Opinion: New Wear Watches are Coming, but You Don’t Have to Upgrade

Opinion: New Wear Watches are Coming, but You Don’t Have to Upgrade

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Android Wear has come of age in many ways, and with a new generation of watches in the horizon, the smartwatch battleground is bound to get more interesting. The “Year of the Smartwatch”  didn’t come come with 2014, and while 2015 might not mark the year of mass adoption, it is certainly an important year for smartwatches.

Now that we are going through IFA 2015 and new watches will be announced left and right, including some important sequels, I think it’s time to mention an idea that I’ve been forming ever since the second wave of Wear watches came around. It goes along these lines: current Wear owners do not need to upgrade to a new watch, at least not yet.

Isn’t That Always True?

One can look at this statement myopically and say “of course, just like nobody ‘needs’ to upgrade to a new flagship phone”. But the story here is a little bit different, as Wear watches differ from flagship phones in many ways that make upgrading much less of a necessity. We can start by mentioning that the fragmentation issue that plagues Android phones is not present on Android Wear, for better or worse. Every watch runs the same software with minor alterations, and this means that each new update rollout is delivered to almost all Android watches within the same time frame. There were some exceptions at certain times, of course. The Moto 360, for example, suffered a long delay in its 5.1.1 update due to the old TI OMAP3 processor inside of it and the optimization issues it caused. However, this is the exception to the rule because of another important factor: interanl hardware homogeneity.

Most Wear watches have different display technologies, battery sizes, and a few of them have certain exclusive offerings too. For example, the Sony Smartwatch 3 has built-in GPS, while other Wear watches like the LG G Watch are missing standard functions like a heart rate monitor. That being said, the guts of the Wear watches are mostly identical, with the Snapdragon 400 making an appearance on most specification sheets, as well as the 512mb of RAM configuration. This makes Wear software perform similarly across devices, as there are few differences that impact real-world performance, one of them being the resolution of the display.

Now, there are some practical justifications for getting a better smartwatch. One of them would be battery life, as most current watches cannot hit the 2-day mark. With bigger batteries, more efficient screens, and more efficient chipsets in future smartwatch releases, we might see that changing. But this upcoming round of smartwatches (which includes the Huawei Watch and Moto 360v2) does not seem to be changing up the chipset+RAM formula, and the higher resolutions could offset battery upgrades and display optimizations.

Unfragmented Software

But ultimately, the real reason I think Wear watches are not a thing we need to upgrade with every cycle is the aforementioned software model. My Moto 360, TI OMAP3 and everything, runs the latest Wear software and it sports it like a fluid dream. When I first unboxed my Moto 360, I had a very unpleasant surprise. Its performance was absolutely disappointing compared to my Gear Live and its Snapdragon 400, even after both received the software update that put them on the same page. It was not until 5.1.1 hit after numerous delays for optimization purposes that my Moto 360 became as smooth as it should be, and the very latest Wear update brought even more fluidity to the UI on top of the new Apple-like features.

To put it simply, Wear update support has been rather good so far, and better than Android has ever had it on smartphones. Some devices didn’t get the Wi-Fi support treatment and, as said earlier, some saw slower updates. But disregarding this, Wear watches now have a level of feature parity that Android smartphones don’t have and can’t easily get. In the end, this means that if you can deal with the battery life and screen quality of your device, you will get an extremely similar experience across all Wear watches.

Android watches essentially offer the same experiences, but they come in different packages.

This is a great thing to have not because they are smartwatches, but because they are watches, and unlike Android phones, you have them on your wrist, visible most of the time, complementing your personal aesthetic and personality. This allows for design diversity.

Google often plays up the be together, not the same” Android slogan, but I think that, on Wear, it has a similar yet more impactful influence. Android watches essentially offer the same experiences, but they come in different packages. For smartwatches, this means that you can still rock your Moto 360 a year after release, like I am, with few worries, and not upgrade to a device with a different aesthetic. After all, many love the look of a particular Wear watch and buy their pick based on that affinity. This is no different than regular watch owners who choose a timepiece based on the way it looks.

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A personal example is the Moto 360 that I just mentioned. The Moto 360v2 looks like a great watch, and it certainly looks visually appealing. However, I prefer the design of the old 360 as it doesn’t have the side lugs the new one has. The minimalist circle of the Moto 360 is what makes it stand out in my eyes — it looks unlike other watches I see on people’s wrists, yet at the same time it’s isomorphic to all of them, and I believe its appeal lies in the fact that it’s the simplest abstraction of a time-piece in the smartwatch market. The Moto 360v2, however, looks like a more conventional watch. It’s also worth noting one can add lugs to the regular 360 through steel connect and similar alternatives, but this may result in damage to the notoriously fragile back of the watch after use and tear.

Wear What you Want

The “Wear What you Want” ad campaign for Wear is so powerful because of the feature parity and relatively equal performance of Wear watches. Most consumers don’t choose regular watches based on extra features, but rather on how they look. Google eliminated the process of carefully reading specification sheets and watching feature promo videos from the equation, making the choice of a smartwatch much easier for those that want a thoroughly functional timepiece that matches their style and fulfills their wishes.

The Wear user can choose watches based on their looks without sacrificing too much in terms of performance or stamina.


Smartwatch adoption is still slow, and the Apple Watch’s initial sales surge died out faster than expected. Now that Android Wear supports iPhones, an extra layer of competition will bring Wear to a more rapid evolution. The Gear S2 is also coming out, but running Tizen OS.
It’s still unknown if it’ll be compatible with all Android phones or simply Samsung ones, but even then, unless it’s compatible with iPhones, Android Wear has a newfound edge over Samsung’s latest offering.

Very pretty. Very expensive. As useful as your current Wear watch.

The combination of feature parity, practically guaranteed support, and lack of internal hardware diversity means that the Wear user can choose watches based on their looks without sacrificing too much in terms of performance or stamina. This is apparent in enthusiast circles, where even hardcore power users disregard most Wear specs when deciding which watch they’ll buy… While they might be angry at the small battery capacity or shoddy display, many still go for good designs. This is overly apparent with the Moto 360, which had the worst specifications out of the initial trio of Wear offerings yet it was and remains one of the best-selling smartwatches Android has offered.

And it only gets sweeter: current owners don’t need to upgrade, but new consumers will benefit from the price drops and deals that the old – and still great and aesthetic – watches will get. I personally exploited many discounts and bought my Moto 360 for just $60 during the release of the Apple Watch. This happens with Wear watches all the time, particularly old ones like the Moto 360 and LG G Watch.

Choice Done Right

So, to sum up, if you are happy with your watch, you really don’t need to upgrade. Unless and until Wear updates stop coming to watches, you will have feature parity with the latest and greatest assuming you have the required hardware. Many of the upcoming watches don’t seem to be adding much in terms of extra hardware sensors and features, and their designs are different from those of older watches, yet not necessarily better. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and beauty is also one of the primary factors that make us choose one wearable over the other. So, listen to Google and Wear what you want. If my low-specced Moto 360 is anything to go by, you won’t have much to worry about, and you’ll still look dashing in your own way — the one you choose.