On stage, Google’s head of Android and Chrome Sundar Pichai, showed the very first devices – all smart watches – running the company’s embedded software: the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and the Motorola Moto 360.
These smart watches as well as all devices running Android Wear only works with smartphones running Android 4.3 or newer, representing less than 15% of all the Android devices on the market today. In contrast, Sony’s SmartWatch 2 – which uses a proprietary software – is compatible with older Android 4.0 devices.
“With Android Wear, Google is repeating the same mistake Samsung made when it launched its Galaxy Gear smart watch which was only compatible with the latest Samsung phones,” said Yoon Choi, the investment lead for Maxim Integrated. “Effectively, Google is cutting Android Wear from the larger market that includes other versions of Android as well as iOS.”
The Pebble smart watch can also receive Android Wear notifications!
A view echoed by Pebble, the leader in the smart watch market today.
“We’re excited to see Android Wear as it validates everything we’ve done so far while bringing some healthy competition in the market,” said Myriam Joire, Pebble’s Chief Evangelist. “However, I didn’t see anything here that worries me much, as Google is making the same mistakes we did with our first generation, with color touchscreens that are unreadable in daylight and a very short battery life of just a day!”
In comparison, Pebble’s smartwatch uses a low-power, always-on black-and-white e-paper screen – allowing the device to boast a 5 to 7 days battery life – while Android Gear watches need to turn off the screen after a certain period time by default to save battery.
“Our research showed that if people take off their watch to recharge it everyday, they’ll most likely forget it and stop wearing it. After a month, I wonder who’s still going to be wearing these watches,” jokes Joire.
Google wants to lock users to its Internet services with its closed Android Wear platform
But the biggest challenge for Android Wear is its lack of compatibility: it doesn’t work with iOS devices or 85% of Android devices.
“Android Wear is not an open platform. It doesn’t work with the iPhone or other iOS devices, including the majority of Android devices on the market today, nor does it sync with Windows or Mac, unlike the Pebble,” adds Joire. “And, believe it or not, third-party developer AWear just added the Android Wear layer to Pebble, and it’s free. That’s the power of a real open platform!”
An option that might not sit well with Google’s plans, as the search giant tries to lock users to its Internet services, in order to extract more information about them and sell it to advertisers, brands or simply giving it away to the NSA. Not exactly the “Do no evil” company it used to be.
So, as the next big thing for Google, Android Wear will probably end up in failure at least in its current “closed” incarnation.