Android Wear and smart watches won’t take off without design

Many manufacturers are now releasing ‘smart’ watches. Samsung, LG, Pebble, Motorola, Withings and even Apple are rumored to be releasing a wearable as well. It’s no surprise really, watches have been around for a long time and they’re the next step in the evolution of making our everyday objects smarter.

Unfortunately many of these manufacturers such as LG and Samsung don’t understand that for something like a ‘smart’ watch to take off it needs to be thought of as a fashion accessory first. Traditionally when you buy a watch, only 1 thing matters and that is “Does it look good on my wrist?” You might argue that now these new watches are ‘smart’ but I challenge that, if these watches are ‘smart’ then how does that correlate with a ‘smart’ phone. All these ‘smart’ watches are there for currently is a combination of  the time, notifications and in some cases tracking steps and heart rate.

If Android Wear and by virtue smart watches are going to take off then Google need to start inspiring device makers to think outside the box with their Android Wear SDK. Google needs to design it for any form factor, from squares to circles and everything in between.

Smart watches will never take off with unoriginal design like LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. If you look at these 2 watches you can just tell that no design thought was put into it. There is not a lot of difference between them, they are the definition of generic.

LG G WatchSamsung Gear

They’re uninspiring and certainly not something I’d like to put on my wrist. Watches these days are thought of as fashion accessories, not ‘smart devices’. Consumers will want a fashion accessory that is smart.

Fear not, manufacturers can take inspiration from Motorola and Withings when it comes to design. If I were you I’d hold off on purchasing a new smart watch until these 2 are released. These 2 at least look like watches but behave like smart watches. The Moto 360 is an Android Wear watch but with a more familiar circular face. The Withings Activité is a smart watch that tracks your activity then syncs to an app, it’s not powered by Android Wear so it’s a more focused watch.

Moto 360 Withings Activite

 

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Google I/O, a merging Google everywhere

Material Design

Sundar Pichai has started a new shift in Google where he’s bringing Chrome and Android closer together. It was inevitable since he’s the boss in charge of both but it’s interesting to see where he’s heading with it.

Google are attacking everything from all fronts in multiple ways in some cases, your computer, your phone, your car, your tv, your watch, your glasses and your home. The interesting thing is that they’re not attacking them in a cohesive way where each front is connected to the other. Eventually everything will be connected and Google is accelerating that front. It’s creating a merged multi platform approach that is tied by Android.

You might  be thinking well they’ve tackled some of these areas before like the car and TV but they failed, why this time? I think this time focus and simplicity is how they’re going to win. Perviously they just released SDKs and expected developers to flock to it. This time they partnered and released very basic functionality, only the bare essentials to get started.

  • Chrome is tackling computers very well according to Google, 10 of the top 10 laptops on Amazon are Chromebooks. They’re also doing work to port Android apps onto Chrome.
  • Android is obviously tackling your phones and tablets, they’ve got over 1 Billion 30 day active users
  • Android will be tackling your car, they’ve got all the major car manufacturers signed up for a simple interface that sits on top of their proprietary systems powered by your Android phone
  • Android will be tackling your TV, they’ve signed some big names onto this like Sony. They’ve also got the Chromecast which is also a hit by being such a simple device
  • Android will be tackling your wearables such as your watch for health tracking and convenience
  • Android will be tackling your glasses with Google Glass providing you with an augmented reality experience
  • Android will be tackling your home with devices like connected smart alarms, thermostats and lightbulbs

Google has realised that multiple platforms are hard to tackle for developers so they’re giving them time by giving them release previews of all the new SDKs and design guidelines across the entire range of capabilities. They’re also keeping the initial releases of these new platforms very simple. They’ve learned from Microsoft and Windows 8 that you can’t just expect developers to be able to scale their apps across platforms quickly and easily. These things take time so they’re trying to help with that as much as possible.

They know this is a hard problem as stated by Sundar “We aren’t building a vertically integrated product. What we are doing is building an open platform at scale”. this is obviously a dig at Apple. This has always been what Microsoft are doing as well. It’s easier to build a single product that only integrates with your own proprietary systems, it’s much harder to build a platform that can in theory operate on anything like Android can.

A preview of changes in Android L

Google announced Android L at I/O last week, they didn’t delve into much detail and it didn’t show many features. They didn’t announce a new Nexus device or actually release Android either. It’s only available as a developer preview on 2 devices. I’ve looked into it and it’s not a stable release for your main phone as of yet. The reason for this preview release is that I/O was purely aimed at developers. Google wants to give developers enough time to be able to design their apps for Android L using Material Design, their new design language across all platforms.

  • Notifications have been redesigned completely, now available via the lock screen and a new heads up notification style is available. Notifications
  • Material Design, a new design language that is visual and responsive. It also spans all of Google’s platforms. Think along the lines of Microsoft’s Metro. style-color-colorstory-01_large_mdpi
  • Multitasking now allows developers to have multiple screens per app, your Chrome bookmarks will also be part of the multitasking view. Personally I don’t think this is a good idea because many users have many tabs open and this will just create clutter. Hopefully an off switch will be available.
  • The new ART runtime will be switched on by default, along with it are 5000 new APIs
  • Personal unlocking, which allows your device to skip your Android pin if you’re at home or are near your wearable devices
  • Enterprise integration will allow enterprises to take full advantage of your Android by allowing enterprise apps to sit alongside your personal apps, they’ve also started to integrate Samsung Knox which is become the Android standard in enterprise.

Enterprise