Nikhil SubramaniamSep 11, 2014 15:51:43 IST
As if we didn't already have enough confusion about which smartphone to go for in this Android vs iOS vs Windows Phone battle, there are some new buying decisions to be made for those looking to jump on the smartwatch bandwagon.
Apple announced Watch last night and Android Wear-enabled devices have started to trickle in from the major manufacturers, with more soon to be unveiled by the likes of HTC and probably even Google in the form of a Nexus watch. However, Apple's announcement will bring a chill in the sales of these Android Wear devices, since a lot of potential buyers will want to wait and see which smartwatch platform is better. Both have their drawbacks and advantages, so which one should you go for?
Immediately, Apple Watch has a slight disadvantage in that it will only become available next year. Android Wear devices are already out and the new ones announced at IFA will be out in markets soon too. However, analysts predict that Apple's announcement will slow down any adoption pace that these have picked up, as is the case with Android flagships and the new iPhone announced each year. Apple does seem to have missed a window with the holiday sales, which is its biggest chance to show the watch category was well worth investing in. This is where Android Wear could hurt, if more devices come through the assembly line in time for Christmas and Apple could be in for a harder time next year, as Android Wear gets enough time to settle and also enhance user experience, which is not the best yet.
Another key area where Apple will start off in second place is pricing, but this is always the case when it comes to Apple. Apple has not given up on its premium pricing for the Watch which will retail for $349, while Android Wear devices are being released for sub-$199. So once again, the rift in adoption will come from those who can afford the premium Apple Watch and those who cannot. Apple's late release means there's enough room for Android device makers to launch high-end variants to snag some of the potential high-end user base from Apple Watch.
Typically, Apple comes out on top when it comes to functionality and features right out of the gate. This time there's a new UI, new interaction gestures as well as a new way for developers to send notifications to Apple Watch. All of this will be much more robust than it is now once developers get in on the action and start making watchfaces or 'Glances'-enabled apps for the Watch. Android Wear already has thousands of apps that have a smalls-screen counterpart to enable wearable functionality. For example, you can already send messages through WhatsApp using Android Wear's in-built voice recognition. And Google Now functionality mimics much of the Glances features that Apple introduced.
It may seem like Apple has fallen behind the curve when it comes to functionality and app integration, but we think it's taking the smart route by first gaining apps and ecosystem momentum before the Watch hits the market. Apple's way of thinking is people will not do much with their Watch if there aren't dedicated apps on it, which is why it's giving devs a lot of time to achieve this before it releases the Watch.
One has to see whether the patient route will yield the desired results for Apple. It's gamble for sure since Android Wear is out and is constantly being updated and will see a lot more updates when the L version finally is released for smartphones and tablets. So it clearly has the advantage for the moment.
Apple beats Android Wear in this department thanks to the smaller form factor variant, as well as the three different designs from sporty to more business-like to casual. Android Wear devices come in many shapes and sizes but all of them are quite big and this is what Apple has tried to address with the smaller Watch. The smartwatch segment has been crying for a small device which will please female buyers as well as male buyers, as much of the current line-up is highly masculine looking and quite big for dainty wrists.
Both the Watch and Android Wear are locked in to their smartphone OSes, so it means for the moment, you can't use an Apple Watch with and Android or Windows Phone device and neither do Android Wear watches such as the Moto 360 work with an iPhone or the iPad. This is of course to be expected at this early stage, but it's still problematic as it would add a lot more prohibitions in your future purchases. This is exactly why cross-platform devices like Pebble have worked so well in the market, since it means you can change your companion device without having to worry whether the smartwatch will work. Google may add iOS support, since it has done that for Glass, but we are not sure at the moment and there are no signs pointing to such a support coming any time soon.
Smartwatches are still a nascent category, but Apple has increased the focus on this segment manifold with the Watch. As is the case with Apple, when a new product is launched there are a lot of peripheral industries that have a stake in it. This time around it's the fashion and health world and in that sense the Watch is not a purely consumer technology product. Android Wear, in contrast, is just that and that makes us believe that Apple is not out of the race by any means, despite arriving late. Once again two clashing philosophies are in the market and we will find out next year, which one has the better time of it.
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