As rumored, Google has launched an initiative to bring Android to the wearable device world. It’s called Android Wear, and it aims to demonstrate how the mobile operating system can find a life beyond tablets and smartphones.
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome & Apps at Google, kicked off his pitch by reminding that most of us are “rarely without our smartphones in hand.” He notes that these “powerful supercomputers” keep us connected. Then he declares “this is only the beginning.”
Indeed, as Pichai sees it, the industry has barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with mobile technology. And that, he said, is why he’s so excited about wearables. He explains that wearables, “understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.”
Four Wearable Promises
Google is starting its Android Wear movement with watches -- watches that do more than just tell time. Pichai also outlined four key areas of devices and what he called an “expansive catalogue of apps” that will offer four key benefits: useful information when you need it most; straight answers to spoken questions; the ability to better monitor your health and fitness; and a key to a multiscreen world.
“Android Wear shows you info and suggestions you need, right when you need them,” Pichai explained. “The wide variety of Android applications means you’ll receive the latest posts and updates from your favorite social apps, chats from your preferred messaging apps, notifications from shopping, news and photography apps, and more.”
In terms of straight answers, all you have to do is say “OK Google” to ask questions. Pichai suggested you could ask how many calories are in an avocado, what time your flight leaves, and the score of the game. He said you could also say “OK Google” to call a taxi, send a text, make a restaurant reservation or set an alarm.
Whether you are an exercise nut or just getting started, you can use Android Wear to track progress toward exercise goals with reminder and fitness summaries. Fitness apps offer everything from distance and time to real-time speed as you exercise.
“Android Wear lets you access and control other devices from your wrist. Just say ‘OK Google’ to fire up a music playlist on your phone, or cast your favorite movie to your TV,” Pichai said. “There’s a lot of possibilities here so we’re eager to see what developers build.”
We turned to Roger Entner, a principal analyst at Recon Analytics, to get his take on Android Wear. He turned the tables, asking, “What is Android Wear going to make possible that I can’t do with my phone?”
As he sees it, until wearable products become more than just replications of what consumers can do with smartphones, they are doomed to be gadgets and novelty items. When, by contrast, wearables can do something that smartphones don’t, the concept becomes interesting, he said.
“Either the information streaming on the device is going to be in a tiny font or the device will get completely overwhelmed by the information flood Google is describing here,” Entner said. “I’m missing the truly remarkable use case. I’m still waiting for a magical moment. Maybe Apple will come through with that. But right now it’s just not there. It’s terribly underwhelming.”