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Less is more, especially with smartwatches

by Justin Herrick | September 8, 2017September 8, 2017 2:30 pm PDT

Google doesn’t make a smartwatch for its own platform, but currently Android Wear is a hot mess. Certain companies are acting like the wearables industry is booming with enough revenue to go around for everyone.

In reality it’s serving Apple decently and everyone else with little-to-no returns. The luxury brands, particularly those not usually involved in consumer technology, are all-in on Android Wear while most of Android’s traditional partners have wisely backed away. They’re oblivious to the reality of Android Wear’s shortcomings and the state of the wearables industry.

Android Wear is now this thing with no innovative features. It’s showcased on expensive hardware that’s the same across dozens of devices. Not exactly a winning formula.

Recently there was a post on Google’s blog about twenty new smartwatches debuting this fall. You read that right, friends. A wave of smartwatches running boring-and-buggy software will be available in time for the holidays when you’re least vulnerable shopping. Anyone would be foolish to buy one of these Michael Kors, Hugo Boss, Fossil, Montblanc, or Tommy Hilfiger smartwatches. If Google isn’t showing much interest in the platform, neither should you.

We shouldn’t rush to bash Google, though. The blame isn’t solely on the company’s handling of Android Wear. Why invest in a stagnant market? The hype surrounding the entire wearables industry is gone. That’s why Apple and Samsung, two of the companies with the most cash on-hand, have remained in the business. It’s not feasible to develop a new smartwatch and run a large advertising campaign, but those two can definitely afford the bill.

Apple’s strategy for wearables, which is company-wide as well, is straightforward: less is more. Google should agree, and no it doesn’t mean stopping others from using Android Wear. That’ll never happen nor should it ever happen. Constantly promoting the countless luxury brands’ smartwatches, however, must end. Let them advertise on their own because they’re not targeting who Google wants.

The Apple Watch and the Gear S3 appeal to different types of people. Businesspeople, athletes, celebrities, nerds, outdoorsmen, fashion gurus, and more all love those two smartwatches. Apple and Samsung manage to fit various styles with just a couple models.

Google didn’t (and still doesn’t) need to make its own smartwatch for Android Wear. The success of Android over the last nine years hasn’t been dependent on the company’s ability to produce hardware. It’s been about giving partners what they want. Right now they want a way to customize the experience. Otherwise Google is going to see Android Wear continue on a path towards nothing, struggling to stand out as every single one of its devices look exactly the same. By rejecting Android Wear in its current state, Google is facing an ultimatum from its longtime partners to overhaul the platform or face failure.

If Android Wear becomes customizable in the same way Android is on phones and tablets, something extremely beneficial for consumers will happen. Technology companies and luxury brands can come together to create stunning smartwatches utilizing functional, unique software.

The ‘less is more’ approach almost always wins out. Let’s hope Google can see that and reboot Android Wear to win back the partners we love, then win us back.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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