The wearable era has begun in earnest, which means it is now time for us (and you) to take a look at what we know about the devices on the market now, what's on the way, and where the potential lies with these devices. The big news this week has been the release of the long-awaited Moto 360 and the announcement of the long-rumored Apple Watch. Unfortunately, the two have come together to convince me that now is not the time to buy a smartwatch.
Just to set the stage, I am an extraordinarily practical man, which is an important point of note for this writing, because it informs my decisions on this topic and whether or not my experience will help you to make a decision in the future. If you are someone who has had a longstanding relationships with wristwatches or fashion, my thoughts may not be the most helpful, but I'll do my best.
There are quite a lot of opinions and rumors going around concerning the Apple iWatch. Some think the device will be announced next month, others say it won't be released until early next year, and at least one person out there thinks that Apple should wait another year before releasing its first product into the wearable space. We can't really say what Apple will choose to do, but we can certainly examine the various possibilities, and the potential consequences of each path.
Earlier today, the deal that we all knew was coming finally got announced as Apple announced it had agreed to purchase Beats for $3 billion. Tim Cook praised the subscription service, but he also talked to The Financial Times and cleared up a bit of info that had a number of people curious: whether or not Apple would continue to support the Android and Windows Phone apps for Beats Music. The surprise of the day was that Tim Cook confirmed that Apple would continue to support the apps for other mobile platforms.
Google has a clear vision for what it wants with Android Wear, and it is being very very clear in its message to developers on this point. The first round of Android wearables are not aiming to be complete smartwatches in the sense that many would hope they would be. Rather, these are planned to be companion devices which are mainly used for notifications, and don't really offer much as far as advanced functionality.
A few days ago, Google finally unveiled its platform for wearable devices, called Android Wear. The initial reaction to the software tended to be positive, because it wasn't trying to do too much, and seemed focused on the right use cases for wearables. Given that the SDK is still a developer preview, there are quite a lot of questions still surrounding the platform and the hardware that will go along with it, including how or if apps will run on the system, and what kind of battery life can be expected. But, one question stands above the rest: how open will it be?
Before today, it was extremely difficult to know what to expect from Google's official wearable solution for Android. There were a couple reasonable assumptions that could be made, like the fact that an Android-based wearable would likely rely heavily on Google Now, both with its card interface and its voice command system. But, it was hard to know what to expect from the hardware or the overall software experience. Now that Android Wear has been unveiled, the assessments can begin.
I have to start out by saying that like many of you, I was very excited when I saw the initial videos for Android Wear, and even more excited when I saw the teaser for the Motorola Moto 360. I have never worn a watch with any regularity; and, since high school (read: since beginning to carry a cell phone), I have never worn a watch as anything more than a fashion accessory for a night. But, I can easily see that habit changing soon. However, unlike most of you, my job relies on my ability to set aside that excitement and take a look at what we should really be expecting from Android Wear. As great as the videos looked, there are some concerns to be had with Google's offering, which I'll get to as we go. First though, we should start out with what we should expect from the coming wave of Android Wear devices.
When we went through the 2014 outlook for Android, one of the biggest questions looming on the horizon wasn't what was going to happen, but rather when it would all start. We knew that Android would be making the move to smartwatches and other wearables this year; and, we knew that Google would be starting the work to get developers on board and to optimize the platform for the super small screen. Now we know that theAndroid SDK for wearables will be released in just two weeks from now, and that helps to sort out when we should start seeing actual Android devices released with full Google services.