When Android Wear smartwatches first became available on devices like the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, they set themselves apart in two key ways. One of which was the built-in microphone and the other was the touchscreen. The popular Pebble had neither of these at the time, and the Apple Watch – which incorporates both – was still just a pipedream, making Android Wear something of a trendsetter. When it launched however, it left users with just that microphone, and of course their voice, as an input method. For a lot of people, this isn't a problem, as using their voice comes naturally to them, but others are a little more conservative. As such, it's no wonder keyboards for Android Wear have appeared, with Snapkeys' announcement of it heading to round smartwatches making the news this week. The question is however, do we really need a keyboard on our smartwatches?
Google Now does a pretty decent job of understanding what you're asking, when you're asking it, but I think we've all had that "offline" notification where your watch suddenly decides you're no longer connected for whatever reason. A keyboard would certainly be a nice way of getting around that, but it's also a hell of a lot slower. Many of us probably ask our watches each morning to remind us to do a few things with our voice, but imagine typing "remind me to buy milk on my way home" with a small keyboard on a small display. It can't end up being that much fun, but then neither is asking your watch the same question in a crowded room. The looks that those of us living in the Future can get at times are a little off-putting at times.
There are pros and cons for having a keyboard and not having a keyboard, but the more worrying thing here is not so much whether or not we should have one, but if Google lets us. Android Wear is still really flexible, but unlike the version of Android we know and love from smartphones and tablets, Android Wear isn't available as open source code, making it much harder for developers to really tap into its possibilities. Snapkeys is not the first keyboard app out there on Android Wear, there are many others available out there, but due to Android Wear's limitations they're mostly tied to a special messaging app. Either that or they can only work with a certain, select few apps and their notifications. This isn't a great turn of events, but the persistence of enterprising Android developers getting keyboards and other solutions to problems Google themselves could make Android Wear a better place. Whether or not we need one is, in the world of Android, fairly irrelevant. It's choice that we all want, and hopefully Google realizes this and gives developers more power to integrate their apps into the hear of Android Wear over time.