Last Updated: March 23rd, 2014

While some would call it an inevitable eventuality, others were taken a bit aback when Google teased a wearable SDK at SXSW a couple weeks back, and later announced Android Wear. For those of you playing at home, Google has created no fewer than five variants of the Android OS tuned to a specific piece or style of hardware to date - Google TV, Chromecast (which does indeed run Android), Google Glass, Nexus Q, and now Android Wear.


The Moto 360

Motorola's upcoming 360 is undoubtedly the most striking smartwatch design we've ever seen. There simply isn't any arguing around it. With its circular display and "real watch" look, it really does make every other smartwatch out there seem like a dinosaur. How the Moto 360 will actually perform in the real world (and perhaps more importantly, what it will cost) remains to be seen, but I think it's safe to say that, for now, Motorola has successfully one-upped pretty much everyone in this space. And it's not just about Android Wear - by comparison, LG's Android Wear teaser image looks little different from any other smartwatch out there - rectangular, chunky, and frankly, unattractive.

The 360's closest competitor for looks is probably Samsung's Gear Fit, but its Tizen OS appears little different from the Android-based Gear OS of the previous generation, and let's be honest: Samsung really hasn't done anything with these devices that changes the smartwatch "game." They're tiny little underpowered smartphones boasting full-color touchscreens and a bit more hardware functionality than a Pebble, but with a fraction of the customization and app ecosystem. And that brings me to this week's question: when it all comes down to it, does your smartwatch's OS really matter to you?

Right now, Pebble remains the uncontested darling of the smartwatch world, having shipped hundreds of thousands of units to date. It boasts the largest app ecosystem of any smartwatch on the market, and it has a large community of devoted users and developers trying to make the experience better. Many members of said community probably could not care less that Pebble isn't running Android, and I'd deem an OS switch unlikely for the brand at this point - they're simply too established.

Samsung seems to be actively turning up its nose at Android Wear, as none of the company's now three smartwatches will run it, having chosen Tizen instead. And with Samsung's gargantuan ad budget, it's all but a given that the company is going to sell enough of these devices to at least get the wearable ball rolling with its most loyal fans. And should Apple releases a wearable, Android Wear will face another stiff competitor.

This does put Android Wear in something of an awkward spot - the world's single largest Android OEM doesn't appear interested in the platform, and established players like Pebble are unlikely to relinquish their grip on the profitability and control that comes with an independent platform. Motorola, LG, Sony, and perhaps HTC seem like good bets for Android wear partners (two having already been confirmed as such), but not one of these companies has a strong existing foothold in the wearable space. Really, Android Wear's success seems far from assured - smartwatches aren't the one-horse race Android walked in on after the iPhone was introduced.

Will a smartwatch's OS (as opposed to functionality, hardware, and design) really matter to you when it comes time to buy?

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David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • vyktorsouza

    where's the option "it's not even remotely important but I want one because yes"?

    • Colin Kealty

      I agree, I don't really care particularly that it is Android, however the Android that it has looks AMAZING and THAT makes me want it, not blind fanboyism but because Google did it right

      • Channing Brown

        The OS is super important guys, look at the galaxy gear or the pebble both failed to really bring functionality to the mass as they were limited in what they could do. Android wear however is open to devs which means there will be a ton of additional tools and apps available to you just like what happened to ChromeCast once they released the SDK (Which they have already started to do with the Wear OS as well).

        • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

          I thought Pebble was open too?

          • AbbyZFresh

            Pebble has no brand awareness compared to Android. Hence, developers don't care.

          • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

            Oh I gotcha, I just thought maybe I had misread whether it was open source or not.

          • Channing Brown

            Yeah what Abby said, I am hoping that the wearable devices will be like chromecast devices and you can just extend apps and controls after a pairing process and not have to install or modify too much on the device.

        • Paul M

          You said exactly what I was going to. I won't buy any device which is a closed proprietary system (or one where there's a very high up-front cost to developers getting involved), so that even if the original manufacturer loses interest, the community can continue to improve the software.

        • Colin Kealty

          Right but it's not because it's android in particular, it's because of everything it can do with android, if it was some other random open source OS that could do everything this can, then that would also be good, that's all i meant by this comment

      • ssj4Gogeta

        I agree. I use an Android phone for the same reason - it's the best smartphone OS with great features and an open ecosystem. If someone does it better, then I'll gladly switch to it. Sticking to an inferior product just for the name is fanboyism.

