Google appears ready to enter the smartwatch market. Can it challenge Apple's dominance?

New reports indicate Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) may launch its own line of Android Wear smartwatches.

Gadgets 360 noted that images of two Google Android Wear smartwatches surfaced online earlier this month, which means it may be only a matter of time before mobile developers can create apps for Google Android Wear devices.

What do we know about the Google Android Wear smartwatches?

The Google Android Wear smartwatches are codenamed "Swordfish" and "Angelfish" and could be released this fall. 

 

 

 

 The "Angelfish" (L) and "Swordfish" (R) smartwatches
Credit: Android Police

Swordfish represents the smaller of the two Google Android Wear smartwatches. It appears to feature a single button on its left side and could be compatible with Android Wear Mode watch bands. However, Swordfish is not expected to support GPS and LTE.

Angelfish boasts a design similar to Swordfish. What sets Angelfish apart, however, is a customizable watch face, a crown button on its left side and a shoulder button on its top and bottom. Furthermore, unlike Swordfish, Angelfish is expected to support GPS and LTE and be able to run on its own without the need to pair the device with a smartphone. 

Why would Google develop its own line of Android Wear smartwatches?

Today, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) remains the top player in the smartwatch market, but this could change if Google releases its own line of Android Wear smartwatches.  

Apple released a watchOS 3 beta earlier this month 
Credit: Apple

Digital market research firm Juniper Research reported the Apple Watch claimed 52 percent of all smartwatch shipments globally last year. Meanwhile, Apple previewed watchOS 3, a new version of its smartwatch operating system, at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June and released a new beta version of watchOS 3 for developers this month. 

Conversely, Android Wear smartwatches have struggled to generate interest among consumers worldwide. Juniper Research pointed out Android Wear shipments comprised less than 10 percent of all smartwatch sales in 2015, despite the fact that demand for smartwatches is increasing.

With its own line of Android Wear smartwatches, Google could put itself in position to capitalize on the rising demand for smartwatches and compete with Apple in a growing sector. 

Plus, Google may be able to empower mobile developers to deploy unique smartwatch apps that could help the company make its mark on the smartwatch segment. 

"Apple and Google own the two most important smartwatch platforms, and it is up to them to iterate new features and app frameworks to provide utility and allow developers to take advantage of these new devices. By controlling the smartwatch operating systems, they will also drive the adoption of new hardware components and features as well," Daniel Matte, analyst at technology research firm Canalys, told FierceDeveloper

What trends will shape the smartwatch market?

Only time will tell whether the smartwatch market can provide viable monetization opportunities for mobile developers, and several trends may dictate this segment's success. 

James Moar, senior wearables analyst at Juniper Research, told FierceDeveloper that he believes the push for machine learning and context-based interactions may shape the smartwatch sector over the next few years. 

"With both Apple and Google investing in machine learning and context-based interactions, they will drive it towards a much more personal experience rather than just a notification and mini-app platform. In particular, Google's potential use of the Assistant in its rumored 'Nexus Watch' could bring more context to the platform, although this would have to get round the potential reluctance of consumers to talk to technology in public," he stated.

Expect the push for semi-autonomous devices to drive the smartwatch market as well, according to Moar. 

"Android Wear 2.0 has confirmed standalone support, and we expect watchOS to follow suit," he said. "This opens up a variety of app possibilities, relating to fitness, automatic call forwarding, remote device control and [more]."

Why should mobile developers consider creating smartwatch apps?

Global market research company Allied Market Research has predicted the global smartwatch market could be worth $32.9 billion by 2020. As such, revenue opportunities are available for mobile developers who dedicate the time and resources to learn how to create innovative smartwatch apps. 

Credit: Allied Market Research

However, app monetization remains a concern for smartwatches. 

"Monetization remains the key question, as it has not yet been fully addressed," Matte said. "In terms of shipment and sales volumes, smartwatches will be the biggest consumer technology category since tablets. ... There is also the chance, though, that Android and iOS will come to PC/desktop form factors as well."

But mobile developers who understand how to deliver engaging user experiences via smartwatch apps may be able to drive significant revenue growth. 

"Smartwatch users are those who are willing to invest in 'premium' experiences," Moar said. "As a result, smartwatch users will be more likely to be prepared to pay for an optimized app than non-smartwatch users are to pay for an app when there are free options available. A smartwatch-optimized app is therefore more easily [monetized] in general, particularly if it is marketed as such."

For now, Apple controls the smartwatch market, but the release of prospective Google Android Wear smartwatches may transform the segment's growth. 

It also may lead mobile developers to take a closer look at the smartwatch market, particularly if they explore the full capabilities that new smartwatches offer.

"There will be innovative ideas catered to a display on the wrist that will surprise," Matte noted. "We will have to see what developers imagine."

Banner image courtesy of Android's developer page.

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