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The Google Watch with Google Now - A wearable computer for the present

The future of computing is mobile, and the future of mobile is wearables. Google knows this; so does LG, Samsung and Apple. That’s why all four are rumored to be working on their own smart watches. Google’s, it’s reported, will run Android, and might be with us sooner rather than later.

The Pebble smart watch has already proved the appetite for this kind of product as a smartphone companion device. The appeal is obvious -- the ability to keep tabs on email, messages, calls, music playback, etc. using a device that’s always on your person. Relief from the burden of constant phone-checking (or at least, a weaning of users onto constant watch-checking instead.) It’s no wonder Google and others want a piece of that pie.

Glass is for the future

Sure, a smart watch might not be as sexy as a futuristic headset like Google Glass. But it’s also nowhere near as risky a proposition, not to mention easier to get into consumers’ hands using Google’s existing infrastructure and software. (Think Android and the Google Play Store.) Make no mistake -- Google faces an uphill struggle in making Glass a success. It’s a potentially revolutionary class of product, but the barriers to ownership and acceptance are immense. For the moment it’s expensive -- $1500 for the Explorer Edition. It’s also a highly visible accessory that draws attention to its user -- and not necessarily in a positive way. Its being at eye height means you can’t not notice it, and the presence of a camera will be a cause of unease for some.

For those reasons, we’ve already started to witness some blow-back against Google’s smart glasses. A Seattle dive bar famously issued a pre-emptive ban. State legislators in the U.S. are pondering a ban on Glass while driving. In the UK, anti-Glass pressure group Stop the Cyborgs has made the news in recent weeks. And it isn’t all scaremongering and publicity stunts -- there are some real privacy, safety and security issues around Glass that’ll need to be resolved in the coming years.

Glass is for the future. The present needs a different kind of wearable computer, and the Google Watch fits that bill. Google’s smart watch should offer its own unique benefits in a less obtrusive package. The larger footprint of a watch would allow traditional (low-power) smartphone innards to be used, presumably alongside a standard touchscreen of some sort. And if Google’s to use Android on its smart watch, as is reported, then it’s already got a ready-made, mature mobile platform to build off. All the individual pieces Google needs to make a really great smart watch already exist, and the path to release is much smoother.

Android on a watch

But Android on a watch isn’t going to look a whole lot like Android on a phone -- it’s a completely different class of device. Consider, for instance, the problem of text entry on a screen so small. Whereas most smartphones are built around a central home screen launcher, a watch needs to offer information at a glance, and perhaps the ability to launch additional apps where it makes sense. That requires a radical re-thinking of the UI most of us are familiar with, even if under the hood it’s the same old Android running the show. Being an embedded OS, of course, Android can look like anything -- a phone, a tablet, an oven.

Almost a year ago our own Phil Nickinson asked whether Google Now, Google's predictive search app, might someday replace the traditional Android home screen. There’ve been a few baby steps towards that with the Google Now widget, apps like DashClock and more content-centric home screen implementations like HTC BlinkFeed. But the natural place to put Google Now -- the place that makes so much sense that it can’t possibly not happen -- is on the Google Watch.

Wearing Google Now

It’s a perfect fit, and it brings a whole new meaning to the term “timely information.” Google Now is easy enough to get to on most Android devices, but on phones and tablets it’s hidden behind either a swipe gesture or a few button presses. At a more basic, physical level, there’s the problem of actually having to extract your phone from your pocket, then unlock it and find Google Now.

This is exactly what smart watches aim to remedy -- the constant need to check your phone. Watches, as a product category, are all about fast access to timely, relevant information. So when Google’s smart watch eventually arrives, Google Now should be front and center, providing single-glance access to not just the time and any pending notifications, but the weather, transit directions, appointments, sports scores, boarding passes and more. In doing so, it could elegantly fit into a new role as the face of the Google Watch.

