With Android Wear, Google fires first shot in hardware war against Apple

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited May 2014
Google's aggressive stance with Android Wear, putting industrial design -- rather than tech specs or bundled software -- at the forefront, reveals the makings of a strategy designed to take on Apple at their own game.

Android Wear concept
Motorola's Moto 360 Andoid Wear-powered smart watch | Source: Google


In 2012, former iPad engineer Patrick Gibson floated a controversial theory: Google is getting better at what Apple does faster than Apple is getting better at what Google does, and that's a problem for Apple.

Google's software prowess has never been in question. They've bolstered an already technically formidable hardware team by bringing in a host of ex-Apple employees with the Nest Labs acquisition, including former iPod chief Tony Fadell, and held on to Motorola's advanced research division when flipping the handset maker to Lenovo.

Now, with the smart watch-focused Android Wear in tow, Google is set to put that theory to the test.

Watches
IBM's WatchPad, Fossil's Wrist PDA, and a Fossil-brand SPOT watch

Where have you been all my life?

IBM arguably defined the concept of the modern smart watch -- apologies to Dick Tracy -- in 2001 with the WatchPad, a Linux-powered device designed in collaboration with Japanese watchmaker Citizen. It sported a 320-pixel-by-240-pixel monochrome display, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and a fingerprint sensor that IBM wanted to use for personal identity verification and even cashless payments.

Fossil followed up with the Wrist PDA, which impressively packed the then-popular Palm OS and a touchscreen into, well, a watch-sized Palm Pilot. Then came watches based on Microsoft's ill-fated SPOT system, and more recently manufacturers have taken to shoehorning Android into what are essentially tiny all-in-one computers with a wrist strap.

They all failed.

IBM's WatchPad never made it to market, the Wrist PDA was discontinued in less than three years, Microsoft shuttered the SPOT service in 2008, and the best-selling Android smart watch -- Samsung's Galaxy Gear -- was replaced after 6 months and is thought to have sold less than 800,000 units despite a massive ad blitz.

Watches
Android chief Sundar Pichai

Enter Google

Google is intimately familiar with the challenges facing the wearable market. As Android's benevolent overlord, they're witness to the behind-the-scenes struggles of hardware partners; as the creators of Google Glass, they collect feedback directly from consumers grappling with the unexplored reality of wearing a computer.

From these observations came Android Wear, and Google made their opinion clear: they think everyone else was doing it wrong.

Consumers won't be snapping photos, playing tiny games of Angry Birds, or surreptitiously browsing Reddit on an Android Wear-powered smart watch. Google tells developers in no uncertain terms that they mean for these devices to augment the world around them, not become the focal point.

"Rather than requiring attention and input from users, Android wearables are aware of their situation and state, and helpfully display the right information at the right time," the company wrote of the theory behind Android Wear's design.

Every major Android handset vendor is on board with the effort: LG and Motorola have already announced Android Wear devices to ship this summer, and Asus, HTC, and Samsung -- even as it seeks to replace Android with the in-house Tizen system -- won't be far behind. Google has even convinced fashion brand Fossil to return to the smart watch game.

More importantly, thanks to Android Wear's opinionated design, those manufacturers will have no choice but to compete on hardware rather than wasting resources trying to outdo each other on largely useless Android customizations. Google has saved the OEMs from themselves, and the benefits are already on display -- Motorola's Moto 360 looks like a tour de force of engineering.

iWatch
iWatch concept by Todd Hamilton

Et tu, Apple?

If this formula -- take an existing product category, add more robust software and better-made hardware, profit -- sounds familiar, that's because it is. It's Apple's specialty; they did it with the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad to great success.

So what about the iWatch?

Presuming the iWatch project is real, and the preponderance of evidence suggests that it is, it will mark the first time Apple has entered a market with such significant opposition. Nokia and Motorola couldn't compete with Apple's design chops and vertical integration, but Google and their manufacturing partners can match Apple blow-for-blow.

Though they continue to partner with OEMs like LG for their "pure Google" Nexus devices, Google knows how to build its own hardware thanks to years of designing and manufacturing custom networking gear and recent experiments with the admittedly ill-fated Q streamer and Google Glass. Many believe they're ramping up to do the same in smartphones and tablets, one more step in their march toward Apple-like top-to-bottom control.

Much digital ink has been spilled in the debate over whether Apple can still compete in the post-Steve Jobs era. Their approach to this looming battle with Google should provide the answer.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 139
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    [quote]With Android Wear, Google fires first shot in hardware war against Apple[/quote]
    First shot?
    Wasn't the first shot years ago? Apple & Samsung have both been making hardware for quite a while.
  • Reply 2 of 139
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member

    Oh great. First the Indian spambots and now the multiple submissions per article are back.

     

    I’d like to see them make a bangle-style watch that looks like that. “Style over substance”, and all.

     

    To… see it fail horribly, of course.

  • Reply 3 of 139
    Honest question here... What's the market's desire for an iWatch? I saw Google's announcement, but I have no desire to have one myself--be it Apple or Android.

