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.