Last night, during Google’s I/O keynote, Google announced big things were happening with their Android Wear platform. Although the release of the Apple Watch might have drowned out the initial release of Android Wear, Google stepped up and announced that users now have access to over 4,000 apps for Android, many of them even free. Plus, with Android being an open source platform, apps are constantly being developed and released by developers not affiliated with Google.
Apple, on the other hand, already is leading the way for wearables. With a solid fan base willing and eager to spend hundreds on their next Apple device, sales of the Apple Watch are monumental compared to any other wearables.
With so many choices available for wearables, let’s look into key differences of Android Wear vs. Apple Watch and areas they both can use improvement in.
Tethered to your Phone
All wearables are designed to be used in conjunction with a phone with varying degree of flexibility. Google ran into trouble with the Google Glass because although you could read messages and emails, there was no way to respond, tethering you tightly to your phone. I strongly believe that an inherent (an unavoidable until we get mind-reading technology) flaw of a product like the Google Glass led Google to rethink completely tethering your phone to your wearable. Google cut the cord as much as they could with their Android Wear platform by making sure that the watch was completely useable even when you didn’t have your phone nearby. Apple Watch isn’t quite as versatile. Even though it still maintains limited functionality (tell time, access to health/wellness apps, able to play music stored on the device, Apple Pay) when your phone is left at home, you can’t synch up or send new messages or access many of the apps.
Some experts have compared Apple Watch to a “second screen” for the iPhone which is a fairly true depiction of the device. Android Wear also relies on your phone but can connect using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, meaning that unless your phone needs some juice, your watch is fully functional. Neither device have full functionality without the use of your phone.
A More Discreet Way to Check Messages?
Glancing down at a watch is the universal way to say you’re running late. I’ve already had some early adopters of both Apple Watch and Android Wear tell me that the whole “discreet” factor is not there yet and it’s really not the devices fault. Until we see a cultural shift, almost any situation where it would be inappropriate to pull out your smartphone to check for notifications is likely going to be an inappropriate time to glance at your smartwatch.
With that being said, smartwatches do make it easier to glance for important messages when in a rush or while your hands are full. With the large size of most smartphones, many people are unable to keep in their pocket, storing them away instead in a purse or a bag. Having to dig through your bag to locate your smartphone is alleviated by a simple glance down to find out what the notification is all about. I can imagine it would be useful when traveling as I tend to keep my phone stored away and I always have about 6 things in my hands.
Availability of Apps
Want to get your app on Apple? Not so fast.
Want to get your app on Android? Go right ahead.
One of the key differences between Android Wear and Apple Watch is the same difference between Android and Apple phones: the app store. While it’s fairly easy to get your app accepted into the open source Android Family, Apple has to review and approve every app in their lineup. Plus, they charge a fee for the opportunity to be in their app store.
When the Apple Watch was first released, the app options were limited to big names like Target, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, MLB, American Airlines and other partners with big checkbooks. Because of this, Apple Watch users get the apps that companies are paying big money for, advertising at users in a fairly obvious way. Do Apple Watch users really want to use their new watch to shop at Target?
Android Wear has more apps, and because they are developed by users for users, they focus toward what users really want rather than what a company will pay big money for.
Apple Watch uses Apple Maps. Android Wear uses Google Maps. Enough said.
Although Apple Watch has several of options for bands, the main device is the pretty much identical on all the models (some are coated in gold but still same shape and size). Android Wear on the other hand, because it’s not just one product line but many brands using the same operating system, offers vastly different watch shapes, sizes, bands and more. You could create a watch with a unique band, watch face and be the only one in the world with that exact look.
Pricing (Requires a compatible phone)
Android Wear starts at $199.
Apple Watch starts at $349.
Competition is always good for users because it results in better products as they continue to evolve. Also, these two platforms, Android Wear vs. Apple Watch, aren’t racing as much against each other as they are against public interest. A die-hard Apple fan isn’t likely to make the switch to an Android device(s) (let’s face it, we all have a phone, tablet and computer all synced together) because they like the Android Wear better and vice vera. However, an Android user might decide to move an iPhone if there wasn’t even an option of a smartwatch for their device. By introducing smartwatches, Google isn’t necessarily trying to win over new customers. They’re trying to keep the ones they have.
Now, whether or not smartwatches will be fully adapted as an essential piece of your tech lineup on a whole remains to be seen. Perhaps they’re a fad that’ll fade fast. We’ll see.