Earlier this month, Google shut down the Android Wear section of the Google Store with an explanation that it's now only planning on using its digital marketplace to sell products made by and for the company's first-party products. The move came shortly after the tech giant's San Francisco event which saw the announcements of the Pixel 2 smartphones, two new Google Home smart speakers, and a variety of other consumer electronics, with one exception – smartwatches. Despite the fact that Google is now quite literally buying talent in order to fuel its hardware ambitions, it seems that the firm has no interest in making an Android Wear device, or at least it has yet to drop some hint suggesting the opposite.
That state of affairs is kind of surprising given how the company has been taking the exact opposite approach with… well, pretty much every other segment of consumer electronics in which it got itself involved in recent times; there are now Google smartphones, Google speakers, Google Chromebooks, Google earbuds, Google virtual reality headsets, Google cameras, and Google Wi-Fi extenders. Sure, not all of the company's consumer-oriented hardware efforts ended up paying off but even segments in which it pretty much failed like with Google Glass at least saw it attempt to do something. Yet Android Wear continues chugging along without Google showing interest into trying to make a device that would serve as a benchmark for original equipment manufacturers, a device like the Google Pixel 2 or the new Pixel 2 XL. Sure, Google claims its Pixel family isn't meant to directly or even spiritually succeed the Nexus lineup in the sense it's about showing OEMs how things should be done, but that's pretty much what the 2016 Pixel phones ended up being and what their follow-ups are likely to be as well. With maybe two million of the original Pixel flagships sold, Google is hardly making a killing on its phones and is obviously still using them to promote the Android ecosystem as a whole, so why not do the same for Android Wear, especially since the worst thing that can happen is a relatively insignificant loss for a company that shrugs off bad investments like $12.5 billion for Motorola in a matter of quarters?
Following the release of the last critically acclaimed Android Wear smartwatches from a consumer electronics maker in February, the ecosystem was largely taken over by traditional fashion companies like Fossil and Louis Vuitton who made some alright devices but unsurprisingly seem to be valuing style over substance which is a notion that your average gadget enthusiast probably won't appreciate. These days, Android Wear (2.0) is mostly debuting alongside devices like the Michael Kors Access Sofie, pretty and expensive packages lacking basic functions like a heart rate monitor and NFC connectivity, with things like GPS and cellular connectivity also being a distant dream for anyone looking for a wearable that isn't just a fashion accessory that can relay your notifications. With prices starting at $350, those devices are hardly helping the Android Wear ecosystem reach more consumers and possibly come a bit closer to the undisputed leader in the smartwatch segment – Apple. As Google is essentially marketing the Pixel smartphones at traditional iPhone buyers and with that strategy presumably yielding some results seeing how the company appears to be adamant to keep following it in the future, why not try the same thing with Android Wear?
As things stand right now, Android Wear is stagnating at best and becoming even more irrelevant at worst. The platform itself isn't (completely) open source but also doesn't have any particularly strict requirements for OEMs seeing how $350 Android Wear devices with no Android Pay appear to be a thing. Those few manufacturers like LG Electronics that are trying to deliver solid products with Google's OS have now been kicked out of the Google Store because they didn't have the foresight to submit their devices for "Made For Google" certification months before the program actually existed. Could you even certify a smartwatch as a "Made For Google" device? Google isn't really clear on that for some reason.
Since some important components of Android Wear are close-sourced, Google's decision to maintain a relatively firm grasp over an ecosystem it has yet to use itself appears rather strange. Google may be targeting Apple consumers with its Pixel devices but is hardly trying to act like Apple as far as general ecosystem development is concerned. While the company may already be working on a Pixel Watch or a similar device, it's hard not to wonder how wrong its efforts to commercialize such a wearable went given how more than three and a half years passed since Android Wear was released. Google took 16 months to follow up on its Android launch with the Nexus One yet somehow isn't able to come up with a serviceable Android Wear product in all this time? Then again, today's Google is significantly different to the 2010 one and even the later Nexus devices were hardly cheap so maybe the problem isn't making a Pixel Watch or another first-party wearable in 2017 – it's finding a reason to charge Apple Watch prices for it.
In overall, Android Wear isn't the only aspect of Google's current product endeavors that doesn't seem to be going in any particular direction but consequently appears to be symptomatic of a larger problem at the company – lack of direction. The OS, like many other services previously debuted by the Mountain View-based tech giant, was launched and left to various manufacturers without so much as a timely update roadmap; just remember how significantly the 2.0 update was delayed. As a result of that seemingly lackadaisical approach, Android Wear is currently pretty much a non-factor in the consumer electronics industry and someone needs to take the reigns before it's too late. If that someone isn't Google and if those reins aren't called the Pixel Watch or something along those lines, then there's a solid change that Android Wear dies out just like many previous initiatives from the company did because as pretty as they look, Louis Vuitton and Tag Heuer's watches won't save this wearable platform any more than HP managed to save Windows Phone.