Topic: Android Wear
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 hands-on review – Wired (Mar 17, 2017)
Earlier in the week, I wrote about Swatch’s smartwatch operating system and components, and in passing referred to Tag Heuer’s Android strategy. It’s now in the second phase of that strategy, with a highly modular and customizable approach this time around, and a modest goal of selling 150,000 of these watches, compared to just over 50,000 of its first attempt. That’s obviously a tiny fraction of the overall smartwatch market, and it’s hard to see how it’ll make money at this scale with this much customization. Apple has offered the most customization of any tech-centric smartwatch to date by far, but this Tag watch seems to take the concept much further, which may be appealing to potential customers, though the watch itself looks incredibly thick and bulky, even for a Tag.
I linked to reviews of Android Wear 2.0 and the LG watches that launched at the same time a few weeks ago, and those were pretty negative. Now, here we have another entry from a major Android vendor and it seems to be at least as bad as LG’s. At this point, it feels like some Android vendors have given up on the platform entirely, while others seem to have given up trying to make a smartwatch competitive with the Apple Watch but are still putting what they do have out into the market. None of this is going to help Android Wear or smartwatches in general. I’ve said before that I think it will take a Pixel-style first party entry from Google to give this platform the boost it needs, because for now Android Wear continues to be more or less irrelevant in the smartwatch and broader wearable market. Even if Google does get into this market directly, however, it continues to be far smaller and narrower than many people originally thought, and it’s currently dominated by Apple.
via Android Central
Huawei Watch 2 and Watch 2 Classic officially unveiled at MWC 2017 – AndroidAuthority (Feb 27, 2017)
These two watches are somewhat reminiscent of the LG smartwatches that debuted with Android Wear 2.0 a few weeks back – there are again two, with somewhat different form factors, but this time the feature set is more consistent across them, as is the price. That price, though, is fairly steep – in line with the low end of Apple’s Watch price range, which continues to be a tough place to be when your watches look very much like the smartwatches they are rather than nice pieces of smart jewelry. Huawei definitely has the scale to do some interesting things in watches if it chooses to, but I can’t see these new models selling in very large numbers at these prices.
Android Wear and LG Watch Reviews Are Mixed at Best (Feb 8, 2017)
It looks like Google and LG lifted an embargo this morning on Android 2.0 and LG’s two new smartwatches. My first reaction to the reviews here is that the new watches sound pretty terrible, and that we’re back to grading these smartwatches on a curve, something I first noted back in 2014 before the Apple Watch was announced. The Verge review is illustrative – it notes that the Sport version is uncomfortable and enormous (it doesn’t fit under shirt cuffs), doesn’t have interchangeable bands, the Android Pay app takes too long to load, and can’t be used while swimming; the Style version lacks most of the more interesting features on the Sport, looks cheap, and the batteries on both versions struggle to make it through the day, while Android Wear 2.0 is pretty buggy. The Verge’s rating? 7.1 for both. Their rating for the Apple Watch Series 2? 7.5. Android Wear has struggled to take off ever since it launched – it’s just never felt like Google or its OEMs understand that watches are fashion accessories, and need to be designed for that job. Packing a billion features into these watches isn’t going to cut it, especially if they don’t work well, or they end up looking ridiculous on your wrist. I’ve seen nothing here that makes me think Android Wear 2.0 is going to do any better than the previous versions.
First Android Wear 2.0 devices revealed: Google and LG’s Watch Sport and Watch Style – VentureBeat (Jan 17, 2017)
Evan Blass is the Mark Gurman of the Android world – when he reports on a leak, it’s usually pretty reliable and often ends up being very accurate indeed. The watches described in this leak are in keeping with what we’ve already heard from Google itself and other sources, so that lends additional credibility. The context here is that Android Wear has never really taken off – as with VR, the biggest success among the Android vendors hs been Samsung’s, which hasn’t been based on Android at all, and Google needs to ensure that other Android OEMs without their own ecosystems can compete too. So far, that hasn’t worked, and some Android OEMs are giving up on Android Wear for now. However, Google clearly hasn’t given up, and appears to have convinced LG to join it in launching some new watches to showcase Android Wear 2.0. I’m skeptical that this will make any difference – what’s become clear since the Apple Watch launched is that we don’t yet have a great model for smartwatches other than as fitness and health tracking devices, and Android Wear doesn’t seem to have provided very appealing options in that category.
The prevailing narrative around Android Wear – and it’s an accurate one – is that it’s flailing, and OEMs are largely backing away from it. ZTE offers a counterpoint here – it’s planning to launch a watch later in the year – but it’s the exception that proves the rule, as Roger’s piece here points out. I still think the best hope for Android Wear is really compelling first party hardware from Google, though that may also kill off what few OEM offerings remain.
It’s become increasingly clear in recent months that Android Wear is struggling mightily. Without a shot in the arm from Google, it seems likely to wither on the vine. I still think a Pixel-like direct entry from Google is the best strategy here, but this might be something of a stopgap.