Several smartwatches using the Google Android Wear OS launched just before the Apple Watch announcement—signaling that the wearables competition is heating up between the two giants.
Google and its Android Wear partners seemingly threw down the gauntlet to Apple at the recently concluded IFA trade show in Berlin with the unveiling of multiple Android Wear devices with health sensors—just days before the launch of the Apple Watch. This preemptive strike signals the competition that’s heating up in the wearables space between the two giants. Here are the newest devices making use of Google’s Android Wear OS from key players in the industry.
After earlier pronouncements that it would use its in-house OS for future wearables, Sony doubled back and announced two new devices based on Google’s Android Wear platform:
- The SmartWatch 3 is Sony’s first Android Wear product. The waterproof device has a 4-cm LCD display, microphone, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and a built-in GPS fitness sensor, according to Wired. What’s unique about this SmartWatch 3 is that, unlike other smartwatches that needs docks to be charged, it can be charged through a micro-USB port built into the device.
- The Japanese company also unveiled the second edition of its SmartBand fitness tracker which records the number of steps, distance covered, and calories burned. The altimeter and accelerometer track your fitness metrics. The data is stored in Sony’s proprietary LifeLog app. The updated version now allows the user to take phone calls from a connected Xperia smartphone—the newest version of which, the Z3, was also launched at IFA.
Similar and Competing
Motorola and LG are both putting out somewhat similar devices with Android Wear OS, so there’s an additional layer of competition occurring in that space:
- The Moto 360 was the first Android Wear device teased by Google earlier this year, and it’s much anticipated release has finally arrived: September 1 in the U.S. and expected for October in the U.K. It has a completely round display, with a thinner, stainless steel bezel—giving it a classic timepiece look. With a built-in heart rate monitor, water and dust resistance, and the ability for wireless charging, it’s a strong competitor for the next Android Wear-based watch, LG’s G Watch R.
- The LG G Watch R is perhaps the most traditional-looking active-wear timepiece among recent releases. It has a round OLED display housed in a thick, chunky body—similar to a diver’s watch—with a built-in heart rate sensor, as well as water and dust resistance. Release is set for the beginning of the 4th quarter.
Google’s Eye on the Market
All of these devices run Android Wear, which features always-on displays, changing watch faces, “OK Google” voice search, and a slew of customizations. Google knows wearables are the next big thing in consumer tech, and it wants to be the first mover in this space. So, from its Android smartphone OS, it developed Android Wear specifically for smartwatches and wearables. Google demoed Android Wear in March, and back then, the company said it was working with manufacturers in building smartwatches.
In an interview with CNET, Google engineers talked about their ambitious, long-term plans for Android Wear and wearable devices:
“Our approach to wearables is the same as our approach to any of our products: We want to build technology that delights people by improving their lives. So our approach to wearables—watches, Glass, even our smart contact lens project which is designed to help people with diabetes measure their glucose—is to build things that you use when you need and forget about when you don't. We want wearables to help you stay in the moment, instead of taking you out of it: giving you a safer way to get directions, easily share or record what you see, communicate with others quickly, or get the information you need when you need it.”
Vice President of Engineering for Android
“Sensors are the key way we think there will be both innovation in this space, and some of these devices will be different from each other,” told CNET. “One of the things we set out to do when we set out developing the platform was to make it possible for a manufacturer to bring any sensor they could find to the platform. And we've definitely seen real innovation there. It's been exciting to see devices come out that have optical heart rate sensors, but we're also seeing other technology in that space, and it will be really interesting to see some of those devices come to market…It's our absolute core goal to enable any sensor technology to work with the platform.”
Director of Engineering for Android Wear
Google claims that there are now thousands of Android Wear apps, ranging from just-for-fun to useful health and wellness apps powered by novel biosensors. It’s likely no coincidence that Google and its partner manufacturers launched a raft of Android Wear smartwatches on the eve of Apple’s much-anticipated launch of iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. What is clear is that the tech rivals are headed for yet another showdown—this time in the wearables space.