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Apple Watch vs. Android Wear: A reality check

Jared Newman | Sept. 11, 2014
Before Apple announced its first smartwatch on Tuesday, some tech pundits were convinced that Apple would reimagine wearable technology in a way that no other smartwatches have. Some wondered whether the final product would resemble a watch at all, or even have a screen.

Communications

The Apple Watch will have a speaker and a microphone, so users can answer calls from a nearby phone and use the watch like a wrist-bound walkie-talkie. Apple Watch users can also draw little pictures for each other, and answer text messages with voice, emoji, or preset responses that change based on what you've written in the past.

Can Android Wear respond? Currently, Android Wear doesn't support speakers, so phone calls are out of the question. And compared to Apple's approach, Android Wear's rigid text responses seem impersonal. While Android Wear is useful for firing off quick text messages and emails by voice, it has some work to do on the communication front.

Notifications

Much like Android Wear, the Apple Watch will provide actionable notifications, letting you quickly respond to messages, calendar appointments and social media mentions from your wrist. App developers will be able customize the look and feel of these notifications as well.

Can Android Wear respond? Actionable notifications are a key feature of Android Wear, and some popular apps such as Twitter and WhatsApp are already taking full advantage of the software. Google has a solid foundation to build from, though it could give users more control over the frequency and priority of notifications.

Battery

Apple isn't talking specifics on battery life, but says the Apple Watch should last through the day and is easy to charge with an included wireless dock. To conserve battery life, the display stays off until you raise your wrist.

Can Android Wear respond? It already has. While all current Android Wear watches require a nightly charge, the Moto 360 makes it easier with wireless docking.

Where Android Wear excels

Clearly, the Apple Watch's capabilities and design go beyond what Google has done with Android Wear. But in a way, that's an advantage that Google can exploit. While the Apple Watch has lots of ideas and several interface layers to dig through, Android Wear is meant to require very little interaction, providing useful information at just the right time.

If Google can refine the product to match its vision, Android Wear will still be a credible response to the Apple Watch. With Apple's first wearable not due to launch until early next year, there's plenty of time for Google and its hardware partners to get it right.

 

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