Google has, out of the blue, announced Android Wear - a version of Android designed specifically for watches. With no similarly impressive-looking iWatch on the horizon, Apple must be kicking itself.
Both LG and Motorola have revealed smartwatches that will be running Android Wear, and the LG will be the first Google watch to hit shelves when it lands sometime between April and June this year.
Android Wear watches will support notifications from apps and messages and Google Now voice control will play a prominent role in interacting with the watches, as the videos below show.
The core functionality of Android Wear smartwatches is based on search and contextual awareness.
As with Google Glass, saying "OK Google" will initiate a search, which you can then use to look up information, open apps or even send messages - it'll transcribe your voice. Frankly, it looks stunning.
Other scenarios imagined in the promo videos include functionality we're familiar with from the Google Now app, such as reminders of your meetings, navigation info for how to get there and real-time feedback on your arrival time. The context awareness will also extend to flashing up QR code tickets when you're at the airport or cinema and warnig you if there are jellyfish in the sea when you're jogging down the beach to catch some waves.
Naturally, Google watches will have wellness in mind too, with exercise tracking and reminders being a part of the device's repertoire.
Android Wear devices will also let you fire up a music playlist on your smartphone or tablet, as well as cast a film to your TV. Yes, that is cool.
It's not yet clear how the devices will operate, but Google has created a beta SDK for developers so that existing apps can send notifications to Google watches powered by Android Wear. On the developer video, Android's Director of Engineering David Singleton says the preview SDK "will allow you to extend your Android applications still running on phones and tablets to provide ricer experiences for the new form factor," which suggests that rather than doing all the hard graft themselves, Android Wear watches are mirrors for the Android phones and tablets with which they're paired. That's good news for battery life, a constant issue for wearables - particularly those with nice, big colour screens.
The first Android Wear devices are the square LG G Watch and circular Motorola Moto 360, but we can expect to see many more Android Wear-powered watches over the coming months: other partners include Asus, HTC, Fossil and Samsung, who clearly haven't written off Android as a smartwatch platform just yet, despite dropping it in favour of Tizen for its follow-up Galaxy Gear 2 and Galaxy Gear Neo devices.
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Indeed, Singleton says "We're working with consumer electronics manufacturers, chip makers and fashion brands who are committed to fostering an ecosystem of watches in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes." Sounds like there will be an interesting variety on offer.
For now, let's take a closer look at what LG and Motorola have prepared.
LG G Watch - square and business-like
LG's G Watch opts for a Sony Smartwatch 2-esque square design, but most of the finer details are still under wraps. It'll be 'compatible with a range of Android smartphones', and like all G Wear devices will be voice-activated: say 'OK Google' and it'll spring into action just as the Motorola Moto X smartphone does. The G Watch appears to take other design cues from its maker's past Google-branded efforts: there's more than a hint of Nexus 4 in its finish.
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Other details: the LG G Watch will 'present a low barrier of entry for developers and offer the best experience for users', reads the PR. This suggests it should rely on standard developer tools and, hopefully, won't cost too much - two key elements to getting the whole wearable trend off the ground and on people's wrists. It'll be out in Q2 2014.
Update 08/04/14: Pocket-lint has confirmed that the LG G watch will land before the end of July for less than £180 (approximately S$377). Either way, it's going to look tempting next to the Samsung Gear 2 which is priced at S$398.
The Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit are cheaper at S$298 and S$268 respectively, and we'll have to wait and see what goodies the LG G watch is packing before we can truly compare which choice offers more bang for your buck. Stay tuned.
Motorola Moto 360: circular and sexy
There's not much detail about Motorola's 360 aside from a picture showcasing a rather gorgeous circular screen and what appears to be a sensor on the back - could this be a fitness and wellness tracker that captures heart rate data in addition to providing notifications, navigation and search? That would seem sensible to us.
Moto's dabbled in circular screens before - remember the beautiful Aura feature phone? - so although it looks like a concept device, the 360 is entirely plausible in its design. According to the site, it'll be available in summer 2014… and frankly, it looks stunning. We could actually see ourselves wearing this, just as we could Gabor Bologh's beautiful smartwatch concept. Still - who needs fantasy now?
We'll have more on both watches and on Android Wear as details emerge, as we're as excited to see what's next as you are. Stay tuned.
Update 20/03/14: Moto has dripped out a little more information on the Moto 360. For starters, it's confirmed that there's no charging port or pin, which gives the watch a clean, natural look. It's keeping mum on the details, but we're assuming the 360's battery supports wireless charging.
Speaking of which, while the exact battery life hasn't been shared, Motorola stressed that it's aware of the importance that consumers place on battery life and that battery life was one of the most important priorities when designing the 360. Sounds promising.
Pricing and availability remain a mystery, but Motorola has confirmed that the 360 will launch globally on the summer.
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