Google takes on the Apple Watch with Android Wear 2.0 and two new LG watches

Google's Android Wear 2.0 update has been revealed after months of Developer Previews for select watches. Coupled with this update is a pair of watches made by LG — with Google's guidance — the LG Watch Sport and the LG Watch Style. There's a lot to unpack about all three, but the first thing Apple Watch fans will notice is a new control mechanism for Android Wear.

Andrew Martonik, in his LG Watch Sport Review:

Perhaps my favorite part about the Android Wear 2.0 update is its new emphasis on "rotational input." The new interaction method lets companies create smartwatches that can use other forms of input than just the touch screen, like LG did with a rotating crown on the Watch Sport and Watch Style. Rotational input isn't simply translating spinning hardware into touch, either — it's a whole new form of interaction that developers have to specifically target and choose what to do. For example it's used for scrolling throughout the interface, but zooming on Google Maps — developers can run with it.

Google's adoption of a scrolling-friendly UI isn't merely a Digital Crown clone, though: there's a specific focus on hardware manufacturers being able to implement a rotating bezel like the Samsung Gear S3 if desired.

LG's larger watch includes NFC for Android Pay, a first for Android Wear watches, as well as a cellular radio for LTE support. The cost for these features is a significantly larger body and the inability to replace the watch band, since the radio antennae are woven into the band to ensure quality cellular service.

LG Watch Style

Finally recognizing that not everyone wants a large watch, the LG Watch Style offers something much slimmer and more stylish. But it's not without compromise, as Florence Ion points out in her review:

You won't get the new fitness tracking abilities of Android Wear 2.0 on the Watch Style, and that's primarily because of hardware limitations. Unlike the Watch Sport, the Style doesn't have a heart-rate monitor, a barometer, or standalone GPS. It doesn't have NFC, either, which is the real tragedy here, considering how close to perfect the Watch Style would be if I could just pay for stuff with it.

This decision to offer form and function as separate products is an interesting decision, but the reason for this is reflected in the OS itself. Google's complete UX overhaul in Android Wear 2.0 is a focus on almost modular personalization. A new Complications API — yes, that's really what they called it — and apps that can now be installed and run entirely separate of the phone make an argument for many kinds of users.

It's possible to own a watch that is simply a notification bucket on your wrist, but it's also possible to replace your phone entirely for extended periods of time. As Russell Holly points out in his Android Wear 2.0 OS review, this strategy has a lot to do with how Google sees interacting with iPhone owners moving forward:

This is how Google creates the same Android Wear experience regardless of the phone platform you're using. If the app is on the Play Store, and the Play Store is on the wrist, it won't matter that you have an iPhone connected.

Several hardware manufacturers have come forward with plans to release new hardware with Android Wear 2.0 onboard, but it remains to be seen how many of these new features are going to be considered useful. If nothing else, this update confirms a lot of decisions Apple made early on with watchOS.

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader is a Senior Editor at iMore, offering his Canadian analysis on Apple and its awesome products. In addition to writing and producing, Daniel regularly appears on Canadian networks CBC and CTV as a technology analyst.

  • It's certainly got very rounded corners.
  • 2012 called, said they want you back. Very old reference there
  • If only. Apple are still pursuing Samsung for this ludicrous "patent".
  • But no one cares anymore, no one's mentioned it until you mentioned it now, plus this has nothing to do with circular watches
  • Apple (or at the very least their lawyers) care.
  • Too bad Apple doesn't copy the round design.
  • Yes because having text cut off at the "corners" of the screen and having to fit UI elements that were never designed for a circular structure, is always fun… /s
  • The rectangle screen lends itself more to having a smartwatch that is an extension of a smartphones screen and does indeed allow more information and features to be displayed. However the rotating bezel is a much more ergonomic input method than a rotating dial on the side of the watch (especially during exercise).
  • From an ergonomic point of view, yes it's probably good. But bare in mind that normal watches are circular due to the fact that the when the hands rotate they form a circular rotation, so the watch made sense to be circular. Smartwatches are designed mainly to display information similar to that of your iPhone or computer, both of which have a square/rectangular display to accommodate the type of information displayed..
  • Same tired argument Apple used when they didn't want to make bigger screens, perfect size, reachability, blah, blah, blah. There is a reason most other Smart Watches are round, that's what people prefer. Apple will figure it out eventually, then Apple fans will declare the decision, revolutionary.
  • Why would you want an illogically round smartwatch? It would make much more sense if all a smartwatch did was display analog time, but they do much more.
  • Android wear is too far back of both Apple and Samsung to make a difference. There will have to be some amazing features to even make a dent and even Apple and Samsung have failed to impress the masses. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Failed to impress the masses?
  • Compared to other smartwatch establishments then Apple's wristwear is definitely a success. However, Apple's reluctance to release specific sales figures for it is an odd decision and only fuels the suspicion that it's not doing as well as they forecasted.
  • Not that of an odd decision. Considering how small the smartwatch market is at the moment, Apple's decision to withhold sales figures means that other manufacturers have no idea how well the Apple Watch has sold. Other manufacturers might assume that the Apple Watch is selling badly due to their own low smartwatch sales, where as the Apple Watch could be doing very well, and by the time Apple releases the sales figures, other smartwatches could be very behind because of it.
  • If your implying it looks like an Apple Watch, It doesn't.
  • The implication is that Android Wear 2 copies the rotating dial on the side of the watch. Which it does.
  • You mean a Dial? Something watches have had since forever and is something Apple didn't make? WOWOWOWOWOOWOW!
  • Well, It's not just the dial, it's the specific ways the Crown is used.
  • "Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal" - Steve Jobs
  • No one said it was a bad thing, but yeah you just admitted right there that it was copied.
  • Nope, I'm quoting Steve Jobs. You Apple Fanboys tend to forget about the quote.
  • That's more a specific feature of the LG watches, more than Android Wear as a whole. And many companies have been working with non-touch interactions on Smart Watch OSs, like Pebble's button, Apple's Digital Crown, TicWatch's touch strip, and Samsung's Rotating Bezel.
  • I've seen the video-reviews, and certainly the way I navigate the menu is very similar to the OS watch, only in the Android ecosystem, native android app, it's a long wait to see something so similar to the apple watch / watch OS. When apple launched the watch not only has emphasized its utility but also that it is a customizable fashion accessory, the rollover of the android watches wear also goes that way. Apple arrived late to the wearable market, but even so it has again marked the way forward for the rest of the industry
  • It's pretty crazy they used the word Complications to mean the same thing. Does google truly have no shame when it comes to copying what Apple does. I expect that kind of thing from Samsung but google should hold themselves to a slightly higher standard than Samsung.
  • Complications is a word associated with watch functions predating smart watches.
  • As mentioned in the prior commentor, Complications is actually an Analog watch term.
  • "Google's adoption of a scrolling-friendly UI isn't merely a Digital Crown clone, though: there's a specific focus on hardware manufacturers being able to implement a rotating bezel like the Samsung Gear S3 if desired." IMHO, it's a digital crown. The Pixel looks like an iPhone. And there are a ton of MacBook clones, including Chromebooks. Heck, Android is a clone of iOS but was almost a clone of BlackBerry. But if Apple makes a quality Siri speaker that works seamlessly with the tvOS, iOS, and macOS as only Apple can, few will be so kind as you have been here.
  • the LG watch looks so good. however my watch still works. will wait and hope apple finds a way to make the watch thinner. sure i will get one again.