Android Wear is dead, long live the Wear OS. Google has just rebranded the smartwatch operating system—Android Wear will now be known as Wear OS. The new name is, however, just that, and there are no updates or changes with new hardware or software.
As it turns out, the urgency to change the name was more in tune with the requirements of inclusiveness, more than anything else. “In 2017, one out of three new Android Wear watch owners also used an iPhone. So as the watch industry gears up for another Baselworld next week, we’re announcing a new name that better reflects our technology, vision, and most important of all—the people who wear our watches," says Dennis Troper, Director of Product Management, Wear OS by Google, in an official post announcing the Wear OS. The annual Baselworld watch extravaganza will be held in Basel, Switzerland between March 22-27.
Android Wear was introduced in 2014, as a smartwatch platform—at this time, these watches only worked with Android phones, though Google subsequently added support for the Apple iPhone as well.
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This is perhaps the most attention that the Wear OS (erstwhile Android Wear) has received in almost an year. As it turns out, the last major update that Google rolled out for the watch platform was called Android Wear 2.0, in early 2017—though there have been iterations since to solve performance issues or improve usability. There haven’t been significant Android Wear watch rollouts too, of late, with the Fossil Q Explorist being the latest one of note—the extremely poor battery life put paid to any chances that had, too.
According to research firm Canalys, Apple sold eight million Watches in the final quarter of 2017, which is more than Rolex, Omega and Swatch all put together. In the entire 2017—Apple Watch sales clocked 18 million units, an increase of more than 50% compared with 2016.
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It is expected that watches such as the LG Watch range, Fossil’s Q range and the Huawei Watch 2 will be updated to reflect the new branding of the software beneath. It is also expected that iPhone users will finally be able to see their Google Fit history via a new companion app which will be available sometime in the next few weeks.
At the moment, it is definitely a positive that Google is thinking about the smartwatch, and the software meant for it. This in itself is a start. However, it will take a lot more than just rebranding to regain lost ground in the smartwatch space. According to an analysis by research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), the smartwatch market is expected to grow to 149.5 million shipments by 2021. To be ready for that, Wear OS will need to usher in a completely new approach towards with new features and design, for being in a position to compete against the Apple Watch, and indeed rivals such as Fitbit which are serious about the space too with the existing Ionic watch and the upcoming Versa watch.