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Moto 360 heading to China without Google Now or Play

The new Motorola Moto 360 smartwatch is heading to China, but it won't ship with Google Now features or access to the Play Store.

Published onSeptember 8, 2015

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Google’s Android Wear platform is looking to make inroads in China with the second generation Moto 360. However, the smartwatch won’t quite be making the move with all of its features intact. Google Now and the Play Store will be notably absent from the smartwatch, as Google’s services are still banned in the country. Instead, Mobvoi, which is based in China, will be providing local search and voice recognition software for the smartwatch.

Google has had to do quite a bit of re-engineering to strip out some of its core services from Android Wear, according to David Singleton, Engineering Director for Android. As well as removing core search and app functionality from the wearable OS, subtle localization tweaks, such as changing “Ok Google” to “Ni hao Android” has also taken considerable effort.

The end result is that Android Wear remains mostly familiar, but there’s clearly some additional fragmentation to the wearable platform now, which is something that the search giants tried to avoid by preventing OEM forked versions of Android Wear. Chinese app developers will be able to install apps onto the Wear devices, which will obviously have to come from third party stores. As well as MobVoi’s voice features, Sogou will be providing the default map software for Android Wear.

“For Android Wear and wearables in general, we still feel the market is really early … There’s a real need to be able to iterate quickly.” – David Singleton, Engineering Director for Android

Google appears to be taking a major interest in the Chinese technology market once again, especially with the HUAWEI built Nexus on its way. Although, the company may still struggle to capitalize on widespread Android adoption in China without ready access to the majority of its services and the longer development times associated with localization. Recent sources from The Information and the Wall Street Journal suggest that Google may be planning to launch a censored Chinese version of its app store, which would certainly help Google gain some grip on Android in China.

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