Google Announces Smartwatch Platform, 40% of Consumers Potentially Interested

Long anticipated, Google and several partners today announced Android Wear (smartwatches). Immediate partners are MotorolaLG and Fossil. HTC and Samsung are also on that list (although Samsung previously appeared to abandon Android for operating system Tizen in its Gear 2.0 smartwatches). Several designs were teased by Motorola and LG but no actual products were formally announced, nor were prices revealed. We also don’t know if these watches will need the connectivity of an owner’s smartphone. I suspect they will but it remains to be seen. It appears that the UI and functionality of all of these Android Wear smartwatches will be the same or very similar. Thus design and price really matter for differentiation among watch makers. Accordingly, there are lots of “smartwatch wars” headlines now going up. Apple is also supposed to release a smartwatch this year if rumors are correct. Google said in its promotional videos that it designed a new UI to accomodate the small form factor. The user experience will be based on voice search (“OK Google”) and Google Now/notifications. Not trying to do too in a smartwatch much is critical. Samsung’s Gear 1.0 watch tried to do and be too many things. Furthermore, Google benefits from having developed a UI/UX for the very small and awkward form factor Glass. Unlike Google Glass, however, smartwatches have the potential to become a mainstream consumer success. In a survey we conducted last year (n=1,000 US adults) 40% of smartphone owners were interested in a smartwatch in the abstract. An actual product with a compelling design will boost that level of interest. Most smartphone owners in the survey, who expressed interest, indicated they wanted a watch using the same OS or brand as their current phones.