    Do you want a wearable? If so... why?
  • Reply 4 of 139
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,493member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    it will mark the first time Apple has entered a market with such significant opposition. 



    What the hell is this?  Apple was rarely the first in any market... last time I checked, smart phones were around before the iPhone.  Tablets were around before the iPad.  Music players were around before the iPod.  Please Mr. AI "Author", elaborate in detail what you meant by "first time".  It's just plain wrong.



    The only difference with the "iWatch" or whatever Apple decided to do in this area, is that other players like Samsung, and now Google have been coming out with sheer crap, simply to say they came out before Apple did and not look like copycats.  Of course, it won't matter because once Apple comes into the game, everyone else will simply copy what Apple did, and then claim their copy-device was simply an "evolving" design.



    Apple shows the rest of the industry just how bad and clueless they are when it comes to quality, polished products.  



    Googe crap is just for the tech-heads that feel they need to play with their hardware while in a restaurant setting.

  • Reply 5 of 139
    bleaknik wrote: »
    Do you want a wearable? If so... why?
    To answer honestly, I am not interested at all. Anxious for the iPhone 6, though.
  • Reply 6 of 139
    waybacmacwaybacmac Posts: 309member

    The more I read about this Google watch the more I am impressed with the concept and the more doubts I have about the actual product. The software interface that Google has created is stunning, but it is also the easy part. Touch screen, voice control (mic and speakers), dial illumination, activity monitoring…so many things to be powered. How? The watch is almost presented as a stand-alone device, but I imagine it will work in tandem with a smartphone, probably only ones with the newest version of Android. That might limit its initial usability. Bluetooth - another power requirement. The Motorola mockup watch faces give the impression there may be a real watch movement involved. How can they fit it all in the size of that mockup? Or are those watch faces just digital images? Again - power? And this is all going to come to market this summer? So many questions unanswered. Something just strikes me as wrong. I keep thinking of the old saying, "if its too good to be true…"

  • Reply 7 of 139
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,205member
    This war only seems to exist with bloggers. Page fodder perhaps.

    Apple certainly isn't 'at war'. Which is why they haven't rushed to at least announce things. They have been very clear over the years this isn't a zero sum game to them and they aren't afraid of other companies plans, products or wins.

    Oh and Android Wear has hardly had millions of sales so I'm not sure it qualifies as 'significant opposition' at this time. Same with the rest
  • Reply 8 of 139
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    bleaknik wrote: »
    Do you want a wearable? If so... why?


    Maybe... I believe there are a few potential applications for wearables:
    • Extending the battery life of associated devices by offloading certain services (e.g. motion tracking)
    • Multi-factor authentication for a mobile payment solution
    • Performance monitoring (diet, exercise, sleep)
    • Home Health (e.g. blood-glucose monitoring)
  • Reply 9 of 139
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    bleaknik wrote: »
    Honest question here... What's the market's desire for an iWatch? I saw Google's announcement, but I have no desire to have one myself--be it Apple or Android.

    Do you want a wearable? If so... why?

    I do! I want something that records biometrics and keeps track of them over a long period of time by periodically syncing with my iPhone which syncs with iCloud. I also want some basic features like telling the time, weather, and seeing the from of certain senders or message types via a vibration but only when a specific accelerometer and gyroscopic motion is observed by the device that tells it I'm lifting my wrist up in a certain way to read it. Most importantly, I want this wrist-worn device to know when it's been clasped to my wrist and when it's been removed so that it can be used with an iOS-based iDevice or Mac to allow for auto-locking/unlocking with the BT connection.
  • Reply 10 of 139
    It looks like the Android Wear partners have not learned from the television and Wallet disasters. The partners are rushing into the wearable market depending 100% on Google to be there for them with a software direction. The sad and funny things are the same... Google is in this to collect the partner's user data. If the partners earn money, fine. If the partners do not earn money, fine. Google does not care since the hardware partners are willingly locking themselves to Google.

    We have seen Sony and Samsung repeatedly fail wth their Android watch efforts because they repeatedly chose to rush uninspiring products to market "to beat Apple". Now Google rushes Google Wear to market and the press decides to start a war between Google and Apple to promote Google and force Apple to respond. Apple did not release a television and Google TV failed. Apple did not release an e-payments system and Google Wallet is still trying to find purpose. Google Q was dead before arrival. Google Glass... %uD83D%uDE09

    Everybody wants to be somewhere before Apple. The problem is where is somewhere? What does somewhere give me for my money? What will compell me to hand over cash for a watch? Weather? Stocks? Reminders? Email? Calendar? No! I want something so compelling that I will want to put a watch on my wrist. Android Wear is not doing that for me today.

    Forbes, Quartz and Motley Fool have articles about Google's supposed first mover advantage over App,e thanks to Android Wear. In my opinion, all of the articles missed something truly interesting about Apple iOS developers... We are not sitting idly and waiting for Apple to move forward with an iWatch. We are thinking about "Why would I wear a smartwatch since I do not wear a watch today?", "If I were to wear a smartwatch, what would I want the watch to provide me?", "How would I present information on a small display?"

