Google Watch: What We Know So Far
Google Watch is currently just a rumor but a very strong one. The only presence Google has had in the smartwatch market has been through Android Wear, which is approaching the level of dominance enjoyed by Android in the Smartphone market. In recent years, Google has paid more attention to its Hardware arm, partnering with various companies on a number of devices including Nexus Smartphones and Chromebooks.
So it is not exactly a surprise that the search giant is making plans to create its own smartwatch line instead of just providing an OS for other smartwatches. The rumors have been sparse and the company itself has not given up anything. But if they are really making their own smartwatches, the competition for this rapidly growing market is about to heat up.
Apple currently has the best selling smartwatch. Samsung has also captured a large part of the market with its sleek rounded smartwatches. Other brands like Huawei and Fitbit are also making a splash with their own stylish wearables.
If Google jumps into the fray, they had better have something good for us. Otherwise, it will not matter that they are Google, they will be outpaced by other brands. But knowing Google and their history of great products, we expect nothing but the best. Below is a recap of what we know so far about the Google Watch.
Included are our own educated guesses as to what the company might come up with to rival Apple, Fitbit, Samsung and other smartwatch brands.
Reports are that Google has two differently sized smartwatches in the works. They are codenamed Angelfish and Swordfish, with the former one being the larger model. It is expected that they will bear the Nexus branding, just like Google’s line of phones.
Whether Google has had these plans in the works for long, we do not know. The first reports of Google’s own smartwatches only came out mid 2016.
While signs point strongly to the possibility of a smartwatch from Google, we also cannot discount the possibility that this project will never see the light of day.
Google has killed off plenty of ambitious projects (see project Ara) and it would not be surprising if they redirected their focus elsewhere. The features we speculate on below might also change.
Google Watch Design
Early reports indicate that both watches will be rounded. Increasingly, this seems to be the go-to style for most watch manufacturers. Many companies from Garmin to Huawei have opted for round smartwatches. Samsung started it all with its sleek smartwatches featuring a rotating bezel.
By going for the round style, Google is putting their products directly against Apple’s blocky design. It also joins a field crowded with other similar-styled smartwatches.
Can it come up with a design unique enough to stand out?
Another piece of news that has come down the grapevine is that the watches will not spot the ‘flat tire’.
Motorola smartwatches – both the first and second Moto 360 – have the annoying feature that mars the perfectly round shape.
While it has its use – as an ambient light sensor – the dark flat spot at the bottom of the watch feels more frustrating than beneficial. It is unlikely that Google would add anything that even remotely lowers the user experience.
Angelfish – the larger of the two watches – is reported to carry a thick design perhaps due to the larger battery needed to power up the GPS and heart rate monitor the watch will feature.
With a diameter of 43.5mm and a thickness of 14mm, it is also quite large, maybe a bit too large for people with slim wrists.
Angelfish is designed to be a standalone smartwatch, with as little reliance on your Smartphone as possible.
Hence, the large size is needed to accommodate all the features necessary in making it largely independent.
The smaller timepiece, Swordfish, is smaller and thinner than Angelfish.
It is 4mm thinner than Angelfish and 42mm in diameter.
This is closer in size to Moto 360 and Huawei Watch. The smaller size is enabled by the lack of GPS and LTE capability.
Chances are that it will also not feature a heart rate monitor.
A few other design differences between the two models have been reported. For instance, Angelfish has a flatter and more angular display while the smaller Swordfish has a curvier style both on the display and on the bezel.
It could be that Angelfish is targeted at the ‘masculine’ population while Swordfish, with its smaller diameter and curved look, is designed to look more ‘feminine’. The two models also have differently designed crowns, with the smaller one featuring a unique small crown on the side.
Whatever the case, we can expect some exciting stuff from Google. They are capable of producing something really good and we are hoping they will.
Google Watch Features
This is not a question anyone should be asking. It is obvious that the watches will feature Android Wear. It is not even something to be debated. It is extremely unlikely that they could have a different OS for the smartwatches.
What is worth discussing is the advantage owners of these smartwatches will have. Often, Nexus devices are the first to receive Google updates include new operating systems.
For example, the new Android Nougat is rolling out first to select Nexus Smartphones, giving their users the golden first chance of experiencing the new Android.
The same will most likely happen to Google-made smartwatches. Users will enjoy first priority when it comes to new updates and exciting new features.
Google has worked hard on improving the Android Wear platform. It started out a bit confused and with many hiccups. With the release of the second version, things have become much more streamlined. Google has also introduced iOS-compatibility and standalone smartwatch apps. With Angelfish and Swordfish taking advantage of these developments, they really could be great smartwatches.
Looking at how Google handles the Nexus line of Smartphones, there is a possibility they might equip the smartwatches with a slightly different Android Wear OS.
Earlier this year, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, hinted that Nexus phones could come with a special ‘extra-features’ version of Android. The same could happen with the two planned wearables.
