Google announced Android Wear, which it described as “a project that extends Android to wearables”, looking to capitalise on forecasted growth in the sector.
It said that it is working with consumer electronics manufacturers including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, MediaTek and Qualcomm, and “fashion brands like the Fossil Group” to bring watches powered by Android Wear to market “later this year”.
Focusing initially on “the most familiar wearable – watches”, Google said that the intention is for “a range of new devices along with an expansive catalogue of apps” to enable users to access notifications from apps such as social networks, messaging titles and others; to receive “straight answers to spoken questions”; monitor health and fitness; and access and control other devices.
The focus on the watch is also interesting, because the largest backer of Android in smartphones, Samsung, recently announced it is using the fledgling Tizen platform in its latest smart watches, putting it on a different path to Google in this market. But the South Korean company’s inclusion on the list of supporters for Android Wear indicates that it is hedging its bets, a not unfamiliar strategy.
The most obvious name missing from the current list of supporters is Sony, which has recently made much of its push into the wearables space. The consumer electronics giant has already launched several generations of smart watches.
LG was quick to tout its involvement, saying in a statement that it is “one of Google’s lead partners in this effort”, and that it is “planning to introduce its first watch powered by Android Wear in the second quarter of 2014”.
In order to attract developers to Android Wear, Google has made available a preview of the platform to enable apps to be tailored to support the wearables. It said that “because Android for wearables works with Android’s rich notification system, many apps will already work well”.
Developers can use an emulator to see how notifications will appear on square and round Android Wear devices, and also supported are new APIs which will enable apps to be customised to accept voice replies to notifications, feature additional pages, and stack with similar notifications.
“In the coming months we’ll be launching new APIs and features for Android Wear devices to create even more unique experiences for the wrist,” Google said in a blog post.