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Wear Weekly: After I/O, What’s Next for Android Wear?

June 5, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

Last week was Google I/O 2015, and while there was a lot of fun announcements that point to a healthy future across all of Google’s products, it wasn’t the exciting bonanza of last year’s, which dazzled us with Material Design, Android L, Android Wear, Android Auto and more. Still, the event was a good one, and if you still haven’t caught up, you can read all about it here. During this week’s weekly Android Wear feature, we’ll be looking ahead to the future of Android Wear. After last week, there are a lot of unanswered questions about Android Wear, but there are a lot of things that Google is doing right, and the second half of 2015 should be a good year for the platform as a whole.

During Google I/O last week, we didn’t really see much new from Android Wear. While the wearables platform did get some stage time during the main Keynote, it was mostly just a focus on the Android 5.1.1 update which has recently launched on the Watch Urbane and rolled out to certain other smartwatches. For a lot of us, this was disappointing, as we were expecting perhaps more software announcements for the future or perhaps even more hardware partners jumping on board. However, after looking at things in more detail, Google is taking a different approach to Android Wear than it did with Android in the beginning, and it appears to be working.

Steady Software Changes

The Android 5.1.1 update for Android Wear is easily the biggest that the platform has seen since it’s launch this sort of time last year, which is probably why Google didn’t show off something major during I/O ’15. Since Sundar Pichai took over Android as a whole, we’ve seen two Developer Previews of Android be released months before the final release. Android Wear is a particularly sensitive platform in this regard, after all this is a platform that we’ll be using on our wrists, so it needs to stay familiar. It’s no good reinventing the wheel and breaking user conventions. It’s unlikely we’ll see a big, big change in Android Wear for some time yet, and that’s a good thing. It gives users the chance to get familiar with the software, and developers to understand what users expect. Breaking the wheel is good fun, but it’s no fun learning to put it back together every few months.

Better Watches

Fresh hardware is coming, and we already know a lot about the pricey Huawei Watch that’s launching later this year, and we just saw ASUS announce the ZenWatch 2. In both these cases, two key complaints have been addressed; the Huawei Watch addresses complaints that Android Wear devices are ugly, and ASUS have managed to make battery life a little better compared to the current crop. A new Moto 360 is presumably on the cards for later this year, and there’s also the Tag Heuer Carrera Wearable 01 coming, too.

Hardware is the only thing that can drive Android Wear forward as a platform. Software can only do so much, and if the hardware cannot deliver the required features, battery life or looks then Android Wear will begin to stagnate. Besides, there’s a new Watch in town, that Google and its partners need to compete with now.

What’s next for Android Wear? More great watches, and judging by the amount of apps available already, more intelligent uses for them.