Thursday, June 8, 2023
HomeUncategorizedGoogle's big plans for wearables could include exercising via TV

Google's big plans for wearables could include exercising via TV

Google has yet to unveil its first smartwatch, but the company may already be working on the next steps for its wearables initiative. According to a Protocol report, Google plans to integrate fitness trackers into Google TV and Android TV as part of a broader push to strengthen its product ecosystem. The question is whether the historically fragmented Wear OS platform is up to the challenge.

The company allegedly made plans at a closed-door event with TV partners, agreement reports. The idea is to let Wear OS and Fitbit users play real-time metrics like heart rate and calories burned on the screen. Better smart home controls are also part of the plan. That said, these efforts may take a while. Presumably, Google’s fitness plan won’t appear until 2023 at the earliest, with the smart home effort launching the following year. That’s partly because Google’s partners have to create more powerful smart TVs and streaming gadgets to make it all happen.

In the short term, the company is also reportedly working to enhance wireless audio services on the platform. This includes enabling Nest speakers to work wirelessly with TVs, as well as bringing Fast Pair to its Pixel Buds so users can more easily use them with Google TV devices.

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because the plans look a lot like Apple’s Fitness Plus service and smart home products. Apple Watch owners can take video workout classes and their real-time metrics are displayed on Apple TV, iPhone or iPad. (Beginning with watchOS 9, users will be able to AirPlay live metrics on non-Apple TVs.) You can also use the HomePod or HomePod Mini with an Apple TV 4K to create a home theater setup. You’ve also been able to pair AirPods with Apple TV for a long time.

The thing is, Apple has always had a walled garden, which makes it easier to achieve its vision of “just working” gadgets. There are subtle differences between the various Apple Watch versions, but overall, you get a unified Fitness Plus experience across all Apple devices. It would be one thing if this Google TV fitness tracker integration was only available for the upcoming Pixel Watch. But if it’s designed to be compatible with any Wear OS or Fitbit devices, Google has to figure out how to create a similar experience on different devices.

While Google persuaded Samsung to join forces to create a unified wearable platform, Wear OS 3 shows the same signs of fragmentation as previous versions of the platform. The Wear OS 3 we’ll see on the Pixel Watch will be different from the Samsung-powered Wear OS on the Galaxy Watch 4. Both are different from the stripped-down Wear OS 3 test I went to last week at the Montblanc Summit 3. While the Pixel Watch and Galaxy Watch 4 only support Android, the Summit 3 supports iOS. Additionally, both the Galaxy Watch 4 and the Montblanc Summit 3 require separate companion apps to control the smartwatch. All three watches will run on different chips, sensors and health features. In theory, these differences should be irrelevant, but history tells us they may be when it comes to ecosystem-based experiences.

Google’s vision for ambient computing involves its devices working together seamlessly. Image: Google

Fragmentation is not necessarily a bad thing, but It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it provides more variety, and variety is the spice of life. Done well, Google’s ecosystem can have strong third-party support. Applied to interactive home workouts, it could be a huge potential for Wear OS going forward. For example, it would be really cool if Peloton or Obé had a Google TV app that would work seamlessly with Wear OS or Fitbit devices. Google doesn’t even have to make fitness content in-house like Apple does.

On the other hand, this means that Google has to work closely with third parties -Party partners to make sure we all have fun. The Wear OS ecosystem has several moving parts, each of which needs to work well to keep the process running smoothly. One weak link can bring everything to a standstill. For example, the problems with Wear OS aren’t entirely Google’s fault. Qualcomm doesn’t have wearable chips powerful enough for the platform to function in the same space as its competitors. (That may change soon, though.) Outdated hardware fuels stagnation in software, resulting in lackluster smartwatches. It’s a vicious cycle that Google is only now beginning to break.

Wear OS 3 — and Google’s Ambient Computing Vision — Still in its awkward transition phase. We don’t know the final form of Wear OS 3, and there will be more growing pains in the future. Right now, the Pixel Watch isn’t out, nor is Qualcomm’s new wearable chip. Fossil hasn’t given up on its first Wear OS 3 flagship lineup, and Fitbit has promised a premium Wear OS smartwatch sometime in the future. That said, it’s very encouraging to see that Google has big ideas and plans to develop the platform outside of the Pixel Watch. Hope the gamble pays off.



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