It was a pretty terrible year for smartwatches not called Apple Watch. With the delay of Android Wear 2.0 until next year, most smartwatch makers decided to take a break.
But while smartwatch mania might have cooled off for now, it looks like the watches are far from dead. They could become a hot thing again if Google has its way.
Jeff Chang, Android Wear’s product manager, says Google will release two smartwatches running Android 2.0 within the first quarter of 2017, reports The Verge.
The confirmation corroborates a report from Android Police this summer that claimed Google was working on two smartwatches.
They will be Google’s first smartwatches. Since its launch, Google has only worked on the Android Wear software and not any hardware, instead relying on third-party companies for the latter. But with Google now dedicating resources to building its own hardware ecosystem, it’s no surprise the company’s preparing its own smartwatches.
The two smartwatches will reportedly not sport the Pixel branding of Google’s flagship phones. The hardware will be built by a company that has made Android Wear smartwatches in the past, although no specific company was identified.
The two smartwatches will reportedly not sport the Pixel branding.
Google recently acquired Cronologics, the wearable company behind the Alexa-equipped CoWatch, to “continue pushing the frontier of wearable technology and smartwatches with Android Wear 2.0 and beyond.” It’s possible their expertise with integrating digital assistants into smartwatches will help make Google’s smartwatches more compelling.
Though no further details were provided by Chang, we can make a few smart predictions.
First, the smartwatches — one larger and one smaller codenamed “Angelfish” and “Swordfish” — if the previous Android Police specifications turn out to be true, will likely feature round displays with crown buttons, and at least one model will support Google’s MODE watch bands.
The larger model might also have built-in LTE and GPS for full independence from a smartphone, similar to how Samsung has untethered its Gear S3 from requiring a Bluetooth connection, or LG’s second-generation Watch Urbane with LTE.
Most importantly, because machine learning and AI are now at the center of everything Google does, the company’s likely to integrate its Google Assistant (found in the Pixels and Google Home) directly into its two flagship Android Wear 2.0 smartwatches. The Assistant could be part of Google’s secret sauce for winning back customers who’ve felt underwhelmed by Android Wear thus far.
It also wouldn’t be surprising for Google’s smartwatches to cost as much as the Apple Watch. The Pixels, after all, are premium phones that cost just as much as the iPhone.
With the demise of Pebble, it’s good to hear smartwatches aren’t dead just yet.