The timing of the announcement couldn’t be more meaningful. Android Wear product manager Jeff Chang told The Verge today his company has been working with an unnamed manufacturer on the new smartwatches, which, he says, will not bear Google‘s name but rather the brand of the mystery manufacturer. But make no mistake, the devices will show how Google believes smartwatches should look and feel.
It’s a good time to do that. Recent analyst numbers and a number of news event have brought the future of the smartwatch category into serious question. An October 24 IDC report says the smartwatch market declined 51.6% year-over-year in Q3 2016. Two key Android Wear smartwatch partners, LG and Motorola, have said they’ll not launch an Android 2.0 smartwatch in 2017, with Moto citing lack of “broad consumer interest.” The statement today looks a lot like Google saying to its Android Wear OEMs, “You guys didn’t do Android smartwatches right and consumers rejected you; here’s how to do it.”
The decay extends outside of Android Wear devices. Samsung announced its Gear S3 smartwatch last September and the product still hasn’t gone on sale. Pebble finally collapsed under the weight of heavy debt, and was forced to sell out to Fitbit.