The smartwatch race should be over. Apple should have won, but that hasn't exactly been the case. While the Cupertino company remains the leading smartwatch maker, shipments of the Apple Watch have fallen and its market share is slowly diminishing due to increased competition from Samsung, Garmin and traditional watchmakers such as Fossil.
Apple's market share could be further disrupted following the release of Android Wear 2.0. The updated operating system is expected to be released in early February alongside two watches built in a collaboration between LG and Google. Android Wear 2.0 will also add features, such as an on-watch app store, that help make watches less reliant on phones and more compatible with iPhones.
The Apple Watch may be the most popular smartwatch, but it's not the best option for everyone. It only works with the iPhone. Meanwhile, many fitness trackers work across Android and iOS. To change this trend and truly dominate the market, Apple should bring the Watch to Android.
As a long-time Android user and someone who has personally tested dozens of smartwatches, Iwould wear the Apple Watch if it didn't mean switching to an iPhone. It's a great device, but I prefer the deep integration with Google services on my Android phone.
Adding Android support to the Apple Watch could be the final nail in the coffins of Android Wear and Tizen, Samsung's watch operating system. It may also help convert some Apple skeptics to buy other Apple products. Win-win.
Flexibility is key
Apple should follow in the footsteps of Fitbit and Garmin, both of which offer devices that work cross-platform. The Apple Watch remains locked into iOS and an iOS-only fitness hub. If fitness is the Apple Watch's best feature, then Android, at the very least, needs an iOS Activity and Workout app. Or it needs to be able to work with Google Health. Option A obviously makes more sense.
While fitness trackers never seem to have a problem working cross-platform, the experience with smartwatches hasn't always been a great one. Android Wear on iOS doesn't work as well as it does on Android phones (although this may change with Android Wear 2.0), and Samsung's iOS Gear app suffers the same way.
But even with a limited set of basic features, an Apple Watch on Android would be a compelling buy. It would be enough for me -- and possibly for others.
Consider the iPod
You might think this is absurd, but consider the iPod. Apple eventually brought iTunes to Windows, a move many thought would never happen, and it's the reason the iPod became a smash hit. The same can be said about the iPhone. Sales exploded when the phone's US availability expanded beyond AT&T.
Apple is now the world's most valuable company, but Wall Street analysts and critics are raising questions about the company's future. How much longer can it rely on the iPhone?
If Apple wants to win the smartwatch race, it needs to swallow its pride and embrace Android. Or, at the very least, let the Apple Watch become its own iPhone-free accessory.
Android Wear 2.0 will finally arrive in early February
Smartwatches might have failed to take over the world last year, but Google will still make good of its promise to release Android Wear 2.0 in Q1 2017. According to a letter addressed to developers and published byAndroid Police, the long-awaited update to its wearable platform will finally arrive in early February. It was supposed to roll out in late 2016, but Mountain View decided to release a couple of developer previews first. The letter warns developers that Wear 2.0's on-watch Play Store won't show apps that aren't optimized for the platform, so they need to tweak their applications ASAP. Wear 2.0 will also support standalone apps that don't need phones to work.
While the letter didn't mention it, Android Wear 2.0 is expected to launch with a couple of new smartwatches. They won't be Google-branded devices like the Pixel, but they'll serve as the company's flagship products in the smartwatch space. If Google goes through with its plan, we'll see both the platform and the wearables in a few weeks' time.
LG's Nexus-like Android Wear watches emerge in a leak
For months, rumors have circulated of Google formally launching Android Wear 2.0 with a pair of flagship smartwatches -- not Google-designed, but certainly intended as reference models like Nexus phones used to be. But what will they be like? We might just have an idea -- Evan Blass (of @evleaks fame) claims to have details of the two devices, LG's Watch Sport and Watch Style. Both will reportedly arrive on February 9thalongside Android Wear 2.0 itself. They won't have revolutionary specs, if the leak is accurate, but they will be showcases for what Google's latest wearable software can do.
The Watch Style would be the entry-level model with a 1.2-inch, 360 x 360 circular screen, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, a 240mAh battery and connectivity that's limited to Bluetooth and WiFi. You'd really get it because of its looks (there will be rose gold, silver and titanium colors), swappable straps and smaller casing. Supposedly, the Android Policemockup you see at right is a good representation of its looks.
However, the Watch Sport is clearly the star of the show. It'll reportedly center around a 1.38-inch 480 x 480 round display (similar to the Watch Urbane 2nd Edition) and carry cellular data, GPS, a heart rate sensor and support for Android Pay. You should get the same 768MB of RAM as the Urbane, although you'll curiously get a smaller battery (430mAh versus the Urbane's 570mAh). And as the name indicates, you'll get a rougher, tougher design. You may be looking at a reasonable facsimile of it on the left.
It's not certain how much you'll pay for either watch. Blass hears that they'll go on sale in the US on February 10th, though. And that's important. While Casio and New Balance have already shown off Android Wear 2.0 devices that tout more features or will even arrive sooner (in New Balance's case), the LG watches should arrive quickly enough that it'll be worth holding out to see whether or not they're better values.