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The Next Big Thing
Why Android Wear is worth watchingBrian Cooley discusses the emergence of Google's Android Wear OS in the nascent smartwatch market and tells you what developers need to do to make it appealing to consumers.
Let's talk about a version of Android that you wear. We're right at the beginning in the miniaturization of technology. You're gonna talk to your wrist. How tall is Barack Obama? It's finally possible to make a powerful computer small enough to wear comfortably all day long. Google's Android Wear is a compact version of an operating system that really has to do three things. Run well on new devices like smart watches, get manufacturers to buy into that market and get consumers to do the same thing. And Google pretty much delivered on almost every rumor we predicted and their full roll out of Android where with big time support coming out of the gates with the LGG watch and Samsung's [INAUDIBLE]. Just one more tap to pay. And the pizza's on its way. The pretty gorgeous stainless steel and leather banded watch. It's here. Your watch will also provide intelligent answers to spoken questions. He can even check his heart rate after a jog. Now, Android Wear on its own actually does very little. A Smartwatch running it, like a Samsung Gear Live or an LG G watch, has to first pair to a late model Android phone. No Windows phone, no iPhone support here. Once that pairing is done, your watch starts to get fed the content it needs for some very simple notifications and basic interactions. Like reminders of your next appointment, or simple guidance to get somewhere, like your next appointment. Messages and easy ways to reply, weather forecasts coming up, payment confirmations, travel status updates. Now these are just some basic early use cases and, of course, an Android Wear's functionality is limited only to what developers can come up with, which isn't much of a limitation at all. But note the mode is to have very simple swipe and voice interactions between menus and information screen. There's no keyboard on that watch. Now the first watches out with Android Wear are the predictably nerdy Samsung Gear Live and LGG watch. More interesting is the pending Motorola 360. This is a watch with a round face and a very jewelry like look. Andre Ware is able to map it's display and interface to the actual round display. Not just crudely crop it. That's important, because many, like myself, believe that a key part of SmartWatch success, on any platform, is gonna be the ability for watch designers to really spread out aesthetically and not be limited to square text style displays. Another big step forward with Android Wear is a degree of agnosticism. In the past, most smart watches, short past, I should point out, only worked with their own family of phones. Early Samsung smart watches only worked with Samsung Galaxy phones, and not even all of those. That's not a formula for success. Going forward Android Wear will allow the watch to work with any ANdroid phone running 4.3 of the Operating System, or newer, but still no Windows Phone, I-Phone, or Blackberry coordination. Its early days of course were the smart watches. Not to mention the Android wear subset of them. That's it. Here is my memo to the Android wear team as well as the manufacturer's building Onyx. First make it smarter. Right now we feel the early Android wear watches are kind of giving scatter shot display of information and content, it doesn't really seem to map to my moment in the day as well as it could. Let's filter better. Make it indispensable. This is still very much a luxury market. Nobody can't live without an Android Wear smart watch. Let's find the really important use cases so it goes beyond the novelty stage. We need to extend battery life. We all have enough devices right now that get plugged in every day. And look like jewelry. Once you get past that first million geeks and earlier adopters, nobody's gonna buy a smartwatch that looks like they strapped a smartphone on their wrist. It is, of course, too soon to predict the growth curve for Android wear let alone the broader smartwatch market, for a number of reasons. First of all, Apple hasn't even entered this space yet. Secondly, most consumers have no idea what we're talking about. Thirdly, the battle between fitness bands and smart watches has to be sorted out. And there's an awful lot of overlap there. But for now, at this moment, Android Wear seems to be the biggest bear in a small, growing, and rapidly changing wood.