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It's time for the Apple Watch to support Android

Commentary: If Apple wants to win the smartwatch race, it needs to swallow its pride and embrace Google's platform.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The smartwatch race should be over. Apple should have won, but that hasn't exactly been the case. While the Cupertino company remains the leading smartwatch maker, shipments of the Apple Watch have fallen and its market share is slowly diminishing due to increased competition from Samsung, Garmin and traditional watchmakers such as Fossil.

Apple's market share could be further disrupted following the release of Android Wear 2.0. The updated operating system is expected to be released in early February alongside two watches built in a collaboration between LG and Google. Android Wear 2.0 will also add features, such as an on-watch app store, that help make watches less reliant on phones and more compatible with iPhones.

The Apple Watch may be the most popular smartwatch, but it's not the best option for everyone. It only works with the iPhone. Meanwhile, many fitness trackers work across Android and iOS. To change this trend and truly dominate the market, Apple should bring the Watch to Android.

As a long-time Android user and someone who has personally tested dozens of smartwatches, I would wear the Apple Watch if it didn't mean switching to an iPhone. It's a great device, but I prefer the deep integration with Google services on my Android phone.

Adding Android support to the Apple Watch could be the final nail in the coffins of Android Wear and Tizen, Samsung's watch operating system. It may also help convert some Apple skeptics to buy other Apple products. Win-win.

Flexibility is key

Apple should follow in the footsteps of Fitbit and Garmin, both of which offer devices that work cross-platform. The Apple Watch remains locked into iOS and an iOS-only fitness hub. If fitness is the Apple Watch's best feature, then Android, at the very least, needs an iOS Activity and Workout app. Or it needs to be able to work with Google Health. Option A obviously makes more sense.

While fitness trackers never seem to have a problem working cross-platform, the experience with smartwatches hasn't always been a great one. Android Wear on iOS doesn't work as well as it does on Android phones (although this may change with Android Wear 2.0), and Samsung's iOS Gear app suffers the same way.

But even with a limited set of basic features, an Apple Watch on Android would be a compelling buy. It would be enough for me -- and possibly for others.

Consider the iPod

You might think this is absurd, but consider the iPod. Apple eventually brought iTunes to Windows, a move many thought would never happen, and it's the reason the iPod became a smash hit. The same can be said about the iPhone. Sales exploded when the phone's US availability expanded beyond AT&T.

Apple is now the world's most valuable company, but Wall Street analysts and critics are raising questions about the company's future. How much longer can it rely on the iPhone?

If Apple wants to win the smartwatch race, it needs to swallow its pride and embrace Android. Or, at the very least, let the Apple Watch become its own iPhone-free accessory.

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