Has Google just taken over the wearables industry?

by: Bogdan PetrovanMarch 21, 2014


On this Friday Debate, we talk about Android Wear and what it means for the budding wearable industry.

Google took many by surprise this week when it announced Android Wear, a lightweight version of Android that’s designed for wearable devices, and smartwatches in particular. Android Wear will allow almost any app to send a simple actionable notification to a wearable device. Heavily integrated with Google Now, Wear-powered devices will feature voice commands as the main form of interaction. Google released an SDK, and two OEMs, Motorola and LG, have already announced products running on Wear.

The concept videos that we were shown and the details we were able to glean from the SDK suggest that Android Wear is miles ahead other smartwatch platforms, like Samsung’s Tizen or Pebble. So, did Google just appropriate the wearable market for itself? Will Wear be for wearables what Android has been for mobile? Do competing platforms stand a chance in face of Google’s onslaught?

Join us in the comments and vote in the poll.

Robert Triggs

I like what I’ve seen from Android Wear and the Moto 360. As a bit of a wearables sceptic, I’m not blown away, but I’m optimistic about where Google’s improvements could take the market in the not too distant future.

The Cue Cards interface probably has the most potential, it seems like a very functional way to interact with and respond to your notifications, reducing the number of interactions that wearers are likely to have to make with their handset.

My biggest concern with wearables is the need to keep going back to the smartphone at some point. What I really want from a smartwatch is the ability to interact efficiently and accurately from just the watch itself. Google’s Cue Cards and voice commands are certainly on the right track, now we just need to see about hardware manufacturers offering up small enough modem packages.

So, does Android Wear make other developers obsolete? Not at all. For example, Samsung’s Gear 2 offers up some equally impressive improvements on the first generation of smartwatches, including similar voice command features. The biggest game changer, for me, is that Android Wear will hopefully make the technology more accessible to both hardware and software developers, which can only mean better looking designs and improved software features in the future. The Moto 360 looks nice, but I bet that experienced watchmakers could design something even better.

I still probably won’t be completely sold on the wearables market until I can ditch my phone completely and take calls, messages, etc just from my wrist, even then I’m not sure that would be preferable to a phone. Android Wear seems to be the push that the market needs to eventually make this a reality. The wearables industry is only in its infancy, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Andrew Grush

Up until now, I’ve looked on the wearable market with curiosity, but none of the devices offered have had the “wow factor” required to make me consider wearing a watch on my wrist again — something I stopped doing about ten years ago.

So does Android Wear have what takes to win me over? While the jury is still out, I admit Google has my attention, and the Moto 360 in particular looks like one heck of a device.

I love the idea of Google’s clean UI driven by a combination of Google Now-like cards and voice commands. It seems very organized and easy to use. At the same time, I often find the type of notifications I get alerted to on my Nexus 5 to be more than a bit distracting. Would I want that same level of distraction on my wrist? It really depends on how good of a job Google does at prioritizing what notifications get through to my smartwatch and what doesn’t.

Bottom-line, I will certainly keep a close eye out on Android Wear devices like the Moto 360. As for existing solutions like the Pebble and the Gear family? Although Android Wear is more my cup of tea, many of the existing smartwatches have their own special features and abilities that set them apart and make them worthwhile, even in the light of Google’s smartwatch platform announcement.

As an example, the Gear series of watches adds a kitchen-sink worth of extra features like a camera and more, while the Pebble is minimalistic and relatively cheaper than most other smartwatches. That said, Android Wear certainly does raise the bar on what we’ll expect from smartwatches going forward.

Bogdan Petrovan

The concept videos are definitely impressive – seeing them for the first time, I had a moment of “is this real life?”. But doing nice concept videos is easy; there are still huge challenges ahead, and the pressure is not on Google, but on hardware partners like HTC, Samsung, Motorola and LG.

I am really curious to see if Motorola will be able to make the 360 work as good as it looks. Leaving software aside for a minute, a good smartwatch must have great battery life, work smoothly, sync flawlessly, and have great gesture and voice recognition. Samsung, with its huge resources and engineering prowess, failed to bring all these qualities together in one cohesive product. Will Motorola, LG or the other Android Wear adopters do better?

