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15 mysteries about the Moto 360 smartwatch

Mike Elgan | March 24, 2014
We've seen pictures and videos of Motorola's round smartwatch. But the most important facts are still unknown, and Mike Elgan has a lot of questions.

Google this week announced Android Wear, a version of Android for wearable devices.

The announcement was made in a blog post by Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai, who is responsible for Android, Chrome and Google Apps.

He also announced a downloadable developer preview of Android Wear, as well as a list of partners that includes Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung, Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek, Qualcomm and Fossil.

Moto 360 smartwatch
The Moto 360 smartwatch. (Photo: Motorola)

It's important to note that from a software developer's perspective, participating in the Android Wear initiative is mostly about Android smartphone app development. To program for an Android Wear smartwatch is to use Google's tools to create an Android smartphone app that talks to the watch.

From the user perspective, the interface is mostly about Google Now — a voice-based Google service. You say: "OK, Google," then tell your Android watch what you want. Then the watch, using Google Now, will return a screen with the information you requested. Or it will simply take the initiative to show you information, based on Google Now's preemptive search feature or the features built into the smartphone apps that support Android Wear.

So while the focus is on the watch, the key elements are software running on a Bluetooth-connected phone and a cloud service accessed through the phone's Internet connection.

The blog post announcing Android Wear features a video that shows people using either square or circular smartwatches, mostly via a Google Now interface. In the video, users talk to their watches and the watches respond with cards displaying the information requested. The square watches shown in the video look ridiculous — they're giant, bulky, awkward, clunky devices of the kind that always fail in the market. But the round ones look really good.

It turns out that those are the options for Android Wear when applied to a smartwatch. Developers and smartwatch makers can choose square or round watch faces, and Google's Android Wear SDK will accommodate.

Immediately after Google's announcement, LG announced a square Android Wear smartwatch called the G Watch, and Motorola announced a round one called the Moto 360. The announcement was accompanied by this video.

Motorola is one of the few major companies to release a round-display device of any kind. The round-screen Motorola Aura R1 phone, which shipped in December of 2008, cost $2,000 and flopped in the market. The high price was blamed on the cost of building and supporting the round display.

On the manufacturing side, both LG and Toshiba have developed round screens that could be used by gadget makers, but that was years ago and those screens never really caught on.

 

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