Market Insight

Google extends Android Wear reach with iPhone compatibility

September 03, 2015


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Google’s smartwatch and wearables operating system, Android Wear, now officially supports basic functionality on iPhone. The features available for iPhone users on Android Wear smartwatches are limited to Google’s own apps and general notifications and exclude third party apps.

Initially, only three Android Wear smartwatches are officially compatible: the Huawei Watch, the ASUS ZenWatch 2, and the LG Watch Urbane – the only one of the three currently on sale.

Our analysis:

This is not the first time that Google’s hardware is compatible with iOS. Google’s experiment with eye-wear, Google Glass, was also compatible with iPhones in addition to Android and offered very similar functionality.

This is a big step for the smartwatch industry. To date, iPhone users’ choices of smartwatches were limited to:

  • The Apple Watch series: that offers the greatest functionality but is by far the most expensive.
  • Pebble’s smartwatches: which offered great battery life but less functionality, and did not offer a premium design.
  • Other OS smartwatches such as Alcatel’s Watch which offered a limited smartwatch experience.

Android Wear smartwatches have the variety, functionality, and scale to truly compete with the Apple Watch for the wrists of iPhone users. In addition, iPhone users who found the Apple Watch too expensive can now purchase a smartwatch from a larger selection of choices for a lower price. However, while Android Wear smartwatches will work with iPhones the lack of third-party app support will mean that the experience will not be as complete as an Apple Watch + iPhone or Android Wear + Android smartphone pairing.

For Google, ensuring iPhone compatibility is necessary as iPhones are aimed at users with a higher disposable income. By adding iPhone compatibility, and with a smartwatch from Swiss watch maker TagHEUER on the way, Google can better address the premium end of the smartwatch market.

However, Apple also stands to benefit from Android Wear compatibility. Samsung and Apple are now the two major smartphone OEMs offering the greatest range of smartwatch compatibility. iPhones will work with Apple Watch, Android Wear, and other OSes but not Tizen, and Samsung smartphones will work with Tizen smartwatches, Android Wear, and other OSes but not Apple WatchOS. This will make potential smartwatch users’ decision a bit easier in terms of which smartphone to go for, if they are unsure about their preferred smartwatch platform. While there is greater competition in the smartwatch market it could benefit the smartphone business for both companies. 

 

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