Tech monoliths Apple and Google have each released wearable technology accessories in the past 18 months, and rumor has it they’re both working hard on the next iterations of their smartwatches. Before new wearables make their way onto our wrists (or splash their way like logos across our T-shirts), we wanted to take a look at how smartwatches have impacted each company’s mobile empire since entering the market.
Google Fragmentation Hindered Android Wear Launch
One reason we love Google products is the sheer number of choices we have when it comes to Android. With so many devices to choose from – and new ones being announced faster than our Twitter feeds can track – it can be fun to check out new gadgets and not feel locked into One Phone to Rule Them All.
However, freedom of choice comes with certain hindrances…like how to get a wearable to market that the majority of users can integrate with their existing platforms. Just check out how many different OS releases are in play.
Google released Android Wear compatible OS Version 4.3 (codename Jellybean) in late July of 2013, and waited 11 months to drop Android Wear itself in stores. In June of 2014, only 25% of devices could support Wear and even now, as of May 2015, only 55% of Android devices can be supported by Android Wear products. Only in the past few months have compatible devices started to outnumber incompatible ones.
Why is this the case? Well, with the platform market stretched out so far, it’s hard to reach every customer and entice them to upgrade their OS. As wearables become more commonplace we’d imagine consumers will start prioritizing Android Wear-ready devices.
Apple Watch’s Streamlined Go-To-Market Plan
On the flip side, Apple has the habit of quick, streamlined releases – which they can implement as they only have a limited number of devices to support. There is little customer choice (you can have an iPhone, or you can have nothing), and because of that, Apple controls how often customers need to upgrade to newer iOS or devices. Such tight control has a plus side: it empowered Apple to get the majority of their smartphone users Apple Watch ready.
Where Google took nearly a year to prepare for Android Wear compatibility, Apple did it in six months. They launched iOS 8 in September of 2014, released Apple Watch ready iOS 8.2 in March of 2015, and had 51% of their devices compatible by April.
By May of 2015, 70% of Apple’s devices were prepared to integrate with Apple Watch.
What Can We Learn From OS Fragmentation?
Google and Apple are of two different mindsets: one gives us freedom to choose, the other gives us one clear choice. With variety comes a slow-down in the development and production cycle, but without choice we’re required to follow the herd. Neither platform is 100% perfect, but neither are they particularly disappointing.
As app developers, these differences continue to mean that we need to track how quickly we’ll have to bring our products up to date when Apple announces launch dates, and also that we can likely build over a longer time period with Google. And in an inconsistent world, it’s at least a little comforting to know that some things currently aren’t changing. Much.
This article was written by Alicia Ostarello from Crittcerism.