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Android Wear on iPhone: How it might happen and what it'll mean

On the face of it, it seems surprising — an unholy union of Apple and Android. The mere possibility of Android Wear support coming to the iPhone with the Apple Watch imminent raises several questions, not least how Apple might react to an Android-branded thing encroaching on its ecosystem. Will Cupertino block the companion app because it's Android Wear? Will the company throw up roadblocks simply because it's a competitor?

We'll examine these questions and more after the break. Read on.

Android Wear on iPhone

Google on Apple

Android Wear support for iOS, if it is close at hand, hasn't come out of the blue. Google has an extensive library of iPhone and iPad apps, maintained by a talented team of developers, and the company puts a lot of effort into making it as easy as possible for iOS users to live in the Google world. (A stark contrast to the situation on Windows Phone at present.) This includes apps like Gmail, Chrome and Maps, which compete with Apple's homegrown offerings, and even Google Voice — though only after a lengthy approval process that eventually dragged in the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC.

Android Wear on iOS doesn't come out of nowhere — Google has had a strong iPhone presence for as long as there's been an iPhone.

A strong presence on the iPhone has been a priority for Google for as long as there's been an iPhone. As a result, it's well served by the current Android-iOS smartphone duopoly. iPhone-to-Android switchers are pushed in the direction of Google services by default. Android-to-iPhone switchers can move without going completely off the reservation. By the same token, Google would rather Android Wear owners didn't automatically junk their watches and go all Apple if they switched to an iPhone.

So in the grand scheme of Google software on Apple hardware, Android Wear support makes a lot of sense for the former. Unlike the Apple Watch, Android Wear is very much an extension of your smartphone rather than a computer unto itself. They're different products with different feature sets, and wildly divergent pricing structures. At the same time, if Google's going to dip its toe into the world of luxury watches, supporting the world's best-selling premium smartphone is a very logical step.

Google doesn't need privileged access to the OS to make most Android Wear features work, thanks to iOS 8. API hooks already exist to let wearables like Pebble to grab notifications, while Extensibility in iOS 8 would allow Google's iPhone apps to emulate Android features like replying to a Gmail message over voice on your watch.

Based on the report from The Verge, it sounds like that's exactly what Android Wear on iOS is doing —

As it does on Android, on the iPhone Android Wear also supports Google Now's ambient information cards, voice search, and other voice actions. It should also support some more advanced features with Google's own iOS apps, like replying to Gmail messages.

What's less clear is the question of third-party apps — just how closely would they be able to hook into a paired Android Wear device on iOS? It's unlikely Google would be able to recreate the deep integration offered at a platform level through Google Play Services on Android.

Apple Watch

Potential roadblocks

Apple surely won't be thrilled by the prospect of Android Wear landing on the iPhone right as its Watch starts to hit the market, but would it actively oppose such a move by rejecting the companion iPhone app? Assuming it was called "Android Wear," almost certainly. The App Store review guidelines state:

Apps or metadata that mentions the name of any other mobile platform will be rejected.

That means anything with "Android" in the name or description is out.

Google's aware of that, of course. And assuming it's not seeking to poke the bear by submitting a companion app called "Android Wear," it's likely a more neutral name will be chosen — something like "Google Wear" or "Wear Companion." The problem isn't that Android Wear runs Android — remember, so does Google Glass, which works with iOS — it's the presence of the Android brand in its name.

It's should be enough to skirt around both in the app description and the app itself without diminishing the Android Wear brand too much. That said, such a move would come at a time when Google's pushing the Android brand harder than ever before.

If Google is serious about getting Wear on iOS, you can bet they've thought through Android Wear's 'Android' problem.

But if Google is serious about getting Wear on iOS, it's likely it's thought this through, and that it's willing to make this small concession for the sake of opening up Wear to more users.

Apple won't welcome Google's wearable platform with open arms, but that doesn't mean it'll reject Wear out of hand, especially if Google plays by its rules and nixes "Android" from its App Store listing. That being the case, Wear would be just one more smartwatch platform supported by iOS, and on Android it could continue to exist as Android Wear.

And let's not forget that competition and choice for consumers is never a bad thing.

Google's working on Android Wear for iPhone

Crucial timing

The timing of today's news, on the eve of Apple Watch pre-order day, is surely no accident. What's more, if Android Wear support for iOS is a far along as the report suggests, it'll hit right around the time Apple Watch sales start to open up following the initial rush. The Google I/O developer conference in late May would be a likely timeframe for an official announcement — perhaps along with tools to let developers support Android Wear across both platforms. (Though that depends on just how far Google wants to go with Wear support on iOS.)

