Google has revealed Android Wear, the first operating system made exclusively for smartwatches. The OS was first hinted at last week at Google’s SXSW showcase. Now Google has released the software development kit. Along with the release, Google revealed that Android Wear will have multi-screen functionality, full Google Now integration, and health & fitness monitoring. Similar to current smartwatches, Android Wear devices will tell you when to get active and give you daily, weekly, and monthly fitness summaries.
We pitted what we know about Android Wear so far against the very real Pebble Steel Smartwatch, which offers a substantial collection of lifestyle and fitness apps. Read our review of the Pebble. Both Android Wear and Pebble offer a software development kit, which allow developers to create apps, and both are taking the smartwatch in completely new directions.
While the Android Wear and Pebble Smartwatch couldn’t be more different, the actual functions have some important overlaps. Check out our spec comparison.
Google’s release of Android Wear’s development kit gives us a little more info into this exciting piece of wearable technology. Android Wear offers what Google calls the “context stream,” which is just a vertical list of cards. Cards appear one at a time showing different things you might want to see, like the time, weather, texts, emails, directions, or other actions. It’s streamlined from what Android phones offer, but far more robust than the Pebble. Android Wear will also offer multiscreen functionality, which means you can use voice command to access Google Chromecast or play music on your phone.
So far, there are two Android Wear watches available, the Moto 360 and LG G Watch. Both have what appears to be a straight-forward LCD touchscreen. Cards will appear for any messages you might have and provide flight status information, for example, or the current weather. The Pebble will notify every messages you receive on your Smartphone. But it won’t be presented to you automatically when it is deemed appropriate, like they will on Android Wear.
That said, Pebble may have a leg up by going a little lower-tech. Its apps do not have touch or color, but while they don’t impress on a spec sheet, many of them serve the device well. The ability to connect to both iOS and Android gives Pebble users more flexibility and the long battery life means you don’t have to charge it every night like you might have to with Android Wear and its flurry of high-resolution, color, touchscreen watches. Android Wear may also have a price issue, it could easily double the retail cost of the $150 Pebble.
The bottom line
These devices both rely on apps, and there’s a good chance that they could evolve together. As the Pebble app library continues to grow, so will its functionality. One setback of the the Pebble is that it can only hold eight apps. The Android Wear, likely has the edge here, but the next Pebble probably isn’t far off. To decide which smartwatch will be the best wrist companion for you, you’ll have to wait until mid-summer when the Android Wear debuts in the Moto 360 and LG’s G Watch.