      • Allen Byrd

        That's the main part of it to me as well, but there's also a small (and by small, I mean fairly gigantic) part of me that doesn't want to give Samsung and Tizen any more power in the market.

    • someone755

      You mean, where's the "I just want to vote" option?

  • Jephri

    Man. Samsung must be feeling a little sheepish after the announcement of the Motorola 360. The beauty of that device really makes Samsungs offerings look cheap and childish in comparison. I hope Sony jumps on the bandwagon and produces their own Android wear device. They really make the classiest hardware in the Android world right now.

    • TheLastAngel

      "Samsungs offerings look cheap and childish in comparison".

      That has been true for Smarthphones also for the last three years.
      Yet, their competitors can't capitalize on that. So get ready for every Smartwatch to get smoked by Samsung and what ever Apple is going to do.

      • someone755

        Maybe because Sammy spends like gazillions on ads and marketing every day?
        Tho imo, every Sammy device since the S2 has looked childish, not to mention plasticky. Even the TV in my living room and the PC monitor I almost bought (thank you for existing, LG)!

  • Thomas

    The OS is irrelevant, but the functionality it provides is the next big thing for smartwatches in my opinion.

    The entire point of a watch is to have things you need at a glance, the Android Wear concept does that unlike any other smartwatch today, running Android or not.

    • Paul M

      a device with closed software means you'd be buying an appliance. History has shown us that some of the most interesting features can come from third party developers, this is especially relevant when the original manufacturer has already moved on to the next big thing and left their customers behind.

    • someone755

      If the OS does not provide the functionality you expect it to it's bad. So what you really said is that it is relevant.
      Otherwise you'd right now be deciding between Sony's fitness band, Sammy's Gear and Nike's FuelBand.

  • http://nicholashrycun.com Nicholas Hrycun

    Android wear on the Moto looks amazing. I like the Google experience and not the Samsung experience, so Android wear makes me want an android watch. Before Android wear I thought the watches were silly.

    • Jephri

      Completely agree. I went from total disinterest to complete adoration with the announcement of the 360.

      • someone755

        With the 360 announced I just thought this was a design worth looking into and waiting for the reviews.
        Tho after seeing Wear this is #2 on my MUST HAVE list (the first currently being a wireless card for my PC because having my phone as an antenna is bad xD)

    • http://twitter.com/Rodrigost23 Rodrigo Tavares

      Yeah, I think the 360 with Android Wear is the first smart watch that actually makes sense.

    • http://twitter.com/qngml KONG!

      I want moto36 because of the design 😍
      I wonder about charging time and battery life 😕

      • Tyler

        Charge time should be pretty short considering the battery is very small compared to smartphones. Battery life according to Motorola's hangout was one of the big focuses and incorporates the same technology from the Moto Actv that was used and improved upon in the moto x and will be used in the 360. Rumors also say that it uses an AMOLED display so display drain might be similar to that of the Active display on the moto x.

        • http://twitter.com/qngml KONG!

          Interesting! Thanks for the info 😁

  • Jephri

    I see Samsung's move to Tizen for their smart watches as their first move towards android disenfranchisement. 5 years from now they may no longer sell Android devices at all. Not liking this trend at all.

    • makapav

      It will be Samsung's loss. They have forgotten that they don't know how to code. They just have a case of the elated sense of self-grandeur.

    • Kendrick Vargas

      They've done their own OS thing before, and fallen flat on their face before. Look up Bada OS.

    • jm9843

      Nope, you're wrong. Samsung will adopt Android Wear for their smartwatches and their flirtation with Tizen will be a blip. At the end of the day, they need to ship a competitive product and Android Wear gets them there.

    • http://tommydaniel.com Tommy Thompson

      Samsung stated the reason they went with the Tizen was because it was ready. Whereas Android Wear was not.

  • My name is….

    Why use a smartwatch?
    I dont have a use for it.

    • Paul M

      thanks for your opinion, well done on being decisive.
      the rest of us will carry on discussing something we are interested in.

  • http://antontell.se/ Anton Tell

    Google's OS actually convinced me that a smartwatch was a good idea to begin with. Because of that tight integration to Android/Google and the very nice UI I am now convinced.

  • Marc Edwards

    There should be an option for something along the lines of I'd rather save the wrist space for a fitness tracker. I keep eyeballing the b1 but the heart rate monitor problems keep putting me off...

