After Google’s I/O conference came and went without a word about Android Wear devices working with iOS, we thought the rumor might be too good to be true. But beginning today, Google says a select number of Android Wear devices (and anything else that’s announced this week) will work with iOS (iOS 8.2 and higher; iPhone 5c all the way up to the iPhone 6 Plus). The Verge got the skinny on the big news, saying an app that features compatibility should be available soon. The Apple Watch, selling like hot cakes or not, is about to get some major competition.
As you’d expect, iPhone users won’t quite get the full Android Wear experience because of Apple’s control over iOS. But it does still do a lot; notifications are mirrored; you get Google Now cards; you can use third-party watch faces; there are a few native apps; voice search works; fitness tracking capabilities are there; and there are even some apps, like Calendar and Gmail, that support rich notifications.
However, you won’t be able to install third-party apps directly on your Android Wear device, and you won’t be able to reply to incoming texts. Some annoying limitations, but that really comes down to Apple’s control over iOS more than Google holding features back. Hopefully over time Apple will loosen its restrictions, but for now, Google is just happy it would bring Android Wear to iOS.
“Basically, like any other iOS developer, we work with Apple to make sure we understand and abide by their guidelines, what the policies for the apps are,” Jeff Chang, lead product manager for Android Wear, told The Verge. “That’s what we’re doing, and we’ll continue to do that as we make updates to the app in the future.”
Based on what Google told The Verge, it doesn’t sound like iPhone users will be able to take advantage of interactive watch faces, which is one of Android Wear’s biggest updates in a while. Still, users will get a pretty feature-rich experience, one that signals an exciting new frontier for both Android Wear and iPhone users.
Although Google recognizes that the Android Wear experience for iOS is pretty basic right now, Chang explained that he hopes consumers will still take to the company’s wearable experience, especially since some devices are priced so competitively compared to the Apple Watch. With IFA this week, we’re expecting plenty of new Android Wear devices to be announced, including a few different models from Motorola.
As of now, only three watches offer full support: Huawei Watch, Asus ZenWatch 2, and LG Watch Urbane; two of them aren’t even out yet, but they will be soon. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though Google will be supporting older watches in order to “guarantee a good experience.” Once we see more Android Wear devices announced this week, we’ll have a much better picture of what kind of lineup iPhone users have access to. If the Apple Watch isn’t your thing, you’ll soon have plenty more options to choose from.