Early Reviews of Android Wear Reflect Promise for the Platform
This week, following much talk about it coming out of the Google I/O conference, there are 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 are appearing, and some reviewers are really liking them. Just as you once didn't carry a smartphone, and then did, are you on the cusp of owning an open source smartwatch?
Smartwatches are not new, and I've cited Edward Baig's concerns about them in USA Today:
"While it's surely helpful to glance at notifications that pop up on your wrist for incoming e-mails, Facebook feeds and sports scores, it's typically not that much more helpful than reaching for your phone. Too many notifications risk bordering on distraction."
The difference maker in Android Wear devices, though, is that through "OK Google" voice recognition features, users can talk to their watches to interact with them. J.R. Raphael, writing for Computerworld, has been wearing an Android Wear watch, and notes that the heart and soul of Android Wear devices 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."
Some reviewers are also noting that we're likely to see full blown apps developed for Android Wear. Some of these have already appeared for other smartwatches. For example, on Samsung Galaxy Gear watches, you can run an eBay app and keep track of products you're watching, selling or bidding on.
The Telegraph also notes that it could be important over time that Android Wear watches will work intelligently with Android smartphones:
"Another improvement over the Galaxy Gear, or presumably Apple’s iWatch, is that the new Wear models can connect to any fairly modern Android phone. So you can use a Samsung phone with an LG watch, for instance. This is the kind of openness that has driven the mainstream success of Android on phones as a whole."
In all likelihood, the prospects for Android Wear will come down to app development and whether Google can convince developers to create compelling apps for the new mobile platform. That may take cash incentives in the short run, but such early bets might pay off if people get excited about the new generation of smartwatches.
According to a post from Mike Elgan:
"Android Wear watches are the first smartwatches to cross the line from awkward to awesome, because they're the first to completely abandon the smartphone's icons, menus and widgets paradigm and massively leverage subtle contextual cues, images, icons and colors to present tiny nuggets of information in their most essential and quickly graspable form."