Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Android Wear

For the last couple of years, if you wanted a smart watch you would invest in the $249 Pebble. Pebble’s iconic story has been a dream for them since they first announced the idea; they became the most funded kick-starter project ever and since then they have been slowly expanding their range of products. This is all well and good for Pebble as a company; however the actual product wasn't anything special. The clunky design, short battery life and e-ink display not only made the Pebble impractical but also, most importantly, un-cool.

Thankfully, that all might change.

Today (18th March 2014) Google announced Android Wear, a modified version of Android, tailor made for smart-watches. As expected, the smart-watches will connect with your Android device. The operating system, of course, has dozens of health and fitness features including the ability to send real time information about your speed, distance and time whether you’re walking, running or cycling straight to your wrist. This means that Google Maps are built in, so you’ll be able to get directions and smart location information wherever you are.

An essential feature which predecessors lacked was the ability for all notifications from all your Android apps to be sent to the smart-watch. Crucially, Android Wear does that.

Google Now is at the centre of Android Wear. Google Now means that you will be able to do voice searches and use voice commands instead of needing to touch the small screen. The commands let you reply to messages, change the music track on your phone and do other gimmicky tasks – so you can show off in front of your friends.

Google emphasizes that Android Wear is ‘glance-able’ which means the information you are seeking will just be there when you need it. The example Google uses is a jelly fish warning for some surfers who are about to ride the wave. After they've see this warning, they decide to go surfing at another beach, jelly fish free, which Google has suggested. More basic features similar to this are already built into Google Now on Android smart-phones; Google Now can detect when you are home or at work and can give you specific information and reminders if you are at a certain location, so those features also can be expected front and centre on Android Wear.

I've been known to slate smart-watches in the past and although Android Wear looks pretty cool it’s still useless for most people. Yes, it looks cool and will allow you to show off in front of your mates however, like what I've said before, why do you need a middle man for notifications? It’s just plain lazy if you can’t slide your smart-phone out of your pocket to see notifications. The only excusable reason I would give someone to purchase a smart-watch is if they get a constant flow of new notification and need to be able to immediately tell which ones are important or not. If you are into gimmicky stuff though, the potential here is astonishing. Google recently purchased the learning thermostat ‘Nest’ and I could see it help home owners loads if they could just glance at their wrist and say a couple of words if they want the temperature turning down.  

So far, Google is known to be working with phone manufactures HTC, LG, Samsung and Motorola on wearable technology however Google says that fashion brands such as ‘Fossil’ will also be producing stylish hardware for this clean, simplistic software. The manufactures can be creative, they aren't limited to size or shape; Google has advertised both circular and square watches.

The operating system isn’t ready for consumers just yet, it’s the developer’s preview which has become available today, however we can expect to hear a lot more about Android Wear during I/O at the end of June.