March has been a particularly fecund time for new Android Wear watch announcements, though unlike previous years, the brands behind these devices are almost all from the fashion and luxury spheres of business. Tag Heuer, Montblanc, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, and Movado are just some of the well known names announcing Wear 2.0 smartwatches. This wave of new products is symptomatic of a broader trend in the tech industry: one where a high degree of component and software integration has made it almost trivial to launch a new tech product, whether or not you’re actually a tech company.
I wonder if this ‘trivial’ aspect of wearable tech is going to help move the needle for Android Wear sales. At the end of last year Apple was still leading in the contracting smartwatch market.
The crux of the problem with these internally identical Android Wear watches is that tech consumers demand substantive differences between cheap and expensive gadgets. How does Montblanc justify charging three times as much as LG for a watch that is functionally the same as LG’s? When Tag Heuer or any other famed watchmaker puts four-figure prices on its mechanical watches, there’s an implied promise that they’ll have an unmatched quality of workmanship and precision. But when those same companies outsource the brains to Google and the brawn to Qualcomm, what’s left for them to differentiate themselves with?
This doesn’t make any sense. The Apple Watch Series 2 is functionally identical across all price points (the Series 1 isn’t water resistance and doesn’t have GPS).
The real question is: can Google make a smartwatch interface that feels just as premium as the shell and straps around it?
It took years for Android for phones/tablets to be in the same league as iOS in terms of a seamless software experience that didn’t jitter and adhered to a set interface guidelines. I wonder if it will be the same for Android Wear.