What is it?
The first generation Galaxy Gear gave us a little taste of Android on our wrists, but Google is taking things in a whole different direction with Android Wear, a dedicated Android build for wearable devices.
Android Wear is for all wearables, but Google is focusing on smartwatches for the moment. With Android Wear on your wrist you’ll get information and suggestions based on the time and your location as well as updates from Facebook, Twitter, instant messages, notifications, and news. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a smartwatch if it couldn’t also monitor your exercise and health, so Android Wear enables that functionality too, giving real-time speed, distance and time for running, cycling or walking.
Similar to Google Glass or Google Now, Android Wear answers questions that start with the prompt, "OK Google." No more taking out your phone to send a text, set an alarm, make a reservation, or call a cab! This same prompt is also used to complete numerous other actions, like pulling up playlists or casting content to your TV.
What does it look like?
Google has designed a whole new UI for Android Wear, putting Google Now front and center and highlighting contextual information and voice activated functionality. The idea is to make all the information you might need at any point during the day easily accessible, so weather, meetings, travel times, and updates are just a swipe away, and directions, recommendations, and messaging are all easily executed via speech. Check the video below for an idea of how Google sees watches running Android Wear fitting into your life:
Who is making it?
Google's got the software, but it's useless without hardware. Today, LG and Motorola announced their own watches. The former is the G Watch, and LG is promising it will be a low barrier to entry for developers, so hopefully that means it will be cheap. Other than mentioning that it worked closely with Google on the development of the device, LG didn’t offer much details on hardware and specifications, promising those details would be unveiled in the coming months.
Motorola’s offering is round and dubbed the Moto 360. It looks unlike any of the smartwatches we’ve seen over the last year or so and is very sleek. Again, not a whole lot of specifics on specs, but those will come a little bit closer to launch.
Fossil has also made its intentions known, releasing a statement saying it’s working with Google to support the extension of Android via Android Wear. Though Fossil didn’t dish details, this show of support is proof that Android Wear appeals to both fashion and technology companies. Google also mentioned it’s working with HTC, Asus, and Samsung as well as chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek, and Qualcomm.
Developers will also obviously play a big role in Android Wear, and Google is expecting devs to really run with the wearables idea and create new experiences unique to the smartwatch form factor. A preview SDK is being released this week. This will allow developers of Android apps to extend their experience to the smartwatch and will ensure a healthy number of Android Wear-friendly apps when launch rolls around.
When can I have it?
Not yet is the short answer. LG says it will release more information about its watch 'in the coming months' while Motorola is targeting a summer 2014 launch. Based on that timeline, we're expecting Google I/O to focus on Android Wear and with perhaps some more information about the above devices thrown in for good measure. Google I/O is the last week of June so mark your calendars!