More than a year after the launch of the first Android Wear watches, Google is now finally bringing iOS support to its smartwatch platform with the launch of its Android Wear mobile app in Apple’s App Store today.
This probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given that Huawei spoiled this launch by announcing iOS support for its upcoming Android Wear watch last week, but it’s a long-overdue step for Google.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Android Wear for iOS will only officially support the LG Watch Urbane and all future Android Wear watches (including upcoming watches from Huawei, Asus and Motorola). (Update: it looks like you may be able to pair the Moto 360 and other older Android Wear watches with an iPhone, assuming the watch already runs Android Wear 1.3. Older watches won’t come with version1.3 pre-loaded, so they won’t connect to the iPhone and hence can’t get the update. It’s unclear for how long Google will unofficially support these older watches, though).
Given that all of these older watches work just fine with Android, it’s a bit of a puzzle why Google made this decision. When we asked the company about this, a spokesperson told us the following:
“We wanted to make sure that iOS users would have a great experience with Android Wear out of the box. We’ve worked with manufacturers to ensure that the newest watches work really well with modern iPhones, but last year’s watches aren’t technically supported.”
The company also argues that in order to have a “streamlined setup pairing an iOS phone and Android watch, the watch needs to be running the latest Android Wear release out of the box.”
That’s probably a disappointment for some, but there are probably not all that many iOS users out there who have an older Android Wear watch, so this may not be as big of a deal as it seems.
Once you’ve paired your watch with your iPhone (the app is compatible with the iPhone 5 and all newer iPhones as long as they run iOS 8.2 and up), the actual on-watch experience is pretty much the same as always. The app supports rich notifications from Gmail, Google Calendar and Apple Calendar, Google Now Cards, voice queries, Google Fit support, alarms, and everything else you’d expect (including support for the recently launched Translate app on Android Wear).
The app, of course, will also display notifications from all third-party iPhone apps. For now, however, users won’t be able to install any third-party watch apps from Google Play. This means you will see notifications from those apps but won’t be able to directly interact with your fitness tracker on the watch, for example. Google says it’s working on bringing third-party app support to iOS users, too, but it’s unclear when this will happen. WiFi support is also currently absent.
“Not everyone wants the same kind of smartwatch, so offering people choice is important,” Google says. That comment is clearly aimed at the Apple Watch and there is probably some truth in that. Smartwatches are, after all, at least partly fashion accessories and even though Apple offers a number of different variations of its smartwatch, they all look pretty similar in the end.
Google also notes that Android Wear supports always-on watch faces, “so you’ll never have to move your wrist to wake up your watch.” Another thinly veiled swipe at the Apple Watch.
The new app is now making its way into the App Store, so if you can’t find it just yet, give it another try in an hour or so.