One of the biggest things missing from the Apple Watch is the smart, predictive capabilities of something like Google Now (sorry, Siri). But starting today, Google is making its Android Wear smartwatch platform available to iOS owners. This means big competition for the Apple Watch, and it could be good news for you.
The Android Wear app, rolling out today, will work on iPhones running iOS 8.2 or higher and provide all the smartwatch features you'd expect: notifications of incoming calls, messages, and app alerts; fitness and activity tracking; and help from Google Now. Say “Okay Google” to the watch, and you can ask it what the weather looks like for the day, tell the watch to remind you to pack sunscreen for later, or a myriad of other tasks. But (big but), the iOS version of Android Wear is a lot more limited than its true Android counterpart. First off, the app will only work with newer Android Wear products, such as the LG Watch Urbane, as well as upcoming models from Huawei, Motorola, and Asus. That means it doesn't work with existing options, like the round-faced Moto 360 or the Samsung Gear Live. However, that still opens up your wrist for a lot more variety than just an Apple Watch or a Pebble — both in terms of looks and price point. And unlike the Apple Watch, Android Wear won't get you access to third-party apps, so it's a Google-only device. There’s also no WiFi support, so if you're roaming out of Bluetooth range of your phone, your smartwatch basically turns into a pumpkin (it loses all those smart features). While the Apple Watch is able to tap into a variety of sensors on your handset, Android Wear watches won't get that same sort of access. Google says it will continue to develop the iOS experience, so it's possible that some of these limitations will get nixed in the not-too-distant future. For iPhone owners who aren't completely bought into the Apple ecosystem or who rely heavily on Google apps and services, this new Android Wear compatibility could be supremely useful. Being able to reply to text messages quickly and knowing whether a notification is priority level "Must Handle Now" or "It Can Wait Until Later" without having to pull your phone out of your purse are benefits you can now get for a fraction of the price of Apple's wearable. For Google, these Android Wear watches could also act as a gateway drug to the Android experience, luring iPhone users away from iOS. Now, will Apple ever make its Watch available for Android users? It's possible, but we won't hold our breath.