have any of the following look for updates too, albeit some will not have full 2.0 functionality: ASUS ZenWatch 2 & 3, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, Casio PRO TREK Smart, Fossil Q Founder, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Wander, Huawei Watch, LG G Watch R, LG Watch Urbane & 2nd Edition LTE, Michael Kors Access Smartwatches, Moto 360 2nd Gen, Moto 360 for Women, Moto 360 Sport, New Balance RunIQ, Nixon Mission, Polar M600 and TAG Heuer Connected.

What is different

Android Wear 2.0 is mainly about having its own App store, running native apps on the watch and adding cellular support. Reports say it is now a match for other OSs and still the only open OS. The long-outclassed Google Fit app gets an update too.

  • Revamped UI with Material Design, darker colours, and a more circular user interface for round watches.
  • Standalone apps with Google Play Store on watch.
  • Complications for watch faces.
  • Built-in keyboard.
  • Handwriting recognition.
  • Stackable notifications.
  • Smarter notifications.
  • Cellular support.

Why are smartwatches not the hottest thing?

Analysts predicted everyone would be wearing one once Apple legitimised the category with its Watch. This did not happen. IDC recently reported that smartwatches sales were down 51.6% year over year and Apple lost 71% of market share.

There are several reasons why true smartwatches are not selling well.

  • If smartwatches are the answer what was the question? Analysts can see that fitness bands solve a well-defined problem but paying for a device that needs a daily recharge to essentially tell the time and receive some notifications as an limited extensiuon of the smartphone is not sufficient reason to buy one.
  • Cost – most start at $400 and go up exponentially to $1549 for Apple’s Space Black stainless steel case and link bracelet (there are other bespoke models such as the Hermes co-branded costing up to $2189). Consumer research shows that the sweet spot is well below that.
  • Apps – most are simply extensions of the smartphone, requiring it to be nearby to enable all features. At present Samsung’s Gear S3 is one of the few that can act independently and use Wi-Fi to remote link to the smartphone.
  • Charging – no matter what any smartwatch maker claims, these need recharging daily and more often if GPS is used
  • Few are water resistant and even fewer allow salt water or swim use (unlike most electronic watches that are waterproof).
  • A small screen is too small, to do anything more meaningful than swipe notifications. Again, Samsung’s Gear S2 and S3 led the way with a rotating bezel that added considerable functionality and usability.
  • Crossovers — that is smartwatches with some fitness capabilities — are doing poorly compared to fitness bands with some smartwatch capabilities. The driver for the wearables is health and fitness as evidenced by Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung Gear Fit 2 selling well. And fitness bands are in the price sweet spot as well as being more durable.

Google has a video below.

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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