DL Says

Time is ripe for a Google Watch

With the launch of Wear OS by Google that can be used by many third-party watch makers, Google can create much-needed buzz by making its own watches

A security guard keeps watch as he walks past a logo of Google in Shanghai, China.PHOTO: REUTERS

Android Wear is dead, long live Wear OS.

Last week, tech giant Google announced that Android Wear, the operating system (OS) for its wearables, has been re-named Wear OS by Google. Or simply, Wear OS.

The timing of this announcement is uncanny, as Baselworld - the most important annual event for watches - starts tomorrow.

In a blog post last week, Wear OS' director of product management Dennis Troper said the new name will ''better reflect our technology, vision and most important of all - the people who wear our watches''.

But perhaps the most important point from Mr Troper's post is that in 2017, one out of three new Android Wear watch owners used an Apple iPhone.

Clearly, Google wants consumers to realise that they do not need to have an Android smartphone to use an Android Wear smartwatch.

Google is aiming for mass appeal. We will probably hear more details about Wear OS either at Baselworld or at Google's I/O developer conference in May.

For now, Google has not said whether the new Wear OS will be a significant upgrade or merely a face-lift of Android Wear 2.0. I certainly hope it is the former.

The Android Wear 2.0 - released around 13 months ago - has not seen any significant updates for a while. It took 21/2 years for Android Wear to move from 1.0 to 2.0, but I hope the next big update will be faster.

Meanwhile, Apple Watch and its watch OS have made leaps and bounds in performance and functionalities.

And never mind the smartwatch market, Apple is beating even the big names of the traditional watch market.

Apple sold more watches in the last quarter of last year than the likes of Rolex, Omega and Swatch combined in the same period, according to estimates from research firms Canalys and IDC. Canalys estimated that eight million Apple Watches were sold in that quarter.

But despite its stellar sales, the Apple Watch has one big flaw. From its first to current generation, all the Apple Watches have looked essentially the same be they the basic or Hermes version.

This is where Wear OS has the advantage.

It has many third-party makers, including luxury brands such as Tag Heuer, Montblanc and Louis Vuitton, delivering Wear OS smartwatches with different designs and variations. However, I think there is a need for Google to show commitment in its Wear OS. And to do so, I feel Google should launch its own smartwatch.

If Google can come up with its own Pixel smartphones, surely it can launch its own line of smartwatches. Not only will it make a statement, but it will also create a buzz for Wear OS. And buzz is what I think Google's watch platform is sorely lacking now.

Not to mention, with Google joining the smartwatch manufacturing fray, it can help secure new and faster Wear OS processors for itself and its partners. It will be a win-win situation.

Google Watch, Google?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'Time is ripe for a Google Watch'. Print Edition | Subscribe