Search is Google’s bread and butter, and Google Now has shown us that the future of search is predictive and personal. Android has always been about hooking users’ mobile lives into Google’s products, and recently that's expanded to include predictive search. As an Android product, Google’s watch, if and when it arrives, should be a continuation of Android's mission. And if Google Now is the center of that experience, it might just be the ideal wearable device for the here and now.

Alex Dobie
Alex Dobie

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.

  • MOTOACTV with Google Now. Done.
  • I wouldn't be surprised if you were right lol
  • It needs to be a little smaller than a MOTOACTV, but a great idea. I can't wear my MOTOACTV as daily driver...
  • I would pull mine out of the junk box for that.
  • I, for one, am excited to see how Google implements Now and Android into the watch platform. Hopefully, it debuts at I/O.
  • NOW has a lot of potential. But I'm not sure it warrants front and center placement on a dedicated device. Its barely useful as is. As it stands today, its too limited and the guess-work it employs is pretty much useless for anything practical. The necessity to track you 24/7 on Google's Servers in order for it to work at all is simply too invasive. The assumptions it makes about where you want to go are virtually useless to me. Just because I google plumbing parts does not mean I need drive time to Home Depot.
    There is no reason I need a weather report taking my whole screen.
  • With Google's speech to text, you should be able to text, email, and open apps like telling it to play music when out for a run. As long as the watch is voice activated it could do everything without typing or touch
  • First of all, the bar owner said it to specifically said said to start controversy second, Police officers are also go to be wearing wearable glasses in US cities and this seems like a biased article.
  • I thought I was having a stroke while reading this - after re-reading it a few times, it would appear I am OK.
  • HAPPY FRIDAY...sorry i couldnt pass this up....and to start it all off.
    Me fail English? That's unpossible!
    Catch 23 Situation
    Denial and Error
    Super Nintendo chamers
    Escape Goat
    Fire Retarded
    Get Two Birds Stoned at Once
    I'm an Optomitrist
    It's Clear to See Who Makes the Pants Here
    It Doesn't Take Rocket Appliances
    Make Like a Tree and Fck Off
    Passed with Flying Fuckin' Carpets
    Sippel and Garfuckel
    Supply and Command
    Sweet and Power Chicken
    What Comes Around is All Around
    What Julian Doesn't Grow Won't Burn Him
    Worst Case Ontario
    it taste like burning
    i found a moon rock in my nose. daddy these rubber ppants are hot look big daddy its regular daddy.
  • long live ralph wiggum
  • Does anyone else want this watch with Google Wallet? I'd never have to reach into my pocket for a wallet or phone, just swipe my wrist.
  • Yes, please.
  • +1000
  • yes yes yes
  • First give me Google Wallet, then I'll worry about having it on my wrist, after I find any useful place that actually accepts it as payment.
  • Google Time? See this from not long ago...
  • I have to believe that the watch itself will _not_ be running Android. Something n the form factor of a watch simply doesn't have the footprint to support the necessary hardware. If they try, I suspect it will be huge, expensive and have minimal battery life. Same goes for trying to run iOS on a watch. The reason Pebble works is that they have a minimalist OS (if you can even call it an OS) that supports "watchfaces" and simplistic apps - with an appropriate (minimalist) API. One could make a pebble app that pulled data from NOW, and maybe gave notifications from some NOW events. That is assuming Google has an API to get NOW info. As it is currently, I get notifications on my pebble every time something on NOW changes. This is via the "Pebble Notifier" third party Android app. As it operates now, I have turned it off - Every time the "time to home" changes, I get a buzz on my watch. Not what I want. Being able to scroll through cards "pulled" from my phone seems reasonable. As a hacker backer, I may give that a try.
  • The screen will be key -- that's what drains so much juice on most Android phones, and on a watch that screen might have to be active 24/7. Android scales really well, so I'm not too concerned with the chip that's powering it. Same with radios, as the watch will likely leech data over Wifi or BT.