Until we see the first real products, it’s too early to write any competitor off, but it’s very tempting to do so. Let’s face it – Pebble, Gear, Sony Smartwatch, they look like they were created in another decade compared to what we saw in those concepts.

Strategically, Google dealt a big blow to Apple this week. By the time the rumored iWatch comes out, there could be several competitive Android Wear smartwatches on the market, and dozens more in the planning. Google will have the first mover advantage and the cachet that comes with it.

What I am really excited about is the avalanche of wearables that’s coming in the next months and years. Now that Google is giving away an excellent software platform, the barrier of entry for wearables has been lowered tremendously. I expect dozens of manufacturers to throw themselves in this new arena, echoing the evolution of smartphones, but at a far faster pace. Exciting times ahead.

[poll id=”488″]

  • Shark Bait

    Looks real, real good. They have defiantly stepped up the wearable game. If the moto 360 works as promised they will have out appled, Apple . That is style and simplicity. It looks simple to use whilst still being perfectly functional all while being beautiful to look at.
    It has all the potential to be another iphone moment…… it could be that big of a deal!

    • AbbyZFresh

      Apple’s focusing on health. That is more of a deal to most people than a regular smartwatch.

      • Flip Jumpman

        There are other devices/fitness-bands solely dedicated mainly on health but I think a smartwatch is more than just health. The possibilities are endless and this is only the beginning. Looks promising…

        Also, I don’t see people working out with the Moto 360.

      • Guest

        Devices that directly suck out the energy out of your body ;)

    • Flip Jumpman


    • Aniruddh

      Apple, has had a history of making history (lol) by improving the existing products ten-fold.

      Dunno how they can improve THIS though.
      Give us a Moto X like price and Apple WILL be appled out.

      • John Doe

        Apple when it actually puts the vapourware device out will still sell Millions of devices because they are Apple and their iSheep will all want 1!
        If Google can get the new s/w to properly interact with iPhones too, then and only then will Apple have competition from an outside source in this field.
        If I am not correct, Google Now is available on iOS7 in the App Store. If they can capitalize on allowing these apps to send notifications to their new wearable s/w, then Apple might just have an issue.
        Google/Moto/LG all have to advertise that their new watches can work correctly with iOS versions of Google Now, etc to catch Apple off guard and get a large jump on Apples upcoming (tho vapourware) watch.
        The watch makers have to advertise the Sh!t out of these new watches ASAP to gain a large competitive edge and a foot hold in this new wearable eco-system!!

  • AbbyZFresh

    Google have a chance due to the sheer number of manufactures that will jump on the new Android Wear OS. But the iWatch is going to easily sell 10 million watches in the opening weekend alone once Apple begins its advertising.

    What Google need to do is dedicate a huge budget to advertising the most popular and buzzed about upcoming smart watches to guarantee their spot in wearables, like the G Watch and Moto 360(and maybe the Nexus watch if they have one in the works soon).

    • John Doe

      Google does not advertise things like this…. it is left up to the manufacturer’s to do that, as Google does not produce hardware products ..
      Yes, Google does work with OEM’s to produce tablets and phones etc., but they are not in the manufacturing industry and will let OEM’s do all of the advertising for their products.

      • AbbyZFresh

        They may not produce anything by themselves but they need to be involved somehow. Manufacturers will simply advertise it as a regular smart watch and not specifically an Android smart watch with the capability of Google Now. Google can’t stay in their little software world forever. They’re an advertising company for pete’s sake. This should be easy to them.

        • T.J.

          But if they give special treatment to one, the others won’t like it. They need OEMs to use their software to do the advertising/making money. If they start jumping ship to Tizen, for example, it could kill Android.

