An Android Wear wearables Slideshow

Kevin Fogarty

September 02, 2014

Kevin FogartySeptember 02, 2014

Google is betting much of its mobile-device strategy on the often-recycled smartwatch concept because "mobile is dead" and it's time to move on -- move on from smartphones to something even easier to use while on the move.

If Matias Duarte meant his bon mot literally, the Android design chief would probably be looking for another gig and Google's whole Android division would be looking for a new purpose in life. What Duarte actually meant -- as he explained in a video-recorded interview April 26 at the Accel Design Conference in San Francisco -- is that Google doesn't think "mobile computing" should be a category separate from stationary computing.

End users treat work computers, personal smartphones and laptops, public kiosks and other connected devices as gateways to a personal computing environment unified by wireless synchronization apps, cloud-computing services and a mix of public and private wired or wireless networks, Duarte said. The problem isn't how mobile the device is; the problem is how difficult mobile devices are to use while actually mobile.

It takes so much of a pedestrian's attention to text or talk on the phone while walking that the number of emergency room visits caused by "inattention blindness" doubled between 2005 and 2010 and has exceeded the number of distracted-driving injuries since 2010, according to a 2013 study from Ohio State University.

The Android interface may not be to blame -- 69 percent of injuries happened while users were talking rather than texting, but collisions and injuries to pedestrians staring at screens are catching up fast.

Android Wear -- the smartwatch version of Android Google announced in March, is designed to make Android easy to use on the move by boiling down messages to a format users can absorb at a glance, notifying them automatically of appointments or special retail offers using Google Now location services, and provide a voice interface that allows users to search for directions, send a text or make a call by telling their watches to do it rather than digging out a massive phablet and thumb-typing as they walk into traffic.

Android Wear smartwatches are designed as simple interfaces and remote controls for Android phones, not full-fledged smartphones in a smartwatch form factor. The distinction has led to confusion about what, exactly, users can do with Android Wear -- confusion that was only partly resolved by the real-world examples and genuine, almost-ready-to-ship Android Wear devices Google rolled out June 25 at its Google I/O conference in San Francisco.

The pictures on the following pages illustrate a few of the functions and technology. More information is available on Google's Android Wear designer site, AndroidCentral's list of Android Wear apps and its Android Wear usage guide. (To get to the hidden Developer settings, tap on Settings, About, then on the OS build number. A little more of the nitty gritty is available from Google's guide to creating wearable apps, its guide to adding Wear notifications to existing Android apps, the Patent Search Blog's rundown of Android Wear patent applications,

To see examples of Android Wear devices and to leave a comment, go to "Android Wear: where are the wares?"

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