Though we've been hearing about its impending dominance for years, wearable technology remains in its infancy, and still nobody has really worked out what smartwatches are for yet. The Apple Watch alone promises to make 2015 a pivotal year for this emerging device category, though, and the possibility of Android Wear widening its audience with iOS support will only make things more interesting.

Many of the early Apple Watch reviews paint a picture of a revolutionary but slightly overwhelming product. Perhaps Google will be hoping that a more available, more accessible alternative will sway buyers in the months ahead. Either way, we'll be watching with interest. Stay tuned to Android Central and iMore for coverage from both sides.

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.

79 Comments
  • Means our enemies don't have to pay $10,000 for a decent watch.
  • They are not our enemies.
  • Nope he's right. They're enemies. Except now they'll have an Android Wear.
  • Frenemies! Posted via Android Central App on 1+1
  • The only enemy is their ethics, of which they have none, typical ultra-greed corporation, bend laws to their advantage, pay representatives to hinder their competition, hide money to not pay taxes yet gladly use all the services they don't pay taxes for, and ship all jobs over seas. That is a few reasons why they really suck.
  • Definitely the enemy Nexus 5 (AT&T)
  • Speak for yourself. There's been a platoon of Apple fans laying siege to my house for the last week. They've cut off my supply lines and I think they're building siege engines. I don't know how much longer I can hold out.
  • Should have said something sooner, I can spare a battalion of Android coders to help out if you need them. You have cheetos and the extended version of Lord of the Rings over there right? That's all the motivation they need Where was Rick Grimes when we needed him a few 1000 years ago. He could have prevented all this stupidity.
  • i died at LOTR extended versions lolol
  • Are you talking about your ACTUAL house, or are you just playing Clash of Clans with iPhone users? :P
  • Fanbois of any brand are annoying.
  • Especially Samboys Posted via My htc One M8
  • Grow up you tool. Posted via the Android Central App
  • No he's right, they're especially funny. Remember Richard Yarrell? Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Did that guy disappear or something? Haven't seen his angry rants in a while. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I see him on YouTube every so often but only on Samsung videos haha Posted via the Android Central App
  • Are you upset about this?
  • Google should just name the app 'Green Robot Wear'.
  • Actually, that would be pretty funny.
  • Lol or Bugdroid Wear, or Lloyd Wear. Or how about they partner with Verizon and just call it Droid Wear lol [add signature here]
  • I like it. Every hour, on the hour, the watch can shriek "DROOOOOOOOOOOOOIIIIIIIIIIID" at top volume.
  • This will never happen. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes it will, google makes more money off of iOS than android. This WILL happen! Posted via Android Central App on 1+1
  • Good story bro. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It has already happened. Check YouTube and you will see. Sometimes people should start gaining a little knowledge before they speak, this was in the works for about a month or two now I don't know why it's catching on now.
  • Because its just hype... Posted via the Android Central App
  • It'll work for sure. Oh wait.... is that a new iOS update? I wonder if it will make some things not work? Nahh. Apple would never do that Via Nexus 6: "Takin updates for granted."
  • Hmm. "Overwhelming"... Did you guys possibly mean underwhelming? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Agreed. Exactly how is the Apple Watch more "overwhelming" (implying more functionality) than Android Wear watches?
  • Naw it makes sense actually. I think they have TOO many features in that little watch man. It gives the impression that it wants to replace your phone for half of your days' screen time and almost all reviewers are saying the interface can get confusing at times. "the watch primarily works alongside the phone as an extension, a second screen" and that second screen is asking for too much attention I think idk. It all goes back to that starting price of 350$ that is alotttttt of cash.
  • Most Android Wear devices are 299-349... My G Watch R was 350. So that's not really a good argument. I do agree that I have heard that the watch is very overwhelming. it is possible for a device to do "too much".
  • I paid $250 for the Moto 360 when new, and now it is $210. And that is for a high-end device WITH a nice leather band. To get that on the Apple Watch starts at what, $400? That is now almost double the price...
  • Apple's behavior in this effort will be very telling for their fan-base. With it dominating the mobile space in IOS, there is incentive for Apple to let Android-wear into their ecosystem just to entice Android users to join the IOS bandwagon. For younger users, this might work in wondrous ways that will be financially benefit Apple in the long term and hurt Google at the same time. This approach will not cheapen iWatch as Apple knows how to fix their prices no matter what. Remember they got a monopoly on Apple products, they are Apple period.
