Hey Google, it’s ‘time’ to copy Apple

We’re fresh off another Apple hardware event and in focus right now is the new triple camera iPhone 11 series. And, while some still buy into the Apple vs. Android nonsense, there’s one product that’s being glossed over: the Apple Watch.

The new Series 5 Apple Watch is not a big upgrade. In fact, the biggest change for consumers is the inclusion of an always-on option for the display. The watch now dims but keeps the display active so you can quickly glance to see the time and complications.

Interestingly enough, Apple claims the 18 hour battery life from the Series 4 carries over to the Series 5 despite this new feature. Yes, Wear OS watches have had this feature for a while. That doesn’t matter.

The point is that Apple took an incredibly popular product, and added a small but noteworthy feature. It’s something users have long wanted and Apple figured out how to give it to them without a negative impact.

This is one of the reasons the Apple Watch is so popular. Its users actually like using it.

Do you like it or just deal with it?

Wear OS users, do you like using your smart watch or do you use it because it’s the best of the rest? In other words, are you merely content with the watch?

There’s no comparable alternative for Android users. There’s a smattering of Wear OS watches, mostly made by Fossil, some Tizen-based options from Samsung, and then there is Fitbit and the smart activity and health trackers of the world.

While the “different but the same” strategy works for Android phones, its obviously does not translate as well to wearables. Device makers can add software features but they can’t change Wear OS in any real way due to Google’s hold on the OS.

At first, I thought that Google’s grip was going to be fantastic for the future of Android wearables. At the time we were living in the world of TouchWiz and other similar, terrible phone interfaces. Now, it’s obviously something that holds the whole ecosystem back and I fear Google isn’t serious about Wear OS.

SEE ALSO: Google ruined Wear OS

The company can say it is. Words say one thing, but its actions say something else.

There have been redesigns and new navigation actions added to Wear OS but it’s still the same slow, glitchy, unappealing mess it always has been.

Should we blame hardware?

Maybe Wear OS is so bad because the hardware it’s running on is even worse. Qualcomm released an upgraded 3100 Wear chip this year, which is a slight upgrade to the four year old Wear 2100 chip. Two refreshes in almost five years is crazy.

I get it. This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Qualcomm isn’t going to devote major resources on a project that isn’t going to return profits. Google probably can’t make huge improvements to the OS due to hardware restrictions. Where do we go from here?

Time for a change

I think in this instance Google needs to follow Apple’s lead and produce its own hardware from end to end. While Apple does source some of its components, it makes its own processors. That’s what gives it the flexibility to add in features and plan for many years down the line.

Google has shown that it’s not afraid to spend some money on its hardware ventures. It bought HTC’s hardware division, picked up Motorola and Nest in similar deals and continues to spend significant capital on producing Pixel phones, earbuds, and smart displays. It also owns some of Fossil’s tech, too.

Why isn’t the company investing in its own processor tech for wearables?

Time keeps on tickin’

It seems like the only way forward is a so-called “Pixel Watch” with a Google-made processor. Google must produce a class-leading watch to give Android users a real option.

More than that, it needs to provide a proof of concept that will generate interest in the platform. Then, Google needs to help out its partners, selling them that processor in a cost-effective manner to serve the greater good.

None of these things will be easy. Building a new hardware platform is very difficult and that’s why there’s only a handful of companies around the world that do it. Building any kind of new hype about an old OS might actually be more difficult. If Google wants to continue to play in the wearables space, it has to make some hard decisions.

As my Great Aunts like to say, it’s time to shit or get off the pot.

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