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How to use an Android Wear watch with an iPhone – and why you may want to

Andrew Hayward | June 22, 2016
Granted, you get a lot less functionality with Android Wear watches via an iPhone, but the price difference compared to an Apple Watch could add a lot of upside to the downgrade.

 

The Apple Watch celebrated its first birthday, and although a second version is widely rumoured to debut later this year, the original is still hanging tough. Apple's smartwatch reportedly commands just over half of the global market at this point, and this spring's price drop potentially makes it even more attractive to new buyers.

Still, $429 for the entry-level Sport model isn't cheap, and that's for the 38mm model - anyone with larger wrists will probably drop $499 for the 42mm size, and potentially much more for the stainless steel model or fancier bands. It's a device that millions have come to rely on for helping them stay more connected, fitter and more aware of the world around them, but the Apple Watch remains a pricey supplement to an iPhone.

Looking for an alternative? Pebble's watches are one, with the current Pebble Time recently sinking in price, but there's another option you may not know about: Android Wear watches. 

True story! The various Google-backed, Android-powered smartwatches became compatible with the iPhone in late 2015, and while there are pricier models that land squarely in Apple Watch territory, the wider range also means cheaper options are out there. And the refurbished/used market makes it much easier to find a device on the cheap.

Granted, you get a lot less functionality with Android Wear watches via an iPhone, but the price difference compared to an Apple Watch could add a lot of upside to the downgrade. Here's what you need to know if you want an Android on your wrist with an Apple in your pocket.

What is Android Wear?

Android Wear is Google's smartwatch platform, but while Google makes the core software that all of the watches run, the company doesn't manufacture any of its own watches. That'll be a familiar approach to anyone who has used or browsed Android phones, but Google doesn't even have a branded smartwatch like its line of Nexus phones and tablets.

Since the first models came out in June 2014, more than 15 watches have been released from various manufacturers, including Motorola, Samsung, Sony, LG, Huawei and Asus. The array of different makers means every Android Wear watch is unique in look and materials, unlike the Apple Watch, and some offer larger batteries or include GPS - so there's more flexibility, too.

However, since they all run the same Android Wear platform, all the watches essentially act identically in software usage when running the latest version. Nearly all Android Wear watches are dependent on your phone for connectivity, although apps can run natively on the watch and you can, say, listen to music via Bluetooth headphones without needing your phone.

 

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