New wave of Android Wear watches aims to make up for lost time


Can’t get enough of smartwatches? Well, a whole new batch is on its way.

Asus, Huawei, LG and Motorola will introduce their newest smartwatches next week at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin, according to people familiar with the companies’ launch plans. The devices will all run Google’s Android Wear software, which was created to power wearable products like smartwatches.

You might be forgiven if you don’t remember Android Wear, which Google introduced last year with much fanfare, but which hasn’t resulted in any blockbuster products. Next week’s releases will mark the second big wave of Android Wear devices, following on from that dismal showing in 2014. Android powers the vast majority of the world’s smartphones, and Google and its partners are hoping for similar success in the burgeoning market for wearables.

The goal is that the new Android Wear devices will have enough features and alternative designs to lure buyers away from the Apple Watch, which — despite criticism — became the world’s most popular smartwatch within its first few months on the market earlier this year.

“Apple Watch has clearly raised the bar for the global smartwatch industry,” Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston said. “The ball is now in the court of rivals, like Samsung, to respond.”

Some early wearables, including Samsung’s Galaxy Gear from late 2013, used Android, but the initial version of the software — which wasn’t tailored for wearables — caused devices to run slowly and batteries to drain quickly. Samsung quickly switched to its homegrown Tizen software in its smartwatches as an alternative.

Android Wear emerged in early 2014 as a modified version of Android created specifically for smartwatches and other Internet-connected wearables. Google and its partners — Samsung, LG and Motorola — unveiled the first devices that used Android Wear at Google’s developer conference that June. The software promised a simple user interface, instant notifications and the ability to perform simple tasks, like texting friends, using voice commands. Other companies such as Sony and Asus introduced smartwatches of their own.

But consumers largely disregarded those initial devices. Smartwatch makers collectively shipped only 720,000 Android Wear units in 2014 out of a total 4.6 million wearables, according to market research firm Canalys. Samsung, the world’s biggest smartwatch vendor last year, chose to push devices running Tizen instead of Android Wear, and nearly three out of every four smartwatches shipped in 2014 came from the Korean company.

Of the Android Wear watches, Motorola’s Moto 360 stood out with its round face and the company’s decision to use premium materials such as a metal case and leather strap. But others quickly followed with the same strategy. Motorola is slated to unveil the follow-up at the show.

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Daniel Kaufman, Pres. & CEO, Reagan Wireless Corp.Β