Google seeks to expand ‘wearable’ options with Android Wear program

The Moto 360 Android

The Moto 360 Android

Google made a lot of noise a few years back with its push for Google Glass project, a pair of glasses that are connected to the Internet and now it is adding a second front in the wearable war with a push that it calls Android Wear.

The company has launched the Android Wear project in an effort to greatly expand the market for wearable hardware and related technology, with but not limited to helping a new generation watches running the company’s Android operating system.

The core of the effort will be a Software Developers Kit (SDK) that the company will be delivering to interested developers later this year.

While connected watches seem to be the first area that this effort will have an impact Google sees the effort expanding into other areas including bringing additional technology to more established platforms such as tablets.

However watches seem to be at the forefront of this space and potential developers that include everybody from Nike to Apple have indicated some level of interest in developing a watch. In addition there are already several connected watches on the market such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Pebble’s Steel Watch. Google has a number that have now announced their intention. With such a huge position in the smartphone operating system already Google has a huge advantage and it looks to be building on it quite quickly.

Several partners have already announced intentions to build watches and in some cases have shown examples of their development efforts. Motorola, unsurprisingly, has one in development called the Moto 360 Android that it said will be available this summer while LG Electronics said it would introduce its first Android watch, the G Watch, sometime this quarter.

The watches will be equipped with a variety of sensors and the ability to connect to an Android phone. So it can sub for the fitness trackers that are popular with the athletically inclined. It will allow notifications and text messages to be forwarded from a user’s phone and enable voice replies.

I imagine it would be a great tool to use to cheat on exams, but that might just be me. However being in a meeting and getting, say, March Madness game updates, could be a boon for those times when it is frowned upon to look at your smartphone. However the flip side of this is that many, at least those of us old enough, might just see this as a glorified pager with a bit more functionality.

Pebble takes second step in smartwatch space


Pebble has brought out its second generation smartwatch with the $249 Pebble Steel Watch, a more fashionable, and expensive version of the original $150 Pebble offering from last year. The watch is being shown at the current CES International trade show in Las Vegas.

The Steel Watch will be available in either a brushed stainless or black matte finish as the company develops a look that would not look garish on an executive. It replaces the plastic cover with Gorilla Glass and comes with both steel and leather straps.

The battery life is good for between 5 and 7 days and it is waterproof to 5 meters. The company has added a tri-colored LED and as with the earlier model will run both the Android and the iOS operating system. Scheduled to ship at the end of the month the move coincides with the launching of the Pebble Appstore, a place where users can easily find apps designed to run on the device.

Pebble, the Kickstarter favorite, wow the market when its funding effort went massively over the amount that the company founders were seeking, something that slightly harmed the company, at least public relations wise, by forcing it deliver the product late because it needed to build significantly more than it had expected in its early run. Not that this is not a problem that most startup companies would kill for.

Pebble was certainly one of the groundbreakers, if not the groundbreaker in the wearable computing technology with mainstream devices that connected a watch with a cell phone to bring data to your wrist. There were already sports specific devices that did some of the same features in areas such as golf and running but none that seemed to serve as a pure extension of your mobile phone.

That started a land rush by larger mobile developers to lay claim to this space as well, with Samsung, Apple, Google, Sony, Dell and others delivering products, planning to or simple becoming part of the rumor mill that they have one in the works.

Samsung, Qualcomm and Sony have already brought out products with the Samsung Gear, Qualcomm Toq and the Sony SmartWatch and I am sure this year we will see a wave of additional devices introduced to the market, much like how the tablet space exploded a few years ago. A number will be simply me-too devices while others will take the time to create truly differentiated offerings.

Friday Grab Bag: iPhone 5S Security, Office for Android?

Monster, probably best known for its high quality audio technology, has moved into the tablet space with a colorful set of offerings in both the 7-inch and 10.1-inch form factors, the Monster M7 and the Monster M10.

The M7 will be the first available and the company said that it will start at $149 at Walmart. While Apple made a good deal of noise with its iPhones now available in several colors, Monster has gone one better and will offer the M7 in eight colors: Candy Blueberry, Candy Tangerine Orange, Candy Grape Purple, Candy Apple Red, Candy Lime Green, Cotton Candy Pink, Frost White and Midnight Black.

Apple Press Event for Oct. 15
There were a number of hardware products that had been rumored to be on the plate earlier this month when Apple introduced its new iPhones and iOS 7 operating system that did not see the light of day, and now the rumor is that they will be unveiled on Oct. 15.

Among the expected products are completely redesigned versions of the iPad and iPad Mini as well as the company refreshing both its computer offerings with new Macintoshes and the latest and greatest in Apple TV, something that seems to be rumored every six months.

A side by side look at Pebble vs. Samsung Galaxy Gear
Now that there is more than one smartwatch on the market consumers will want to make comparisons on the features and capabilities of the varied offerings in order to make an informed decision so that they do not end up with unmet expectations.

Gizmag has gone to the trouble of doing that with two of the first offerings in this space: Kickstarter hero Pebble and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. The basic breakdown is Samsung=advanced, Pebble=basic. But then it all depends on what you need and how you will use it.

Good news on iPhone 5S security
One of the new features that will be included in the iPhone 5S, due today, is that it has a fingerprint sensor. First off this will make it easier to access the phone and secondly it should serve as a deterrent to thieves who will not be able to use and sell the phone.

Of course people have started to look at workarounds, including a child using their sleeping parents’ finger to open access. But one method will not work; according to the good people at Slash Gear, a severed finger will not be able to unlock the phone. Phew!

Microsoft Office to the iPad/Android?
Microsoft’s departing CEO Steve Ballmer has implied that the company has a version of Microsoft Office in the works that will operate on Apple’s iOS iPad as well as on tablets that run the Android operating system.

He did not come right out and say that it was a done deal but according to IT World Ballmer listed porting popular Microsoft products to non-Microsoft platforms was a potential growth area for the company going forward.