          • John Doe

            I truly doubt that Android is going anywhere anytime soon. Tizen is a great little OS, but Android has several years of technology/Apps/etc ahead of it, and also the backing of some major vendors.
            If Tizen was that great, then we would have seem many more large vendors using it… which we haven’t YET ..
            Only time will tell …

        • John Doe

          I really doubt that Motorola or LG will leave off the fact that their new watches are just smart watches, as they will need an Android phone to communicate with them …
          On the contrary, I think that they will tout the fact that they have an Android watch which can do a whole list of very neat things. It’s the reason that they built the watch in the first place …
          I think that Google Now is a great stepping stone for the smart watch market. It allows all sorts of information to be easily communicated to the user at the exact time the user will need it.
          I am counting the days until I can get my hands on the Moto360 and take it for a spin… lol

  • Andrew White

    Will or are, any of these wrist mounted devices (yes they tell the time)visible in direct sunlight.
    A definite pre-requisite for me, otherwise they are just high tech bling.
    With Intel’s fabrication process down to 13nm, which is not mainstream with smartphone makers…yet.
    Could the next evolution in mobile communication be that the wearables do all the processing including connectivity and we simply pocket foldable or roll-out screen ( in whatever size) with a 2 or 4k resolution which remains touch sensitive.
    Goodbye Smartphone!

    • Arturo Raygoza


  • Flip Jumpman

    Now this is some exciting news.

  • Stefan

    My favorite news about wearables this week was the Moto 360, mostly because of the design. The new interface based on Google Now is nice, but not that great if you don’t live in the US, and don’t use only english. An educated guess would be that it will take at least 5 years until all it’s features will be available worldwide.

  • abazigal

    Why do all these discussions on wearables invariably revolve around the concept of a watch? Sure, the pebble started out as a smart watch, and Samsung has released a watch of its own, but who is to say that a wearable computer cannot have any other sort of form factor?

    I think it will be funny if Apple’s iWatch turns out to be nothing like a watch, and ends up making everyone else look stupid in comparison.

    • MasterMuffin

      But is it a watch if it’s nothing like a watch? :P

  • dogulas

    In response to Robert, I just don’t see it ever being possible for small, lightweight wearables ever becoming standalone without better sources of battery life. When we get a breakthrough in batteries the mobile space will take a huge leap forward. Until then, significant power needs a large enough size to carry a battery.

    • MasterMuffin

      Solar panels and mirasol display!

      • Or (seriously?) fuel cells (10-15 years est’d)…. …cigarette lighter sized units with 3x the power capacity of equivalent LI batteries have already been prototyped for the DOD….

      • Devices that directly suck out the energy out of your body

  • Brendon Brown

    Your move, Apple.

  • Now this is some exciting news.


  • Cas

    Android Wear looks more interesting than any other smartwatches OS to date, that’s all I can say. I’ll reserve further judgment until seeing actual product.

    I hope Wear can work standalone, without mandatory companion device. Otherwise it will be of very little use.

    • You’ll be disappointed for a few gens at least then. Gonna initially be tethered via BT – no WiFi or cell radios from everything I’ve heard…


    In response to Robert, I just don’t see it ever being possible for
    small, lightweight wearables ever becoming standalone without better
    sources of battery life. When we get a breakthrough in batteries the
    mobile space will take a huge leap forward. Until then, significant
    power needs a large enough size to carry a battery.

  • abazigal

    So let me get this straight – Google is going to supply the OS, and leaving it entirely up to OEMs to incorporate it into their hardware.

    Yeah…I can see how that would work well…

    • Mur

      Its working extremely well thus far. Check out the moto 360.

      • abazigal

        The watch hasn’t even been released yet. The writing is still up on the wall as to how well the concept is going to work, or even if the device can live up to all those claims.

        • T.J.

          Maybe you didn’t see what Brendan wrote. Android. This is the same concept. They work with an OEM to create a Nexus device and if the others don’t take the design cues they recommend, oh well. The ones that follow the guidelines just happen to be the best devices, in my opinion. Those are the Nexus 5 and Moto X.

    • Brendan Kish

      you realise that this is literally what they have been doing for years. Android is just that, there is no google made phone. Google doesn’t manufacture any device. they leave it up to OEM’s

      • abazigal

        Yeah, which brings into question the issue of quality control (or the lack thereof). How many OEMs are going to try and stick to the provided template of OLED screens, wireless charging, or even the recommended specs to ensure a smooth user experience?

        • Brendan Kish

          well it has worked out amazingly for us so far with android. OLED isnt necessary, its just better because it uses less power. i agree with wireless charging to many OEM’s wont do this, which sucks. however, that wont affect the performance of the device.

