Google on Thursday officially rebranded Android Wear into Wear OS, having confirmed the new name of its wearable platform only several days after rumors of its intentions to do so originally emerged. The Mountain View, California-based tech giant said the move is a result of a conscious decision to move away from the Android brand which is meant to reflect the fact that not all Android Wear users also own Android-powered smartphones. Every third consumer who purchased an Android Wear device in 2017 was an iPhone user, with the new name hence being indicative of the inclusive nature of the company’s wearable ecosystem, Google said. Going forward, the full official moniker of the operating system will be “Wear OS by Google,” though it’s presently unclear whether the firm and its partners will also be using a shortened name of the platform in their promotional materials.
The change doesn’t affect the underlying technology enabling Wear OS, with the software still being based on the same Linux kernel used by the mobile version of Android and its niche variants such as Android Go, whereas developing and updating Wear OS apps still requires the latest build of Google’s Android Studio and SDKs. The rebranding also comes with a new logo that appears to feature some elements of the Google Assistant logo, with the move likely being indicative of the increasingly growing importance of the artificial intelligence helper in the smartwatch ecosystem. The Alphabet-owned company says the platform was meant to be entirely inclusive since its inception, suggesting the new name is more in line with that vision. The development marks the first rebranding of the OS that Google originally launched in early 2014, with Wear OS being set to celebrate its fourth anniversary on Sunday.
To date, Google’s partners created more than 50 Android Wear-powered watches and while the platform is presently lacking a contemporary chip to back it, it’s still gaining commercial momentum, with the company’s internal estimates indicating a 60-percent annual growth in activations over last year’s holiday season. Android Wear officially received iOS support in 2015 and owners of Apple’s mobile devices are now apparently fueling at least a third of its yearly growth. The update that will rebrand the OS will be rolling out to users on a global level over the coming weeks and should be followed by new functionalities, tweaks, and optimizations.
The rebranding comes amid widespread criticism that Google effectively abandoned its wearable platform and indirectly dispells that notion, though the firm has yet to share any concrete details regarding its plans for future major software upgrades, the last one of which was launched in the form of Android Wear 2.0 over a year ago. While it’s presently unclear how many hardware partners are still committed to the ecosystem, Fossil Group Chief Strategy and Digital Officer Greg McKelvey said the Richardson, Texas-based company is one of them, suggesting more Fossil smartwatches are set to be released going forward. In an emailed statement, Mr. McKelvey revealed Fossil almost doubled its wearable unit last year, estimating the division is now generating $300 million in revenue on an annual basis. Even though new features and improvements are meant to follow going forward, the initial version of Wear OS will still be “pretty much the same experience” as Android Wear, the industry veteran said. While Google has yet to attempt to create a smartwatch role model for the rest of the industry to follow in a move reminiscent of its Pixel initiative, new Wear OS devices may be announced as soon as next week when Baselworld 2018 is set to take place, being the latest iteration of the world’s largest watch and jewellery trade show.