Android Wear set for Google I/O unveiling: The wearables race hots up

Industry giants have been betting big on health and fitness-related products, and this is a trend that is likely to be further highlighted at the Google I/O developers conference which is just around the corner. 


With the likes of Nike Fuelband and Pebble watch already in the market, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen wearables focusing on fitness and health. However the focus on this segment is now much higher owing to the recent involvement of bigger brands like Google and Apple. Apple played its cards well at the WWDC held earlier this month, and now it's up to Google to show what it wants to do, with industry experts saying they expect some big announcements in the wearable and health/fitness space.


Here is a glimpse of what we are likely to see:


To begin with, Google will finally give us a closer look at the Android Wear - the company's vision for a smartwatch.  The device brings the refinement of Google’s card-based design language and the power of Google Now in what looks and sounds like a fantastic product. After launching the original Gear, Google quickly realized that its Android smartphone OS was not the best option for a much smaller, wearable device. While Samsung decided to then opt for Tizen-based Gear iterations, Google announced Android Wear. Stirred by rumours of the upcoming iWatch, Google plans to do what it’s best at – team up with several OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer)  and pump out as many smartwatches as possible.


Given that the Developer Preview for Android Wear was made available in March, we can expect a slew of Android Wear devices in the new future. LG, Motorola, Asus, Samsung, HTC, Intel, Qualcomm, Fossil and MediaTek have all signed up as hardware and manufacturing partners for Android Wear and we are likely to see an array of Android-powered smartwatches later this year.  Of these, LG and Motorola are expected to launch the G Watch and Moto 360 at the Google I/O respectively.

Android Wear set for Google I/O unveiling: The wearables race hots up

Samsung's Tizen-absed fitness tracker

We’ve already got a glimpse of Android Wear. It looks like Google Now shrunk down to work and fit on a smaller device which is not as powerful as a full-fledged Android phone. In that sense, Android Wear is an extension of Google Now, with Google Cloud Notification acting as a second pillar. It will also have all the relevant sensors to deliver fitness-related data that are an now considered to be an indispensable aspect of wearables.


Google also says the device will give users straight answers to spoken questions such as the number of calories in a mango or the departure time for your flight or even the latest score in a match that you can’t watch live. “Say “Ok Google” to get stuff done, like calling a taxi, sending a text, making a restaurant reservation or setting an alarm,” Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, wrote in a post earlier this year.


The LG G Watch running Android Wear is likely to sport a 1.6 inch display with a resolution of 280 X 280 pixels. It will get a storage capacity of 4GB that can be expanded further up to 32GB via microSD card slot. It is powered by a quad-core 787 MHz Snapdragon 400 processor coupled with 512 MB of RAM, and a 400mAh battery that promises 36 hours of standby time.  Just like the Samsung Gear series, it supports Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. The smartwatch also features tilt, gyro and pedometer sensors that will assist when using fitness apps.  Moreover, G plans to add a champagne gold variant along with its black and white models.

LG's G Watch is a more conventional looking smartwatch

LG's G Watch is a more conventional looking smartwatch


There is also the possibility of Google unveiling the Moto 360, the stylish and classic circular-shaped watch.  While specs-wise, we don’t know much about the Moto 360, we do know that it is expected to be launched at a competitive price. In May, Punit Soni, VP, Product management, Motorola Mobility had hinted that it would reach Indian markets soon.


This doesn’t mean, Google and Samsung, who’ve helped each other make millions of dollars, have decided to part ways. In fact, the Google I/O is also expected to see a Samsung smartwatch running Android Wear. According to sources, the smartwatch will be on similar lines to the company’s Gear lineup. The company is in fact, believed to be working on two models of an Android Wear smartwatch – one using Samsung’s own chip and another powered by a Qualcomm chip.  However, there is no clarity on which one of these models the company plans to showcase at the Google I/O.


Earlier, some leaked patents hinted at a Moto 360-like Samsung Android smartwatch. The patents showed some new features of the device, as well as mockups of its design. The highlight of the device appeared to be its ability to support hand gestures, which means users could simply move their wrist to control the device. The band of the smartwatch can also be used to control the device, suggested another patent.


We know most of these smartwatches will come fitted with sensors to track certain health and fitness functions. Now, it is also known that the search giant is building a platform called Google Fit at the core of its health based products. Samsung unveiled the Sami platform last month and Apple recently announced the HealthKit at WWDC, so it’s quite likely that Google will announce the Google Fit heath service at the I/O.  Google Fit is designed to collect and aggregate data from other fitness trackers and health-related apps. The most recent report says that Google Fit ‘would allow a wearable device that measures data like steps or heart rate to interface with Google’s cloud-based services, and become part of the Google Fit ecosystem.’


This seems to be a direct aim at Apple’s HealthKit that is designed to pool and analyse health data. The HealthKit app can pull in data from other third-party apps and this can be accessed by healthcare professionals, depending of course on how much access users give to this app. Apple partnered with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic to make HealthKit happen, and the Clinic was all praise for Apple’s new innovation in the health sphere. Google also plans to announce partnerships with wearable device makers, but it may not reveal the partners at the I/O. This isn’t the first time Google is working on a heath service. The company had dabbled with the idea earlier, but its health portal called Google Health didn’t take off and had to shut down in 2012.


It is still unclear if Google Fit will be featured in the next iteration of the Android or launched as a standalone service. At the I/O, Google has various sessions with the developers aimed at wearables such as “wearable computing with Google” and “designing for wearables”. So, one can expect a lot of talk about wearables and heath at the event this year.

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