Less Than 1/4 Of Android Phones Work With Google’s New Smartwatches

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The problem is one as old as Android itself: a lot of Android phones currently in use are running out of date software.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.