The wearable world went into meltdown this week when, shortly after announcing its latest pack of products, Google quietly removed the Android Wear page from its storefront. More incriminating yet, even if you navigate to the Android Wear page another way, the LG Watch Sport and Style are listed as no longer available. Cue the Android Wear doomsday clock inching closer to midnight, but as one Googler explained, this is just part of a long-planned strategy for Google to keep its shop window exclusively for home-built devices.
Apparently Google has been busy building custom Wear storefronts for other retailers, seeing this as a smarter strategy. Fine, but there's no denying Android Wear is getting less exposure as a result. To me this nicely dovetails with the recent launch of the LTE Apple Watch Series 3, where a lot of people fawned over a feature that Android Wear watches had been offering for yonks.
Now's the time: Google's getting really good at design
Did people not care, or did they just not know? I think it's a bit of both, and both are symptoms of the bigger problem: Android Wear isn't being taken seriously enough. But it's OK because I have the solution: Google needs to build a Pixel watch. It needs a smartwatch to call its own, a watch that shows us what Android Wear is all about, and it needs it soon.
By our books the LG Watch Sport is still the best Android Wear smartwatch you can buy right now. Good on LG, but a little damning I think when the shining beacon of Android Wear is one that arrived in February, and doesn't even get the Google name.
When you've paid $350 for one that doesn't have Android Pay, you start to ask questions
It's not like we've been short on Android Wear watches since, but as tech companies like Motorola and Asus have failed to make Android Wear sing, fashion brands have assumed the mantle. Which would be fine if OEMs were all making the most of the platform - but they're not. Naturally, fashion brands don't want to weigh down their smartwatches with too much tech, so that's undoubtedly part of it, and who can blame them when Google's not telling them otherwise? I'll happily tell Michael Kors I think the LG Watch Sport is still top dog, but I wouldn't catch him dead wearing it.
While it's let so many brands step in - and don't get me wrong, I do think that's a smart strategy - Google's leash on Android Wear has fallen too slack. I've asked Google many times about why it doesn't impose some features as minimum, and the response is always that it doesn't want to dictate to OEMs.
It's the smartphone strategy and I get it, but when you've paid $350 for a Michael Kors Android Wear watch that doesn't have Android Pay, you start to ask questions. That's why I think Google needs its own flagship watch to plough the way for Android Wear, because at this very moment it feels like Google has a vision of who Android Wear should be for, but not what it should be.
Meanwhile Apple sucks up the lion's share of the market and Samsung's bet on going it alone with Tizen appears to have paid off. I mean, it's still here in 2017 making good smartwatches, so it's done something right. Right?
Just so we're clear, I think Google's decision to turn to fashion brands was savvy. In fact I wonder where Android Wear would be right now had Fossil and others not stepped in. But at the same time, it needs Android Wear to be taken seriously. If Apple can cram LTE, GPS and everything else into a tiny smartwatch, so too can Google - and now's the time to stamp its name on it.