An­droid Wear be­comes Wear OS

A new name won’t fix its prob­lems. MICHAEL SI­MON re­ports

Android Advisor - - Con­tents -

Google has an­nounced that it’s chang­ing the name of its wrist-sized OS from An­droid Wear to Wear OS by Google. The re­brand­ing is rolling out now and should start ap­pear­ing on phones and watches in the com­ing weeks.

To say An­droid Wear is in need of a change is some­thing of an un­der­state­ment. Google’s smart­watch OS re­ceived its last ma­jor up­date in

Fe­bru­ary 2017 with ver­sion 2.0, af­ter months of de­lays. It’s been two years since Google an­nounced any new fea­tures to An­droid Wear, and some man­u­fac­tur­ers have aban­doned the plat­form due to low sales.

An­droid Wear started out with lots of prom­ise, but it fiz­zled out al­most as quickly as it ar­rived. While the first crop of watches were praised for their smart, cir­cu­lar de­signs (a di­rect con­trast to the square de­sign of Ap­ple’s Watch), a dearth of fea­tures and buggy per­for­mance kept them from be­ing truly great. Ver­sion 2.0 was sup­posed to fix many of An­droid Wear’s short­com­ings, but a months-long de­lay and a lack of com­mit­ment from pop­u­lar watch­mak­ers such as Len­ovo, kept the An­droid Wear 2.0 launch from be­ing as tri­umphant as it should have been.

And the crop of watches that fol­lowed didn’t help. From the LG Watch Sport to the Huawei Watch 2.0, big and bulky be­came the new norm with An­droid Wear. Gone were the sleek cir­cles we saw with the Moto 360 or orig­i­nal Huawei Watch, re­placed with LTEen­abled be­he­moths that re­quired equally gi­ant wrists. And since mid-2017, we haven’t seen any An­droid Wear watches from man­u­fac­tur­ers other than fash­ion brands with lim­ited func­tion­al­ity.

Where oh Wear?

Since the launch of ver­sion 2.0, An­droid Wear has shifted from a tech-minded OS to a fash­ion-cen­tric one. Out of the hun­dreds of watches based on the plat­form, nearly all of them are from Fos­sil brands such as Michael Kors, Kate Spade, or DKNY, and that could be the rea­son for the change here. If Google is

giv­ing up on wear­ables as tech ac­ces­sories, di­vorc­ing it from the An­droid name will cer­tainly help sales at depart­ment stores. The Google name car­ries far more ca­chet than An­droid does, so the change cer­tainly makes more sense for fash­ion watches.

But it could also bring some sig­nif­i­cant changes to the part of An­droid Wear we care most about. While Ap­ple has pretty much lapped Google in terms of func­tion­al­ity and sales, a new start for An­droid Wear could mean a re­vamp of the in­ter­face and fea­tures. Com­pared to watchOS 4, An­droid Wear 2.0 is out­dated and slow, but it still has a solid foun­da­tion. There’s Google As­sis­tant, an on-watch Play Store, and an ex­cel­lent fit­ness app, as well as sup­port for rich no­ti­fi­ca­tions and mu­sic stream­ing.

Yes, it’s in need of an over­haul, both in terms of soft­ware and hard­ware. I would love to see Google go all-in on Wear OS with a Pixel Watch that of­fers the same level of de­sign and per­for­mance as Google’s phones, with reg­u­lar up­dates, ex­clu­sive fea­tures, and tight in­te­gra­tion with the ecosys­tem. An­droid Wear’s big­gest prob­lem is lack of sup­port, and new brand­ing could give the plat­form a shot in the arm, pro­vided Google com­bines that with real changes.

We’ll have to wait and see if Wear OS rep­re­sents a new chap­ter for Google’s wear­able plat­form. In its an­nounce­ment of the name change, Google notes that it’s “just scratch­ing the sur­face of what’s pos­si­ble with wear­ables and there’s even more ex­cit­ing work ahead”. Whether that means ver­sion 3.0 will be shown off at Google I/O or a com­plete re­design is in the cards is un­known – at least we do know that Google hasn’t com­pletely for­got­ten about it.

The LG Watch Sport is too big for most wrists

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.