  • Apple is dominating the mobile space with iOS? Apple may hold the largest market share as a single manufacturer but it's HARDLY "dominating" on a platform level. comScore reported Apple as having 41.3% mobile market share while Android had 53.2%. These were numbers for January of this year and Apple's number was LOWER compared to October 2014 (down 0.6%) while Android increased (up 0.9%). As for bringing Android Wear to iOS, Alex hits it just right - Google needs to tread VERY carefully with how they brand the app and submit for approval.
  • And those numbers are just in the US.  If you look globally, Android owns something like 85% of the smartphone market.  it just *feels* like iOS dominate because the media seems to love iOS so much. Honestly (and I know I'm going to get flamed for this) it really feels like these reviews about the Apple Watch are "staged".  *Every* single reviewer is saying the same thing.  Too much the same. Every Apple Watch review you will read online right now says the following: Best smart watch yet (with no explanation of what makes it better than any others) Changed their daily use OS is more difficult to setup than expected from Apple Don't buy this version It's not even that they all make the exact same points, but they all even make them in the same order.  I get that there's a "story-telling" aspect to these types of articles that somewhat dictates the way the article is written, but all of these reviews feel like they were trying to match a list of bullet points they'd been given. And I'm not talking about 2 or 3 reviews like this, I've read at least 5 different reviews now that are the same list of bullet points. Maybe I need to go make a tin foil hat or something, but it just feels a little weird.
  • No...even apple bloggers said the feature set was a little daunting and that it might turn off apple fasns who expect it to just work. The only thing I read that was underwhelming was the picture maker wasn't animated like the keynote demo and there's some minor lag with some features. I kind of agree with the "kitchen sink" approach apple took. they're a computer/software co. So scaling back features or adding/enhancing features shouldn't be an issue
  • I hope this happens. I respect Google more for doing things like this. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Let's not get it twisted now. As long as iOS remains the platform where Google keep making their most cases they will continue to support it. It's just a good business decision that's all.
  • Damn "most money"
  • Last I checked, Google doesn't make money off android, or any mobile apps.
    When was the last time you paid for a google app, software/OS or public service? Google makes most of its profits from upgrades to free services, industrial tools, and search ads, not from Joe Schmoe GeneralUser, or Andy AndroidUser. Posted via the Android Central App
  • They make more money off of iOS users because they are more likely to spend more time on their phone googling Posted via Android Central App on 1+1
  • Using Google apps and services keeps you in their world and gives them all sorts of data about you that they can sell to their advertisers. You ARE the product being sold.....and that isn't necessarily, in and of itself, a bad thing if you are getting useful services and tools out of it. Make no mistake, they are making money from Android, just not directly.
  • They need to add nfc and speaker support to android wear so I can make payments and talk to people with my watch.
    I hope they bring android wear support to ios, Huawei watch looks a millions time better than the shrunken 1st generation iPhone apple is stripping to people's wrist Posted via Android Central App on 1+1
  • I don't care about voice calls on the watch at all, but an NFC chip and the ability to use it for Google Wallet purchases would be awesome. It's the one feature of the Apple Watch that makes me jealous.
  • I would be more interested in NFC on the watch for stuff like opening the door of a hotel room than NFC payment.  Who knows, maybe the hardware exists in these things and Google just hasn't "turned it on" yet, like WiFi?
  • This needs to happen. It will drive Android Wear oems to create smartwatches that are "better than the apple watch" so they can get iphone users to buy their watch instead of the apple watch. If they're gonna do that, they'll have to step their game up both in design and function. Everyone wins.
  • You have as small of a penis as you do a brain. And your brain clearly isn't too big Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lol what are you talking about? He's dead on [add signature here]
  • If your penis is the size of even a relatively small human brain, seek medical attention. You clearly have a very serious disease.
  • That is extremely subjective.  Personally, I think the Moto 360 looks *much* nicer than the Apple Watch.  I also find the idea of zooming in and out on a grid of app icons to be ludicrous.
  • A huge amount of functionality will be lost with Wear devices on iOS, since you won't be able to install Android/Wear apps or if you do, there will be lots of restrictions and complicated issues. But it is still a nice option, especially if you have an iOS device, and want a simple and inexpensive device for time, notifications, and a several other basic things. However, expect a lot of negative reviews of Wear devices by iOS users, since they simply will not understand that the experience would be much better when used with Android devices... I know I would be very disappointed without all the apps I have installed on my 360.
