Android Wear now works with iPhones

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Android Wear Watches Come To The iPhone—But No Third-Party Apps.

The software that powers the Google Inc.-friendly smartwatches will integrate with Apple Inc.’s iPhones through a new service, according to Jeff Chang, lead product manager for Android Wear.More than a year after the launch of the first Android Wear watches, Google is now finally bringing iOS support to its smartwatch platform with the launch of its Android Wear mobile app in Apple’s App Store today.

The new option enables an iPhone to pair with a smartwatch from LG Electronics Inc., along with those planned from Asustek Computer Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co. “There’s a lot of different tastes out there,” Chang said. “Between round and square, sporty and traditional and classic and all that — I really think that there’s a wide variety of preferences there. This probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given that Huawei spoiled this launch by announcing iOS support for its upcoming Android Wear watch last week, but it’s a long-overdue step for Google. It means the Apple Watch has some competition, and that there’s suddenly a much larger addressable market for all the companies making Android Wear devices. In the second quarter, the Cupertino, California-based rival sold 3.6 million of the devices, or about two-thirds of smart wearables, while Android Wear took about 10 percent, according to Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s wearables team. There are three main things that Android Wear for iOS will do for iPhone users: display app notifications, serve as a fitness tracker and tap into Google Now, Google’s Siri rival.

However, most future Android Wear watches—including models from Huawei, Asus, Motorola, and presumably even TAG Heuer—should be iPhone-compatible. Though Google is offering an Android Wear app that runs on iPhones, third-party apps rely on plumbing that the company has built into Android and its Play store and which isn’t available in the foreign territory of iOS. When we asked the company about this, a spokesperson told us the following: “We wanted to make sure that iOS users would have a great experience with Android Wear out of the box. The new service for smartwatches with iPhones aims to use some of the most popular features from Android, including providing alerts for e-mails, calendar items and fitness updates.

Once you’ve paired your watch with your iPhone (the app is compatible with the iPhone 5 and all newer iPhones as long as they run iOS 8.2 and up), the actual on-watch experience is pretty much the same as always. The app supports rich notifications from Gmail, Google Calendar and Apple Calendar, Google Now Cards, voice queries, Google Fit support, alarms, and everything else you’d expect (including support for the recently launched Translate app on Android Wear). Chang said longer term the company will look at what users prefer on iOS and Android devices — and prioritize features accordingly while abiding by Apple’s restrictions.

Indeed, we’re probably looking at a very slim slice of potential converts: iPhone users who totally love the Google services universe—Gmail, Calendar and especially Google Now—and folks who want a smartwatch, but prefer the design of, say, a round-faced Huawei Watch over the lozenge-shaped Apple Watch. IDC expects the smart-devices sector to grow to 89 million units in 2019 from 33 million this year, surpassing sales of basic wearables, which are forecast to increase to 66 million units in 2019 from 39 million this year. If it’s already spending untold riches on smart contact lenses and broadband balloons, why not drop a little development money on a relatively simple iOS app? Google Now serves timely guesses at pertinent information you may want, like the traffic report for you commute home, daily weather forecasts and flight details on travel days.

All the basic stuff will work fine, but there are no third-party apps, and there’s no Wi-Fi support for using your watch when you’re far away from your phone. Smartwatches are, after all, at least partly fashion accessories and even though Apple offers a number of different variations of its smartwatch, they all look pretty similar in the end. So much of the Pebble’s appeal comes from its endless extensibility, the way you can customize and tailor every tiny setting to your exact specifications.

The situation could well turn out to be akin to what happened during the golden age of the MP3 player, when it would have been silly for anyone competing with the iPod to put any effort into catering to Mac owners. On Android, the whole Pebble kitchen is at your fingertips; iOS is like a prix fixe menu where you get what they offer and if you don’t like it… well, tough. Users will also get all of Android Wear’s Google Now cards—the platform’s headline feature—and access to Google-authored programs like Google Fit (i.e., step tracking and heart rate data), Weather, Alarm, and Translate. iPhone users will be able to see notifications for phone calls and Messages, but unlike Android users, they won’t be able to respond to messages with voice dictation from their Wear watches.

On the subject of whether third-party Android Wear apps could come to iPhone users, Chang is willfully vague. “We’re Google,” he says. “We’re always trying to improve things and update things. We’re thinking and we’re exploring.” If the company cares enough, it shouldn’t be an impossible dream: Pebble, after all, already has a third-party app store within its iOS app. Google’s digital assistant is packed with surprise and delight features, sending notification cards on traffic conditions, flight reminders, weather alerts and other personally tailored tidbits at just the right moment. And of course, you can use Google Now to solve simple math problems, learn the latest sports scores, and pull off a host of other Googly search tricks directly from your watch. The silver lining in all this is the basics are what really make a smartwatch great for most people, and that most of the best things about Android Wear are coming directly from Google—and thus should continue to work with iOS.

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