Because It Is Open, Android Wear is the Smartwatch Platform to Bet On
For decades, users have been awaiting the fabled "Dick Tracy watch" -- a smartwatch that can perform advanced digital computing and communications tasks. The problem is, it has never really arrived. Some say that is about to change, though, as Apple is rumored to be rolling out its much discussed "iWatch" at an event on Tuesday of next week.
In all likelihood, though, if Apple does have a smartwatch to show, it's also going to base it on a proprietary business model, and that's why the real smartwatch platform to watch is Android Wear, due to the open strategy it is based on.
In July, following much talk about it coming out of the Google I/O conference, we reported on a lot of discussions arising about Android Wear and whether it will become the next big mobile platform. Some early smartwatches running the open platform have arrived, and some reviewers are really liking them.
According to a Wall Street Journal report on these early watches, they feel a bit like "shrunken smartphones," but the same report quotes David Singleton, Director of Android Engineering, who said:
"We have a few updates that are coming. For instance, the one you got on your Moto 360 that is being released this week improves voice recognition and the navigation experience."
"Before the end of the year we will have a couple of more. One will start allowing your watch to work with other pieces you wear on your body, including Bluetooth headsets. The idea is to allow the watch to work without the phone."
The thing to remember here is that Google has a successful playbook to follow with these watches, because it has already won at making Android itself a huge platform based on an open strategy.
Another big difference maker with Android Wear devices is that through "OK Google" voice recognition features, users can talk to their watches to interact with them. Singleton has confirmed that the voice recognition is going to become more sophisticated.
J.R. Raphael, writing for Computerworld, has used Android Wear watches, and notes that their ace-in-the-hole may be Google Now:
"The heart and soul of Android Wear is Google Now, the intelligent virtual assistant Google has woven into Android and Chrome over the past couple of years. Google Now uses a combination of search data from your Google account, location data from your mobile device and cues from things like your Gmail messages to compile bite-sized tidbits of info -- known as "cards" -- that appear contextually throughout your day. You might get a card in the morning alerting you to traffic on your route to work, for instance, or a card with directions to a business you searched for earlier in the day. Some cards are as simple as the number of steps you've taken so far that day or the weather for your area -- or for an area you'll be traveling to in the near future."
Like many mobile devices in their early stages, some people are scoffing at smartwatches, but how many years did it take before we took smartphones and tablets seriously? Smartwatches will get done right, and based on what we've seen with Android itself, Android Wear is probably the platform to bet on.