While other smartwatches receive the stock Android Wear, Google’s own smartwatches might come with a more improved version of Android Wear.
2. Google Watch Assistant
Google Assistant was one of the biggest news to break out of Google I/O 2016. It was a step up from Google Now and a direct response to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. Google Assistant was designed to offer a deeply interactive experience with users across different applications from your Google Calendar to Search to Google Photos and so on.
This same capability could and should come to Google smartwatches. Reports suggest that the wearables will come loaded with Google Assistant. There is no clear explanation as to what functionality the virtual assistant will bring to the wearables, but we can make some educated guesses.
The assistant could display contextual alerts based on your current activities and location. It could vastly improve how you experience various apps such as Calendar and Email on the smartwatch. Creating a satisfying user experience on a smartwatch is quite a challenge for many manufacturers, given the tiny screen. Samsung made an excellent shot with a rotating Bezel while Apple Watch fell short of the mark.
Google could use Assistant to make using the watch easy. This means they have to boost its AI capabilities and work on improving speech recognition. If Google Assistant can create a smooth enough user experience on the smartwatches, it could finally give more people a reason to buy a smartwatch.
Currently, overall smartwatch sales are not as robust as expected.
3. Smartphone Independence
One of the most frustrating things about smartwatches is the need to connect them to a Smartphone for them to accomplish anything meaningful. Companies are hard at work trying to create some independence for smartwatches, but too many still over rely on your phone, forcing you to have it with you all the time.
Google is looking determined to cut off this dependency, at least with Angelfish. The larger model smartwatch has enough features to make it fairly independent.
It comes with LTE network connectivity meaning you can receive notifications directly on your smartwatch without connecting to your phone. It has GPS, meaning you can track your runs and rides using the watch only.
It has a heart rate monitor. We are also hoping it will have enough storage for several hundred songs that you can play wirelessly.
With Angelfish Watch – or whatever they decide to call it eventually – connecting to your Smartphone will not be essential to the watch’s function. It will be more of an optional action if you want to access extra features and capabilities. Otherwise the smartwatch seems quite capable on its own.
For Swordfish Watch, the story seems a bit different. It’s important functions will most probably require a wireless connection to your Smartphone, whether Android or iOS. But considering the possibility that it might sell at a much lower price, this makes a lot of sense. In fact, it will be perfect for beginners who want to test the waters with a basic and affordable smartwatch.
4. Other Features
- Removable bands. In early photo renderings, only the smaller model seems to have removable bands with the Angelfish appearing to have non-removable straps. But this could change by the time the devices are launched.
- Fitness tracking. This is a standard feature in almost all smartwatches today and Angelfish seems poised to take it on. With GPS, a heart rate monitor and various other sensors installed, Angelfish will be a sporting wearable as well as a traditional smartwatch.
- Apps for Google Watches. There are chances that Google could introduce special apps just for these smartwatches. They could become test grounds for apps and features that Google plans to introduce on the stock Android Wear OS.
- iOS compatibility. While smartwatches with Android Wear 2.0 can now connect to iPhones, these two smartwatches might feature a better compatibility with iOS. This could be in an effort to provide iPhone users with an alternative to Apple Watch.
Unlike Apple or Samsung or even Huawei, Google is not a hardcore hardware company.
Some of their best products and services include Chrome, Android, AdWords, Search, YouTube, Gmail, Drive and Maps among others. They are known for producing amazing software and platforms. So why, years after smartwatches have taken off, have they now decided to make their own.
There could be several reasons.
- Compete against Apple Watch. Apple has always been Google’s archenemy. They have fought bitterly in the Smartphone arena and look poised to take it further in smartwatches. Google could be creating its own wearables to have a better grip in the competition against Apple Watch. Apple Watch is currently the leading smartwatch in terms of sales, trampling all Android Wear smartwatches. Clearly, this does not sit well with Google.
- Sell Android Wear. This is closely connected to the first point. Google may be feeling like it needs a bigger hand in how Android Wear is used. Maybe current smartwatches like Huawei are not selling it aggressively enough. This could be
introducing some worries especially as Samsung’s proprietary OS on its Gear smartwatches becomes more popular.
- They have some big ideas. It could also be that Google is itching to test out some big wearable ideas and creating its own smartwatches is the best way to go. After all, they have enough money to take big high-reward risks such as this one while brands like Huawei and Fitbit play it safe.
We cannot emphasize enough the tentativeness of what we have described. The entire project may never even come to pass. But from what we know so far, we are around 70% sure it will happen. Even if it happens, the features described here could be completely different from reality. The above is simply an attempt to dissect what Google might come up with.
That being said, we are excited to see what the Mountain View resident comes up with. Will it be a game changer? Will it knock Samsung down the ladder? Will it threaten Apple Watch?
What do you think of Google’s plans to create its own smartwatches and what features would you like to see? Leave your comments below.
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