    When I started iPad development before the iPad was officially release, I drew a rectangular shape matching the announced iPad dimensions on a piece of paper, made hundreds of copies of the shape, then imagined what I could and should do using the current iOS interface. I have not done this yet for the rumored iWatch but I am thinking about the answers for my questions. The Android Wear partners do not seem to be providing answers to the questions nor do they seem to be asking the questions.

    IF Apple does announce a smartwatch, look for Android Wear to change direction very quickly to match everything Apple announces.
  • Reply 11 of 139
    adhiradhir Posts: 50member
    Couldn't care less about the wearable stuff. No matter who makes it, I don't expect it to be successful. My "watch" is my phone now - I don't need another screen strapped to my wrist.
  • Reply 12 of 139
    Looks like an old Timex with a piece of white tape on it. Google will make a decent wearable when some other company (maybe Apple) shows them something unique they can copy.
  • Reply 13 of 139
    chipsychipsy Posts: 287member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by waybacmac View Post

     

    The more I read about this Google watch the more I am impressed with the concept and the more doubts I have about the actual product. The software interface that Google has created is stunning, but it is also the easy part. Touch screen, voice control (mic and speakers), dial illumination, activity monitoring…so many things to be powered. How? The watch is almost presented as a stand-alone device, but I imagine it will work in tandem with a smartphone, probably only ones with the newest version of Android. That might limit its initial usability. Bluetooth - another power requirement. The Motorola mockup watch faces give the impression there may be a real watch movement involved. How can they fit it all in the size of that mockup? Or are those watch faces just digital images? Again - power? And this is all going to come to market this summer? So many questions unanswered. Something just strikes me as wrong. I keep thinking of the old saying, "if its too good to be true…"




    I can answer a couple of your questions. First of all there is no real watch movement inside the Moto 360. The watch faces are digital (and adjustable) and the screen of the Moto 360 is oled. And it is suggested that it uses the Moto X's Active Display (activating individual pixels to save power, everything black are switched off pixels) to show the time at all times. Android Wear works with Android 4.3 and up (because of Bluetooth LE requirements). They work together with your smartphone and are not complete stand alone devices.

    The lead designer of the Moto 360 didn't yet detail the exact charging method of the Moto 360, but it doesn't have any physical inputs (like usb) so wireless charging is most likely. He also stressed that power management was central to the design of the Moto 360 but no real details have been given at this moment in time, I guess we will get more information at Google I/O. Also interesting is that app developers don't need to make any modifications, if the app uses notifications in Android they also will automatically work with Google Wear, including actions if the notification is actionable in Android.

    And yes the Moto 360 is indeed scheduled for Summer 2014 release. I must say that it is the first smartwatch that I am interested in buying if everything turns out like now depicted. I'm pretty sure though it will come at a premium price.

  • Reply 14 of 139
    I think the biggest point? Growth in both iOS and android is likely to be near the plateau. Lines are drawn. Simply, most people are eithe Android [B]OR[/B] iOS at this point. So this is just an extension of the ecosystem.
  • Reply 15 of 139
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    starbird73 wrote: »
    I think the biggest point? Growth in both iOS and android is likely to be near the plateau. Lines are drawn. Simply, most people are eithe Android OR iOS at this point. So this is just an extension of the ecosystem.


    There are only three categories unless some dramatic changes are forthcoming:
    • Apple users
    • Future Apple users
    • Luddites
  • Reply 16 of 139
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,509member
    'Et tu'
    Doesn't means thing in French. It should be
    'et toi'
  • Reply 17 of 139
    chipsychipsy Posts: 287member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ClemyNX View Post



    'Et tu'

    Doesn't means thing in French. It should be

    'et toi'



    You're right, unless he is quoting Shakespeare it should be 'et toi'.

  • Reply 18 of 139
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,611member
    You can always hire good designers to come up with nifty prototypes. But execution? Supply chain management? Process innovation to mass produce those nifty prototypes? Google doesn't even come close.
  • Reply 19 of 139
    The only market for "wearable tech" is really going to be for people whose bodies aren't working properly.
  • Reply 20 of 139
    gilly33gilly33 Posts: 237member
    sflocal wrote: »

    What the hell is this?  Apple was rarely the first in any market... last time I checked, smart phones were around before the iPhone.  Tablets were around before the iPad.  Music players were around before the iPod.  Please Mr. AI "Author", elaborate in detail what you meant by "first time".  It's just plain wrong.


    The only difference with the "iWatch" or whatever Apple decided to do in this area, is that other players like Samsung, and now Google have been coming out with sheer crap, simply to say they came out before Apple did and not look like copycats.  Of course, it won't matter because once Apple comes into the game, everyone else will simply copy what Apple did, and then claim their copy-device was simply an "evolving" design.


    Apple shows the rest of the industry just how bad and clueless they are when it comes to quality, polished products.  


    Googe crap is just for the tech-heads that feel they need to play with their hardware while in a restaurant setting.

    Great response. I agree with you. Apple May come late but they tend to do it better. I wonder if no iPhone what the heck we would be using as smartphones as far aesthetics and the like. No one can stay on top forever but I'm not counting Apple out yet.
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