It’s official. Today, Google beat Apple in the two companies’ unspoken race to announce a new smartwatch. Android Wear looks pretty amazing, and so does the beautiful Moto 360, which Motorola says will launch this summer. Following today’s news, we’re seriously tempted to commit to Google’s new vision for the future of wearable technology, but what about the iWatch?
Apple’s rumored smartwatch is just that, a rumor, but we still have a pretty good sense of how it might work and more specifically how it will differ from Google’s rival platform. All signs point to an iWatch that’s focused on tracking your health. Tim Cook famously hinted that the device could be chock full of sensors, one of the developers behind Nike’s fitness-tracking FuelBand joined just Apple last summer, and recent rumors suggest the iWatch could even track your blood oxygen levels. If you’re a fitness buff, the iWatch will probably be the smartwatch for you.
Google’s announcement today didn’t mention the word “health” once. Instead it focused on maps, contextual information and voice controls, all areas where the company already excels with powerful services like Google Now and Google Maps. Apple Maps and Siri are still both a work in progress years after their initial release. So if your number one priority is interacting with the world around you and getting relevant information as quickly as possible you’ll probably prefer the Moto 360 or another Android Wear smartwatch.
It may seem like I’m arguing that the iWatch and Android Wear will be as different as night and day, the first focusing entirely on monitoring the user’s body while the second is aimed outward at the rest of the world. Of course, it won’t be that simple. Companies partnering with Google will likely create Android Wear devices with impressive sensor and fitness tracking capabilities of their own. Meanwhile, Apple Maps and Siri are expected to receive major updates this year with iOS 8. It’s even possible Google could release its own apps for iWatch—assuming it features an App Store. The two platforms will certainly overlap in feature sets, just like iOS and Android do.
Even so, understanding what you personally want from a smartwatch before you decide between Google and Apple’s offerings will increase the chances that you make the right choice. Both devices will come with plenty of features, but how many will they really excel at? As hardware and pricing are announced we’ll be able to compare our options with greater ease, but the most important factor will likely still be that original driving purpose behind each platform. The choice between Android Wear and iWatch may not be so difficult after all.