Vids + pics Google has driven the world bonkers with glimpses of Android-powered smartwatches – the first gadgets to use the web giant's new Android Wear operating system for wearable computers.
The ad kingpin did not reveal specific release dates for the devices today, but it has apparently lined up hardware makers Asus, LG, HTC, Samsung and Motorola to ship Wear products by the end of the year. LG has confirmed it will be ready to flog its tiny tablet-like wrist-puter (the LG G Watch – seriously) in the next quarter, and Moto has the round Moto 360 up its sleeve, we're told.
Anyone itching to get their hands on a virtual model of the gadgets will have to join a developer preview. Google has released a software development kit which includes tools to support watch-shaped things in Android applications, and an emulator to test the code.
There are no specifications of the hardware to hand – but the provided Android Wear emulator simulates an ARMv7a-powered device and its round or square color touchscreen face. That flavor of the ARM architecture is 32-bit, and is used in cores ranging from the Cortex-A5 to the A17 as well as Qualcomm's Krait and Scorpion processors and others. That's to suggest the level of power in the tiny computer rather than lean towards any particular chip maker; most of the processing will be offloaded to the online Google cloud.
Judging by the design of the user interface, expect lots of finger scrolling. The gadget is also controllable by voice, just like its Google Glass cousin: just get ready to say "OK, Google" into your wrist a lot to get its attention. The on-screen information is all driven by the search giant's cloud-powered Now personal assistant service, which unashamedly knows a little too much about you and your plans and surroundings and dreams, and tries to automatically organize your life accordingly and answer your questions about the world.
Can you tell watch it is yet? Google's idea of an Android Wear wrist-puter, the Moto 360
To help hype the Linux-powered operating system, the company released a pair of videos showcasing how a device running the software could be used to check-in for flights, receive news alerts and send messages to friends – tasks that you had to reach all the way into your pocket for previously, but can now be accomplished by simply talking into a microphone on your arm (or should that be ARM).
Android Wear in action
Don't get too excited about the software displayed in the video, however. Google noted that the screens shown in the video are simulated so your mileage may vary.
The move is the next logical step for Google along the wearable computing path: the biz has captured the public's attention, if not some degree of ire, with its Google Glass headsets. The internet-connected, camera-toting specs are still undergoing testing by adoring (paying) fans, but have already won the prestigious pop culture honor of being referenced by The Simpsons.
More Android Wear and tear
The Mountain View giant is not the only big name flogging wearables. Samsung has for several months offered a smartwatch accessory under its Galaxy Gear brand. The $299 device has, to say the least, failed to catch on thus far. And this is besides the handful of watchmakers, from Pebble to Casio, which have piled into the market over the past year or so.
The square LG G Watch due out in the second quarter of 2014
Apple is also rumored to be developing its own smartwatch as the company has been tied to a number of relevant patent applications. Cupertino could, however, be waiting for hardware advances to bring down the price of flexible displays as reports indicate the company prefers a sleeker wraparound design to today's watch-like-tablets, or wablets as we're going to call them. ®