Looking to pick up one of those fancy new Android Wear smartwatches? You’re not crazy. Even in this ultra early form, Android Wear is surprisingly slick.
But you should know: as it currently sits, there’s a pretty good chance the watches won’t actually work with your phone.
The problem is one as old as Android itself: a lot of Android phones currently in use are running out of date software. The vast majority, even.
Don’t believe it?
By Google’s own count, 13.6% of Android phones are running the latest public build of the OS, Android 4.4.
And that’s not 13.6% of all Android phones ever sold, mind you. They’re not counting that old G1 you’ve got sitting in a shoebox somewhere. That’s 13.6% of active Android phones, as counted on June 4th, 2014.
Android Wear watches, meanwhile, require a phone running Android 4.3 or newer to work.
Between Android 4.3 and 4.4, that’s a grand total of 23.9% of active Android phones that are currently Wear-friendly. In other words, less than 1/4 of the Android phones currently in use can be paired with an Android Wear watch.
This number will go up in time, of course; most people buy new phones, sooner or later. But it won’t happen over night. Getting to 23.9% has taken Android 4.3/4.4 nearly a year.
This puts the early Android Wear manufacturers in something of a tough spot — it makes it considerably less likely that any one of this first batch of watches will be any sort of smash success. They’re already battling for a slice of a relatively small pie (the people who will want/care about smartwatches this early on). Turns out, 3/4 of that pie came out of the oven burned.
(It also makes it pretty damned hard to give an Android Wear watch as a gift, unless you know exactly which phone the recipient has.)
Don’t get me wrong: it’s good that Samsung/LG/Moto/ASUS/etc. are getting in there early — we just can’t expect any of them to sell a zillion units right off the bat. Instead, we should probably consider this first batch of watches to be more like public-facing R&D.
If you’ve got an Android phone and aren’t sure if it’s up to snuff, Google has an automated checker right over here.