Google shapes development of two new smartwatches for early 2017


— 9:07 AM on December 23, 2016

The smartwatch market is in a state of flux, but that's not stopping Google. The company is involved in the development of two flagship smartwatches in the first quarter of 2017, said Android Wear Product Manager Jeff Chang, in an interview with The Verge. These new devices will be the first to receive the Android Wear 2.0 operating system and the new features that come along with it.

New features coming to these watches include standalone apps that don't require a companion phone, and support for Google Assistant and Android Pay. Once the new watches roll out, Android Wear 2.0 will start making its way to most other Android Wear watches, though it's likely that older devices may not be eligible. Meanwhile, Android Pay requires that the watch has an NFC chip, but will work both Android handsets and iPhones, Chang confirmed.

According to Chang, these new devices won't be Google- or Pixel-branded, but will rather carry the logo of the manufacturer Google is working with. Google isn't ready yet to reveal with whom it has partnered, but did say that that the manufacturer has released Android Wear devices in the past. Along with these devices, Chang also said that we can look forward to more Android Wear 2.0 watches in 2017.

Sales of the Apple Watch, by far the most popular brand in the category, fell along with the rest of the market in 2016's third quarter. Kickstarter darling Pebble sold much of its intellectual property to fitness tracker company Fitbit just weeks ago. If Fitbit decides to push into the smartwatch category with its already-dominant brand, that could leave even less room for the Android Wear brand than it already has in Apple's shadow. Meanwhile, Lenovo-owned Motorola is stepping away from the smartwatch market for the time being, while Samsung is focusing on its home-grown Tizen OS.

Despite that, Chang is optimistic. "We've enabled a lot of diversity with our hardware partners to target different types of consumers and preferences," Chang said, adding that "this is a marathon, not a sprint. This category of product is here with us to stay."

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