  • I'm sure Facer and WatchMaker would find a way to port themselves onto iOS for a chance at in app purchases. If the sales numbers are there, developers and vendors will follow.
  • Exactly.
    Apple's restrictions on app developers running non-native code will have Android Wearables limited to displaying the mobile content that Apple makes available through their OS api. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I wish Google would spend some time getting things to work with windows phone. I'd like to be able to have the ability to use any device I want and not have to worry about it.
  • They're probably waiting for a bigger share of windows phone option before they invest the time and money. It would be the equivalent of investing in blackberry. Via Nexus 6: "Takin updates for granted."
  • No dev support because of low marketshare. Low marketshare because of little to no dev support. It's Linux all over again. Whoo. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • Exactly. And it's kind of like yin and yang, there's really only room for two players to be really good. Funny thing is, Android is linux at the core, so you never know what could happen in the future. But I think future would be brighter without M$FT and Apple both, these old money veterans in the industry need to die to let more fluid and open ideas flourish a la Android. OEM: "I want to build a smartphone"
    Google: "You'll need a screen of any resolution round or square, an ARM or x86 cpu we don't care, and at least 512 RAM"
    Apple: "No"
    Microsoft: "We will pay you to use Windows! Please!"
  • Once there is a sizable userbase using the more popular platforms, then Google may branch out to the
  • It means nothing to me because I don't have an iPhone.
  • If Apple does block or roadblock it, it's blatant grounds for an anticompetitive lawsuit. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Agreed. Me thinks both Google and Apple need to be careful and play in the sandbox well with each other. Rattling cages and making bad moves could backfire bigtime.
  • Apple doesn't have a majority market share, so there wouldn't be a case.
  • Yup.  "Anti-competitve" is only illegal if you are considered to be a monopoly.
  • How? Apple can pretty much do what it wants when it comes to the App Store. Even if there's backlash, how loud or effective would it be? Supposedly, there were only 720,00 A-Wear shipments last year. If the Watch has anything close to typical Apple launch sales, Apple will surpass that within weeks. It's not as if A-Wear products are selling in great numbers right now. A-Wear is just as nascent as the Watch right now, and in my view, Apple would be smart to knee-cap it however it can while it can.
  • I have a feeling that Android Wear will be as neutered on iOS as Pebble is. When I switch to my iPhone I don't even bother pairing my Pebble to it. Notifications are miserable and not being able to use it as a trusted device removes a lot of functionality for me with being able to have my phone unlocked when I need it to be but locks if it leaves my immediate area. Posted via the Android Central App
  • ^^^^^^^^^Get rid of the iphone, problem solved Posted via the Android Central App
  • Where's my Windows Phone app?! Don't be a dick, Google.
  • So you are the one. I wondered who was the person who bought a Windows phone. You are like a purple unicorn.
  • Well, I do have 2 M7s but my actual phone is a Lumia 520.
  • Or, you can get a real phone.
  • What's with all the windows phone hate jeez. I had a lumia 920 before I got an gs5, then sold it and got my nexus 6 thank God. The s5 is cool and all but shitty AF touchwiz killed the overall UI. However windows phone has a great user interface just no apps, or no good apps. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Apple (and Google) need most to convince consumers that they actually want a smart watch. The best way to do that is to get smart watches regardless of brand onto as many wrists as possible. If apple is smart they won't interfere here. Android wear on the iPhone will give a lot of people the ability to try the smart watch idea on their iPhone without paying the kind of prices that Apple demands. And since it is likely that an Android wear product on an iPhone won't work nearly as well as Apple Watch on an iPhone, apple will have an easy way to upsell customers to their watch. Posted via Android Central App
  • The WiFi features of Android Wear would certainly help offset any notification shortcomings that might occur between the iPhone and the watch.
  • Here's what will happen. An update to the Google app on iOS will have this functionality built-in. That way you avoid calling it "Android Wear" it will just be another option in the app.
  • I'm thinking it's probably just going to be a watch version of Google Now paired with some kind of Google Services for iOS thing.
  • That's actually a pretty good idea, unless Apple decides that Google is "hiding code".  That's going to be Google's biggest problem is that Apple is notorious for making it difficult to get apps they don't like into the app store.  They can literally "invent" a reason to reject the app.
  • Apple will just update iOS and break compatibility deliberately. They've done such in the past. Posted via the Android Central App powered by Droid Turbo
  • I use both platforms, so this sounds great. Posted via AC App on HTC One
  • Any new update about iOS for Android wear?