  • RadarJammer

    Why just "one" watch? People tend to have several watches. The 360 and the Gear Fit for me.

  • Amer Khaznadar

    I voted "Yes, and I am very likely...".
    However, I feel that the question for this poll is incorrect. I don't think that "as opposed to" is the correct conjunction between OS and functionality. The OS is a very important factor in determining the functionality.

  • BrianLipp

    The biggest factor for me is compatibility. The Moto 360 (and other Android Wear devices) isn't just going to work with Moto devices. It works with all Android devices. The Gear devices, as far as we know, will only work with Samsung devices. And sorry Samsung, your phones aren't that appealing to most people who want to use Android to its fullest. The Gear Fit looks pretty good, too, and the $200 price isn't as high as i thought it was going to be. But compatibility with any device I buy/use in the future is more important than getting stuck into one OEMs devices.

  • black

    I'll buy a smart earring when it comes out, preferably Android.

    • http://www.rebelwithoutaclue.com/ Rebel without a Clue

      Let's wait for the first Prince Albert running Android ;)

  • WestFiasco

    Great job Google.

  • flosserelli

    I am still not convinced that I need a smartwatch, because none of them have a killer app/feature that I absolutely cannot live without. But if I had to choose one, I would wait for the Moto 360.

  • Josh

    Of all the smart watch designs I have seen, the Moto 360's styling is the ONLY one I have liked. They just did it right.. it looks like a watch! Not a shrunk down phone with a wrist band. I will very much be looking into buying one when they come out if the price is reasonable.

  • TheLastAngel

    Spring is a really bad time to reveal such a geeky product. Just got my new roadbike and I can't get myself excited over this, especially since there is nothing fitness related going on.

    Generally I am unsure about wearables. My N5 does everything I need.

  • Kendrick Vargas

    There are a few things to keep in mind here, and yes the OS matters quite a lot.

    First things first, watches are about fashion, first and foremost. People won't want a watch to become obsolete in a year or 2. If the interface is smooth and is supported for some time moving forward, and has a life span of at least 5-7 years, people will buy it. A watch shouldn't have to be sports car fast, it ultimately is a glorified second screen.

  • mLogician

    It is important because it will be the deciding factor for which phone to use with it. Android means more options and wider developer community willing to share their experiments and modifications. Open source is the way to go!

  • Lind

    I hope OEM didn't bloat Wear smartwatch with excessive skin/custom UI or other add-on value. Let user install their favorite Launcher, custom UI, watchface, etc.
    After all, we don't want all Wear smartwatch look the same, do we ?

  • Simon Belmont

    The Moto 360 is undoubtedly beautiful. I'm actually really interested in seeing what HTC's take on the Android Wear smartwatch will be.

    I like the rounded aesthetic of the Moto 360, but I still think a square screen will be more useful. Either way, I'm just glad that I have a tangible idea of what to expect from Google's smartwatch OS.

  • Kendrick Vargas

    There are a few things to keep in mind here, and yes the OS matters quite a lot.

    First things first, watches are about fashion, first and foremost. People won't want a watch to become obsolete in a year or 2. If the interface is smooth and is supported for some time moving forward, and has a life span of at least 5-7 years, people will buy it. A watch shouldn't have to be sports car fast, it ultimately is a glorified second screen.

    Google and Pebble are the only ones of the "major players" mentioned that won't be making a device that will only be compatible with a subset of products or brands. Apple will likely make a watch compatible with iPhones and iPads and other iThings. Samsung will go the same route. Between Google and Pebble, I don't think Pebbly will have the juice to stay in the game.

    Specifically on samsung, their history with custom OS's hasn't been great. They had an android alternative. They made a big stink about it too, then they dropped it. They also aren't all that open. Tactical or not, Google's openness about the operations of Android has put it where it is today.

    Ultimately a smart watch will be a way for people to get their notifications, just like a watch has always done. There was a time watches didn't have the date... then they got the date. They got timers and extra gauges, and what not, all to give you a little extra info. Now that we have the DPI to make a digital watch face that is photo realistic, we can deliver all sorts of notifications, in addition to the time. And I think Google has done that, and stunningly.

    The only real competition I think will come from Apple. That's because iDiots that only care about fashionable items will go for them like hotcakes. It's become obvious in recent years that Apple has been playing catch up, so I think the competition will be all about brand loyalty. Google has the leg up here. They get the notifications from the OS, and they have the infrastructure to do it comprehensively and seemingly unobtrusively (anyone who's played with Google Now knows what I'm talking about).

