The Android Wear smartwatch collection is expanding, with a host of new devices hitting pre-holiday season after their initial debut this summer. The Asus ZenWatch will be the next to go on sale, with a street date of November 9 for Best Buy initially, with a later launch date on Google Play in the U.S., at a price of $199. We first got wind of the Asus Android Wear device at Google’s I/O in June, via an exclusive report right here on TechCrunch, but customers will start getting their actual hands on hardware soon.
The Asus project is interesting for a couple of reasons: First, it manages to offer a unique design compared to other rectangular Android Wear watches, and one that might closest resemble the Apple Watch coming next year from everyone’s favorite fruit company, at least on a surface level. Second, it’s the first Android Wear watch to include UI features and more customized software. Google has said that it kept the initial release of Android Wear devices pretty basic and essentially all locked on providing the same experience, but also that manufacturers wouldn’t always be so handcuffed, so it’ll be interesting to see what Asus does with the first taste of a bit more freedom.
While all the Android Wear devices to date have managed to perform admirably in terms of nailing the basics, I’ve yet to test one that struck me as anything other than a passing fancy. The Moto 360 probably comes closest, but the fact that its circular display isn’t a perfect circle is almost heartbreaking from a design standpoint, and despite marketing bluster, Android Wear seems better suited to square or rectangular displays. Asus is offering a look that should be a good mix of fashion and function, with a battery-friendly AMOLED display and easily customizable strap options. There’s no built-in GPS, however, which means it can’t take advantage of the latest software offerings in the Android Wear platform firmware.
At $199, the Asus ZenWatch is on par with most current devices, but its unique customization of Android Wear might start to show us how OEMs can differentiate Android wearables outside of hardware design considerations.