Android Wear: Could Xiaomi Launch an Affordable Smartwatch?

Last week, we discussed the relatively boring summer of releases that Android Wear is going to have to endure before Android Wear 2.0 launches in the Fall. This week however, we're hearing that Xiaomi could be ready to launch a smartwatch. Rumors have been swirling for some time now, and just today we saw evidence of the smartwatch category on Xiaomi's own website. While some of you will know Xiaomi as the company that makes some killer smartphones with small, small price tags, but the company is much more than that. They make tablets, smart devices like the Mi Band pictured above, a smart scale, smart lightbulbs and lamps and a whole lot more. As such, it should come as no surprise that the company appears to be actively gearing up to launch their own smartwatch.

The big question here seems not to be one of when, but one of what software it will run? Android Wear is, as we should expect of Google, a platform that depends heavily on Google Play Services, which just doesn't exist in China. Instead, we see companies like ZTE launching their Axon Watch - which we went hands-on with during MWC 2016 - running Tencent's TOS+. Tencent is a large Chinese company that offers all sorts of different products, including the popular WeChat, and considering that there's no Google in China, they had to make their own smartwatch operating system. While a lot of more affordable smartwatches out of China run their own proprietary OS, if they aren't then Tencent's options is one of the better choices. It's unlikely that Xiaomi is to go this route however.

Instead, the firm is more likely to have created their own Android-based smartwatch platform based around the look and feel of their MIUI custom ROM that runs on Xiaomi smartphones and tablets. This wouldn't be too difficult for them to do, as Android can - more or less - be shoehorned into anything, and the developers at Xiaomi clearly know what they're doing. Could Xiaomi use Android Wear however? Well, if they were to somehow persuade Google to let them have unprecedented access to Android Wear to modify it to work in China, they yes, they could. However, this is unlikely to happen. Despite the Android TV-powered Xiaomi box we saw during Google I/O, Android Wear is simply too dependent on Google Play Services to work in China. This leaves Xiaomi with really only the one option, to go it alone and create their own operating system.

From here on the question becomes whether or not they can do it. With Xiaomi's Mi Band sending waves throughout the wearable industry for not only being cheap but very, very capable and the smartwatch word will be watching to see what they do next.

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Tom Dawson

Former Editor-in-Chief
For years now I've had a heavy interest in technology, growing up with 8-bit computers and gaming consoles has fed into an addiction to everything that beeps. Android saved me from the boredom of iOS years ago and I love watching the platform grow. As an avid reader and writer nothing pleases me more than to write about the exciting world of Android, Google and mobile technology as a whole.