  • All I can think about is how bad the battery will be. My phone dies on me all the time, I check the battery status and it's 50% screen. How can a watch, even though it is a smaller screen, not die within 24hr.
    I'm psyched for this technology to come around, I think people are ready for it too.
  • Android is Linux, and Linux scales really well. The original Motorola Razr flip phone ran a form of Linux. Basically, when they suggest that it's running Android, they don't mean the same, whole OS that's running on our phones, it's essentially just using the Android Kernel with some other Android specific bits thrown in to make it sync up with the phone. The watch will just be a simple, super low power SoC, some memory, a display driver and low power BT radio, and probably an accelerometer. The phone will probably do most of the heavy lifting such as GPS, pulling data from the internet.
  • Android has already been done on a watch...the WIMM One was running it, and had it running nicely on a slick dual-mode screen (although it was a modified version of Doughnut; but still). And it was $199 2+ years ago. If Google can sell a Nexus in the Play Store for under $200, I would have to believe that they could sell a smartwatch a decent price too.
  • Does anyone else think this would be a better 'touch surface' to control google glass than that big ugly thing on the side of glass? That way you wouldn't have to always be reaching up to touch the side of your face to operate it.
  • +1000
  • I don't know, I haven't worn a watch in over a decade, i doubt this would make me start.
  • I picked up a Sony Smart Watch a couple of weeks ago and I love it. It does exactly what I want, information at a glance without having to have my phone out at all times. I can't wait to see what Samsung, LG and Google do in this space.
  • What about voice commands? I would love to see a watch with NOW and I could search anything on the fly by speaking into it. Makes perfect sense to me.
  • How about they put some of the $1500 from the Google Glass Explorer sales and repaint that sign.
  • Michael Knight had one of these 30 years ago.
    Call me when someone actually has a new idea.
  • Good piece Alex
  • Good piece Alex
  • Good piece Alex
  • Ummm no thank you, I'll stay with my Omega Planet Ocean 8500.
  • Dumb, that's what these computer watches are. Due to the battery life being non-comparable to a regular watch, which is the life of a battery people are accustomed to with a watch, the computer watches will be nothing more than a piece of paper on a fire. Igniting quickly and fading away just as quickly.
  • Funny, I had the same idea a couple of days ago on my blog: As you said it: it makes almost too much sense to put Google Now onto a smartwatch. The question remains if google could improve Now to a point where it will work really automatic.
  • Sorry but no. I don't see many people flocking to a second screen to display the same thing I have in my pocket. Its just a screen. Having a heads up display in Glass is a totally different thing which allows you to layer your computing onto the real world. All this talk of security concerns etc is nothing but anti-hype. But I'm not surprised to see the Android blogs play into it. They always do.
  • I am sorry for the Pebble guys. I really like their watch.
  • If Google is very aware that the future of computing is mobile, why are they being beat to the chase of having your phone function as a full desktop? I honestly thought that was one reason they were buying Motorola, but here we are over a year later and they still have the folks at Ubuntu, Samsung, and even small modding communities beating them at the game of using your phone as a full desktop.
  • I don't know, call me crazy but I don't see it having the mass appeal of a smartphone...first off the obvious disadvantages of a screen so small makes it much less useful overall and I don't see it being cheap enough to warrant the general public to spend that much on it. Secondly, traditionally watches are supposed to be classy and subtle and sexy. I see a tech oriented watch being far more of an eyesore on your wrist that just would look awkward with a suit or dress shirt. Lastly, cellphones pretty much replaced watches, this seems like a step backwards. Just my opinion though
  • What if they added checking emails, Facebook. Can Goggle produce something like that.
  • Thank you
  • With the surge in the use of Smart Phones powered by Android and iOS, several organisations come up with several apps for Mobile phones. Google has come up with yet another innovative product for Mobile phones which is Google Now. Google Now is for Business Now
  • Just gimme glass Posted via my CM11 Nexus 4