  • mhm

    Looks stunning, problem is that we dont know how it will work in the europe and asia. Otherwise i think that this is the coolest smartwatch :)

  • Like one of the guest writers in the article, I happily gave up watch-wearing over 10 years ago (without impacting my general timeliness – given clocks in my car, TV, stove, microwave, phone, radios and many other places) – and felt that everything I’d seen before (Gear, Pebble, et al.) made even my old Casio calculator watch seem like a chic style item. But like many, the Moto 360 demos have transfixed me.

    These things just look so freakin’ cool…!

    So, I likely still wouldn’t take on another gadget/body accessory to manage, take on/off/on, charge, help drain my phone battery faster, etc. – but anyone with a use case who likes watch-wearing is def a potential Android Ware get here.

    As for the charging situation, being from “the (gasp) age before computers and most things electronic),” I’m remembering my long ago “self-winding” mechanical watch which harvested the kinetic energy of my hand and arm movements to physically re-tighten the spring that ran the watch.

    So, no, not talking about resurrecting that mechanism (imagine a spring/gear driven smart watch, haha, or hey, a steam-powered unit!), but in fact, the human body throws off all kinds of energy – kinetic, heat, electromagnetic and more – and it occurs to me that ought to be some 21st Century “inductive” (broadly speaking) technology around that would help us harvest a bit of what we’re emanating and just run the thing.

    There’s also plenty of other light, other E-M and heat energy around us – e.g., with photocells, I haven’t bought a calculator battery in decades, although the power required by those devices is orders of magnitude lower.

    So I’m just saying it’s not just the batteries or the device’s power efficiency, but new ways of getting energy into the devices from the sea of energy all around (and coming from) us….

    • iamajimm

      I’m with you Maynard; seem to be the same age group…I remember wearing a watch every damn day, slowly gave it up but always felt like i was missing something when I left the house (old habits are hard to break eh) but this thing looks great, I’d wear it in a heartbeat, screw the naysayers, they’ll be among the first lining up to buy one especially once Apple releases their version. As for power their’s other ways to charge a watch than plugging it in. Christmas this year is going to be fun me thinks.

  • Bone

    So it’s rounded and…

    … and?

    All smartwatch concepts are still extremely unversatile. Why would I buy a gadget that doesn’t even do 20% what my smartphone is capable of? I wouldn’t buy a 100% capable one either, cause you know, I already have a 100% capable smartphone, and I’m not a lazy slob so I can reach for it, and it will be always more productive to use.

    $350 for flashy watch-notifications – nah, I’m not riding this geekwagon.

    • Arturo Raygoza

      so freaking true, I’ve been saying it for a while now, phone sales are already cornered so they are trying to invent another gadget for us to want but no one needs it. it all co.es down to money like always, and it is a bandwagon

    • T.J.

      Why would you buy a smart phone that can’t do what a laptop can do?

    • abazigal

      Isn’t the point precisely to get a device which, instead of simply replicating your smartphone functions, adds additional features and utility? I don’t get a tablet to replace my laptop; I get one to complement my laptop and desktop by using it to do things that I cannot do on conventional PCs (or at least, not as easily or readily).

      I would certainly look out for similar benefits in a smart watch.

  • apple

    Apple: my move sue



  • RUHT


  • abazigal

    Another observation – I find the concept of a smart watch seems to appeal primarily to more tech-savvy people (which kinda reminds me of the general state of the smartphone market prior to the iPhone), and nobody seems to be asking the most important question of all – what do people really want in a wearable computer?

    That’s why I feel we will see an entire replay of the iPhone and the iPad all over again. Companies will flood the market with their own take on the smart watch (which likely won’t be very smart nor will they be easy and intuitive to use). Then Apple will (hopefully) release their own take (which may not even be a watch, just like the iPhone was more mini-PC than phone), then rinse, wash, repeat.

    • Cao Meo

      All the innovation that Apple had belongs to 1 person: Jobs, can you name any substantial Apple had w/o him? Look at iOS Notification Center, flat design… everything is “rinse, wash, repeat” indeed…

  • Joshhud

    No way i would want my watch to take over my phone.. too small for pictures and video’s. Meaning you would have to carry a phablet or something like that anyway. I like this current model and cant wait to hear the price of the Moto 360… no way its affordable.