    It is, after all, a watch.

  • EH101

    It's the latest entry into a segment that overall has been in decline for roughly 6 years.(Watches as a whole)


    • ins0mn1a

      watches as a whole have been in decline since the cellphone went mainstream, so for at least 15 years, and probably longer.

      • Kendrick Vargas

        forget cellphones... how about beepers? As soon as I got my beeper I let go of my watch.

        • ins0mn1a

          i was pointing to a general trend. i think it's safe to say that beepers were always a niche product, unlike cellphones, therefore not quite making a general trend. i guess they could have contributed, and you might even say that they started the trend, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

        • GraveUypo

          well, in some places (everywhere i know of and have been to) beepers were never a thing.

  • Askaryan

    Android Wear qualifies as an OS? Isnt it just a special launcher with optimized apps?

  • Jivester

    Pebble no longer has the largest apps ecosystem. Any android app that plugs into now or has rich notifications will be ready for android wear.

  • Sir_Brizz

    It's not terribly accurate to say the Chromecast "runs Android". It shares a few native libraries and (some of) the kernel, but it doesn't have the capability to run Dalvik/ART or even NDK apps. Like ChromeOS, it has the base libraries and an implementation of Chrome and nothing else. ChromeOS on ARM Chromebooks is not that different from Android in the same ways the Chromecast is not.

  • Derek Duncan

    On the Android Wear page, there is a huge Samsung logo, along with other partners.. how is this that they are uninterested in the platform? Better homework please.

  • Wayne Randall

    Option for:

    "Yes, because round"

  • Arsal Ansari

    Moto 360 is definitely a must have for Android as well as Tech Geeks

  • Brian Stein

    Don't forget.. honeycomb was tablet specific

    • Kendrick Vargas

      Honeycomb was still android. Ultimately Honeycomb became ICS. Honeycomb was just... embarrassing code wise. And they made up for it with ICS which really made a huge impact, as well as JellyBean after it.

      • Brian Stein

        Of course.. I'm referring to this statement,

        "For those of you playing at home, Google has created no fewer than five variants of the Android OS tuned to a specific piece or style of hardware to date - Google TV, Chromecast (which does indeed run Android), Google Glass, Nexus Q, and now Android Wear."

        They are ALL "still android." I'm just stating that when it was introduced, Honeycomb was just another version of android specifically for tablets (Which was a new form factor). I think it fits the tally just as much as those other examples :)

        • http://www.impulsivestudios.com/ Justin Myers

          The difference with Honeycomb was that Google rushed to compete with Apple and their iPad. Android Wear doesn't seem rushed and it is a slimmed down version of Android, not a brad new OS. You cannot really screw that up, at least I hope not anyway.

  • Takpro

    Unless it's a Rolexus, I wouldn't give it the time of day...oh!

  • Badouken

    Love these new smart watches , Ill totally get the moto 360 or the official Google one depending on pricing!

  • http://google.com/+ThomasBeling Thomas Beling

    You've forgotten a very simple answer: NO!

  • spoodermain

    Ill give it a shot, specially the moto 360

  • Arthur Jolivet

    For the moment we don't really know what is Android Wear I think. First, it might changes between now and Google I/O (or the release of te first AW device) and second apart in the presentation video we have an emulator which JUST show phone notification : it doesn't show "lockscreen" as classic watch (moto 360 screen of the news), phone/music/message/... fonctionalities...

  • gmaninvan

    There are a few problems with this article. The first is that Samsung was actually one of the launch partners for android wear. I doubt any of their current generation devices will run it but they could very well switch down the line.

    The other thing of note that is an issue with the poll is that the OS is a factor but the biggest factor is the fact that the Moto 360 is the first smartwatch that doesn't look like a nerdy gadget. Instead, it looks like a finely made, attractive watch. I think with smart watches, the key is to take a page from Spike Jonze's 'Her'. With something that is worn, it must not appear to be a smart device until it needs to be. Otherwise, you are compromising peoples personal style.

  • Gator352

    I have a boner for this watch. I feel it rising now....uh...eh....
    I need a towel now....

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    I already have a Pebble, and do really enjoy it, but I may end up switching over to Android Wear depending on what all it'll do once they put out the real deal sdk.

