While Android Wear hasn't been a runaway success, some of last year's Android smartwatches have shown promise. However relatively few Android wearables have emerged from the usual suspects — that is to say, phone makers — in the past twelve months. Instead, devices from more traditional watch brands like Casio and Michael Kors taking their place.
Now a new report from CNET reveals that neither LG, Moto nor Huawei will release new Android Wear hardware in 2016. A Moto spokesperson quoted in the report talks up the possibilities of cellular watches, but says the tech behind it hasn't matured yet. Similarly, an unnamed Huawei exec is quoted saying the firm is waiting on current smartwatch tech to become smaller and more efficient.
2015's Moto 360 and Huawei Watch had been among the better-received Android smartwatches, but neither offers cellular connectivity.
Moto and Huawei holding out for new tech, LG waiting to see what resonates with consumers.
Cellular smartwatches like the LG Watch Urbane Second Edition LTE have a tendency to be bulky, due to the larger batteries required to drive LTE radios. Qualcomm has been working on new and more efficient processors for Android smartwatches, most of which use ancient Snapdragon 400 chips, however even its latest Snapdragon Wear 2100 is built on a relatively old 28nm manufacturing process. (That's as opposed to the 14nm process used in its highest-end phone chips.) New Snapdragon Wear chips built on more efficient processes are surely coming.
For LG, it seems, the barrier isn't technical. The Korean firm "wants to see what sticks" with consumers, senior global communications director Ken Hong is quoted as saying. Hong's remarks underscore how most smartwatch makers (and to a certain extent their customers) are still trying to figure out what they're for. LG's last major Android Watch, the aforementioned Urbane LTE, was pulled from shelves at the last minute in late 2015 due to an issue with the display, only to re-emerge early this year.
All of which leaves ASUS, with its ZenWatch 3, as the only big name in tech to launch an Android Wear watch this year. Google is rumored to be launching its own Android wearables, in two different for factors, alongside its two Pixel-branded smartphones later in the year, and these will likely be among the first Android Wear 2.0 gadgets to go on sale.
The lack of movement in Android Wear hardware this year leaves Apple and Samsung largely unchallenged at the top of the pile. Apple last week announced two new lines of its Apple Watch. Meanwhile Samsung's going after a male audience — the main demographic snapping up smartwatches right now — with its rugged, heftier Gear S3.