Android Wear compatibility with iPhone makes wearables accessible

Maurizio Pesce/flickr

Maurizio Pesce/flickr

Spencer Schneier
    News Editor

Last week, multiple outlets reported that Google would be bringing its Android Wear smartwatch operating system to the iOS ecosystem.

Apple has prevented device makers in the past from making third-party devices compatible with Apple’s products, but it seems as though Google was able to allow for this compatibility by building an app that follows the rules of the Apple App Store.

It uses Bluetooth technology to talk to the user’s phone and provide notifications, and even allows the user to respond to emails and instant messages from their wrists. On the iPhone app, it will not be possible to respond to text messages or any apps that Google does not control. UNC-Greensboro students should be able to read and respond to student emails from an Android Wear watch connected to an iPhone.

The significance of Google’s move is that it now can challenge Apple in the wearables market, whereas the Apple Watch was dominating the wearables market because of Apple’s control over the mobile phone market (as of last summer, the company had 41.9 percent of the mobile phone market in the U.S., according to Tech Times).

Wearables include any technology that the user wears, including Google Glass, smart watches and health bands such as the FitBit.

Google’s products will be cheaper than the Apple Watch, and, despite its shortcomings in functionality, it will provide users with more options and more affordable alternatives to the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch currently retails at $350 for a base model, with prices going up from there.

Android Wear devices are priced aggressively, often ranging between $200-$250, a bargain compared to the $350 one must pay for an Apple Watch.

This comes as part of a larger trend by Google to try to increase competition and make technology more accessible in recent years, with its Android operating system for smartphones being another example. The Android operating system for smartphones is open-source, which means that any person can take the code that makes up Android and use it for their own project.

For college students, increased competition has potential to be hugely beneficial. With less disposable income than the average American, a price drop could allow this technology to become more widely used. Apps such as Tinder and AirBnB have already moved into the wearables space, and one can expect others to follow as more college students have access to the technology.

On the iOS app, users will be able to receive notifications from their phone; Google Now, Google Search and Gmail all work well, among others. iMessages will not be supported, though users can still read and be notified of them from their Android Wear device.

A recent survey by Pearson stated that 35 percent of college students identified as an “early adopter,” which means that they will try technology before most people. For many college students on iPhones, the price of the Apple Watch has stopped them from trying to adopt the new technology, so with Android Wear compatibility now available, students may jump at the cheaper prices.

Some have raised concerns about the ability for students to cheat using smart watches as a medium to access the internet as well as their notes, and Mashable reported earlier this year that a handful of Australian universities have banned smart watches from the classroom.

The technology has not yet become prominent in the U.S., but if it does, it could create an issue similar to that of when smartphones became prominent. Many professors allow laptops and tablets but ban the use of smartphones in their classes.

Dr. Ritesh Chugh is a lecturer at a university in Australia, and he discussed the issue of smart watches in the classroom. He posed the question “whether to ban watches in exams or change the overall assessment strategy,” acknowledging the pitfalls on both sides of the argument. He also noted that there are some companies who make smartwatches with the intention of cheating.

Despite many of the drawbacks, Google has an opportunity to capitalize on a growing market. A recent report by AppleInsider suggested that the company could see 36 percent of its revenue growth from sales of the Apple Watch. If Google is able to take a slice of that it will be a boon for them in a competitive market for wearables. Apple is currently second only to FitBit in users in the wearables industry.

As of now, the only guaranteed compatible watches are the Huawei Watch, the Asus ZenWatch 2 and the LG Urbane. Only the LG Urbane is currently on sale.



Categories: News, technology

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