  • Android Developer

    Since I already have a device that needs constant recharging every day, I wouldn't want to use another one.
    I think I will wait till the new battery revolution arrives, maybe as shown here:

    • http://www.impulsivestudios.com/ Justin Myers

      Great video, but back to your comment. I take it you don't have a car, laptop, tablet or cell phone? Or do you simply have ONE of those devices? No PlayStation/XBox/Wii controllers? What is one more device that you simply put on a wireless charger going to hurt? Before you go to bed, put it on the charger and then when you wake up, it'll be ready for the day.

      • Android Developer

        I wish all of what I use wouldn't need charging, but it's not possible right now.
        About the examples you've mentioned, I don't have a laptop or a tablet, and the rest of the devices you've mentioned aren't portable except for maybe cars but they need "recharging" every 2-4 weeks...

        Anyway, all I say is that I think it's too early for me to consider such a device.

  • lycosman

    Important? Not at all. Am I interested? After seeing the Moto 360, hell yeah.

  • Philip Kahn

    I have and love my Pebble, but I'll probably get a Moto 360 when it comes out.

    If it can do what the Pebble does (Google Now does a bunch of it, the hooks should give easy navigation things, so if it can hook into Tasker and have good music controls .... ) and if it has a good battery life, then I'll switch.

    If it has a dinky battery life or looks to be a regression from my Pebble ... well, then you'll take my Pebble from my cold, dead fingers.

  • David Sousa

    I have a Pebble, and I'm anxiously waiting for the Moto 360. But I voted that the OS does not matter much.

    In the future I may change my mind, if the ecosystem becomes more attractive than Pebble's, but, right now, as long as the product I'm looking for supports Android perfectly, I'll be fine. That is the case of Pebble. Anyone can develop for it and it will exchange information with your Android devices just fine. So... The capabilities and looks will be more important the OS, as long as it supports Android.

    That's my main concern about the Galaxy Camera. I don't see the fact that it's running Android as a real advantage. I actually think it's worse. I'd rather have a camera that fully supports my Android smartphone, and automatically sends the pictures to the phone, than having a full blown OS. I could be wrong, but other things are more important as of now.

  • Elliot Kotis

    I had no interest in wearables. I thought they were all crap. Samsung Sony and other companies failed it. The only one that was okay was the pebble, but eh. Until this came along good os android wear is amazing. Oh and the shape should be round not square so another win.

  • Alexandre Leites

    With the change from Android to Samsung proprietary OS on Gear 2, with a huge increase of battery life, I doubt if Android Wear can win this battle... because if this project came with Android battery performance, so we have a problem... beaultifulness never will usefulness

  • http://www.emuparadise.me/roms-isos-games.php Apple is a patent troll

    Price is more of a concern for me since if its as expensive as the Gear was then I'm sure as hell not going to buy it.

  • tim242

    They seem absolutely pointless. When did it become too hard to use your phone?

    • http://www.impulsivestudios.com/ Justin Myers

      When your employer can take your phone and/or write you up for using it. Yes, even checking the time.

      • tim242

        They're not going to let you play with or talk to your watch either.

        • http://www.impulsivestudios.com/ Justin Myers

          You're absolutely right, but at least I can check the time without pulling out my phone.

          • tim242

            That's a lot of money for just a watch to check the time. But hey, I do not want to stand in the way of your happiness haha. I have an S4, and about to pay full price for an S5. So, who am I to judge? : )

          • http://www.impulsivestudios.com/ Justin Myers

            Well, that is the work aspect. Obviously at home and other places, it would be more of a convenience to life my hand and ask Google where something is or whatever. That is just my opinion though. Clearly we have different views. :p

          • tim242

            If it is executed well, and doesn't cause too much battery drain, it could be useful. I'm curious, what phone is that in your pic? Is it the G2?

          • http://www.impulsivestudios.com/ Justin Myers

            This is true. Battery life is very important. As for the phone, yes, it is the Verizon variant. Probably the best phone I've ever owned honestly. (Had both HTC and Samsung previously)

  • smeddy

    Normally software is important to me, but on this occasion hardware rules. Be it Google, Pebble, or even Tizen, at this point my main OS is Android, and as long as the smart watch OS interacts perfectly with it, then it's ease of use and hardware that matters.

  • heej
  • GraveUypo

    *looks at left wrist*

  • Göran Sävström

    For a guy who still don't understand the Chromecast hype my answer will have to be "I couldn't care less".

  • The Motto

    Well what is important is what it does and that is largely tied to the OS it is running so yes and no is the right answer.