Smartwatches may not be massively popular devices in the scheme of things, but Google isn’t giving up on them just yet. In fact, the company is working with a manufacturer to launch two new smartwatches in 2017.
Up until now, Google’s smartwatch strategy has been to develop Android Wear software and work with watch makers to get it on as many third-party devices as possible. Rumours that Google has been working on its own smartwatch hardware have been swirling around for months. It turns out that’s not exactly what’s happening, as instead Google is working with an unnamed manufacturer to build the first two watches that will ship with Android Wear 2.0 software.
In an exclusive interview with The Verge, Jeff Chang, product manager of Android Wear at Google, states that the company will launch two new flagship smartwatches in the first quarter of 2017. Furthermore, these two smartwatches will be the first devices to run Android Wear 2.0.
According to Mr. Chang, these new devices will not carry the Pixel branding, but will instead be OEM branded. What this tells us is that these two Google devices are going to made in close conjunction with their OEM partners, much like the now-defunct Nexus program. Mr. Chang reports that Google collaborated with the manufacturer on both the hardware design and software integration for the two smartwatches, and that their partners have had prior experience in making Android Wear smartwatches.
The two flagship smartwatches will be powered by Android Wear 2.0, so they will fully take the advantage of the new OS that Google has delayed until next year. Google plans to release a fifth and final developer preview of the OS next January. This version, will reportedly, bring support for two core features, Android Pay and Google Assistant.
Google isn’t the only company still betting on smartwatches. Apple CEO Tim Cook claims the Apple Watch saw record sales at the start of the holiday season, and Samsung continues to push its own smartwatch platform with the Gear S line of watches running Tizen-based software.