Commentary

Apple Watch should be Android compatible too

Apple Watches are seen on display at the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City.
Apple Watches are seen on display at the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City.PHOTO: REUTERS

I installed the Android Wear app on my iPhone last week. While I am still surprised that Apple would approve the app for its iTunes Store, I couldn't be happier.

The app lets me pair my Motorola Moto 360 Android Wear smartwatch with my iPhone 6 Plus to get incoming calls and e-mail notifications, as well as activate Google Now via voice command with the watch.

The Moto 360 is not listed as an officially supported Android Wear smartwatch for iOS, but it works just fine. Currently, only one smartwatch - the LG Urbane, which is not available in Singapore - is being listed as a supported watch. But that list will include upcoming Android Wear smartwatches like Huawei Watch and Asus ZenWatch 2.

Android is currently the dominant mobile operating system with 82.8 per cent worldwide market share in the second quarter of this year, according to research firm IDC. So this is a market Apple should not overlook when it comes to wearables.

For now, third-party Android Wear apps are not available for iOS.

Nonetheless, Android Wear on iOS is good news for smartwatch aficionados, who can now use an Android Wear smartwatch even if they do not own an Android smartphone. And I feel Apple should follow suit and make Apple Watch compatible with Android smartphones.

That's because cross-platform compatibility is the way to go for smartwatches. Just look at the Pebble smartwatch, which garnered a cult following thanks in no small part to its compatibility with both Android and iOS.

Indeed, Apple's present market cap of US$740 billion (S$1.1 trillion) owes no small part as well to its decision to make iTunes available for Windows.

Remember when the iPod was compatible only with Mac, at a time when Apple's computers had just 4 per cent share of the world's PC market?

In 2002, BusinessWeek Online writer Charles Haddad asked in his column: "Could it (iPod) become a Trojan horse that steals inside fortress Windows and wins over diehard PC fans?"

The late Steve Jobs listened and made iTunes available on Windows in October 2003. iPod sales skyrocketed soon after. In 2003, only 2 million iPods were sold. This figure jumped to 10 million in 2004. This momentum would carry over to the iPhone and iPad.

Android is currently the dominant mobile operating system with 82.8 per cent worldwide market share in the second quarter of this year, according to research firm IDC. So this is a market Apple should not overlook when it comes to wearables.

Apple has said that its music streaming service, Apple Music, will be available for Android later this year. It will be the first time Apple is releasing an Android app. So, making Apple Watch compatible with Android is not such a big stretch.

Respected veteran technology analyst Tim Bajarin predicted that Apple will keep the Apple Watch proprietary to the iPhone for at least the first 18 to 24 months (after launch) before making it compatible with at least Android.

I hope it is sooner - perhaps when Apple's watchOS 2 is released this year.

For the Apple Watch to gain a mass following like its iPhone cousin, going Android is the way to go. The sooner the better.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2015, with the headline 'Apple Watch should be Android compatible too'. Print Edition | Subscribe