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Up until now, smartwatches have fallen into two camps: there’s the aesthetic group, which Pebble‘s e-ink sits in. It places an emphasis on design but limits overall functionality. Then there’s the practical group, which cram as many features as possible into something that just doesn’t sit well on a wrist. Hello, Samsung Galaxy Gear! However, with today’s announcement of Android Wear and Motorola’s 360 smartwatch, there may finally be one device to bind both camps together.
In a blog post titled “Sharing what’s up our sleeve” (we see what you did there), Google today announced Android Wear, a new platform specifically for wearable devices. Android Wear will become “a range of new devices along with an expansive catalogue of apps,” though Google are “starting with the most familiar wearable—watches.”
Google’s approach to smartwatches aims to provide much of the functionality of its Nexus devices and Google Now personal assistant software. That means a simple, clean interface with no bloat or excess — which should translate to a great user experience. Android Wear aims to provide users with useful information as and when they need it: posts and updates from social apps, chats from messaging apps and notifications from shopping, news and photography apps, to name just a few.
Google’s Now personal assistant is present, as is Google’s Voice Search software. Users can activate the search function by saying “OK Google” before asking a variety of questions or performing a number of functions, such as setting alarms or creating reminders, getting navigation directions to a business meeting or social event, seeing their latest flight information, checking the number of calories in a certain food, finding out sports results, sending texts, calling contacts or even making restaurant reservations. All from your wrist. Anything you’d ask the Now app on your phone will be present here.
Health and fitness can also be monitored, with Wear syncing with fitness apps to offer real-time speed, distance and time information for a walk, run or cycle. Users can also use Android Wear devices to control other Google-connected hardware such as phones and Google Chromecast. Tell a smartphone to open a music playlist, or throw a film from Google Play to the nearest connected TV.
Of course, it’s all nothing without an actual device to clamor over, and Motorola has certainly delivered on that front. The 360 is a smartwatch that aims to move forward by looking to the past. Motorola drew inspiration from traditional, classic timepieces, retaining the round shape and familiar design associated with premium watches. Leather and metal wrist-straps are available, while the watch itself looks to be crafted from metal — Motorola declined to offer any concrete specifications.
The main selling point of the 360 is its digital display. It can ape a traditional timepiece with slender, moving arms, but by saying “OK Google” it can transform and offer wrist-based sat-nav or help you craft a quick email. Motorola’s sums up the 360’s capabilities by saying “It’s time a watch did all of this, and still looked like a watch.” Truer words were never spoken. Look for the 360 to launch this summer in “a variety of styles.”