Android Wear: Should Manufacturers be Given More Freedom?

Huawei Watch Jewel AH 1

In the world of Android, we’ve become accustomed to the myriad of different brands and manufacturers putting their own twist on Android. While this has caused some friction in some circles, it has given certain devices a unique sense of identity and now that most of these skins have been toned down somewhat, they often add a little more value, too. The case is no more clear than it is with Android tablets, stock Android might be just fine and dandy for a lot of users on smartphones, but on tablets it can feel stark and limited. The added features from the likes of Samsung and Sony often make an Android tablet a hell of a lot more useful out of the box, but in the world of Android smartwatches, there’s none of this. The only thing that device manufacturers can realistically change with their Android Wear watches is the different watch faces they include and include some different apps. Is it about time that this changed?

For the majority of people, Android Wear tells the time, handles notifications fairly well, and perhaps tracks some activity here and there. There’s not really much outside of this basic functionality that people do with Android Wear, or that Android Wear can even do at this point. Sure, there are lots of very sophisticated Android Wear apps available in the Play Store these days, with more of them being added all of the time, but for the most part, Android Wear hasn’t changed that much. Android Wear 2.0, launching this Fall, is set to change of all that, but will that just continue the same sort of problem? That problem being that Android Wear doesn’t do enough, and that users are clearly getting bored of their watches, or simply not looking to purchase one running Android Wear.

It’s great that we can go ahead and purchase a Huawei Watch, or an LG Watch Urbane and still get the same sort of experience. It’s important that this decision was made when Android Wear was new, as it needed to grow and feel out what people wanted to do with their smartwatches. Now however, there’s an issue of less and less exciting things to do with your smartwatch. I’m on my third Android Wear smartwatch, and fifth overall, and I wouldn’t ever go back to not wearing one. That doesn’t mean that I do all that much with my current Fossil Q Founder. I use it for messaging, triaging notifications to keep my sanity and that’s about it. I have a few apps here and there, but I don’t really do much outside of the core functionality offered, and I’m beginning to wonder if letting manufacturers add their own special source could turn this around.


Going back to the Android tablet example, manufacturers like Samsung have made their tablets seem infinitely more capable, even though – at the very core of it all – they do the same as any other Android tablet. This is because of the different themes, the different default applications and a general focus on making sure that users have something to do right out of the box, whereas Android is more than happy to let users feel things out for themselves, often with very little guidance. Using Samsung as an example again here, they were able to make an excellent user interface using a spinning watch face on the Gear S2, and this got people excited. Manufacturers simply can’t do that on Android Wear, even if it were a simple option to scroll through the same menu as other watches. Ironically, Huawei, who are known for one of the best Android Wear watches out there, are also known for creating one of the most infuriating smartphone skins out there. As is so often the case, it seems as though there are as many pros as there are cons for letting manufacturers get more of their own way with Android Wear, but isn’t it about time that Google started risks, that they started to truly let Android Wear grow on its own steam?