Google is launching its first app for the Apple Watch — even as it becomes clearer and clearer that Google’s own smartwatch platform, Android Wear, is running into serious difficulties.
As TechCrunch reports, Google is launching a Google News & Weather app for Apple’s debut wearable. It will — as you can probably guess — let users check the news and the weather at a glance on their Apple Watch.
Of course, the majority of Google’s signature apps are readily available on iOS, which directly competes with Google’s Android operating system (OS). Any iPhone user can use Google Maps or Gmail on their device.
But while Android and iOS are competing healthily, and have done for years, within a month after launching, the Apple Watch is already wiping the floor with Android Wear.
Android plays the numbers game
In the smartphone market, Apple and Google play two fundamentally different games. Apple concentrates (for the most part) on profits, even at the expense of total units. It’s a strategy that has gifted Apple 93% of the profits of the entire smartphone industry, as well as the most profitable quarter of any company ever.
Google, meanwhile, plays the numbers game with Android. It offers the OS to handset manufacturers to use for no cost, and as a result more than 1 billion Android smartphones shipped last year. That’s a milestone that Apple will take years to reach.
This massive install base is what makes Android such a compelling platform to develop for. After all, Apple customers are (on average) richer, spending more money on apps, on in-app purchases, and ad rates on iOS are accordingly higher. And yet many developers still choose to develop “Android-first.”
Why? Because Google’s platform offers them a reach that Apple can’t hope to match.
Google just lost the one thing it had going for it
When it comes to smartwatches, however, Google has lost this one advantage.
Although Apple hasn’t released sales figures, researchers estimate that the Cupertino company managed to sell more Apple Watches in a single day than Google managed with Android Wear in an entire year.
And respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that the Apple secured more than 2.3 million pre-orders, dwarfing Android Wear’s 720,000 total sales in 2014.
Suddenly, Android (on smartwatches) has become the platform with the far smaller market share — but without the lucrative user base to justify prioritising development for it.
(We don’t know for sure that Apple Watch customers are, on average, better off than Android Wear buyers. But given the comparatively high price point of the Apple Watch — topping out at $US17,000/£13,500 — it’s a fairly reasonable assumption to make.)
Of course, some developers will still produce apps for Android Wear, especially larger companies looking to maximise their market share. But for smaller studios with limited resources, there’s now very little reason for them to focus on developing for the platform.
Google has been beaten into submission
So where do Google’s own apps fit into all of this? The Mountain View company’s products are some of the best-respected and most widely used on the market. Google Search still dominates (despite some wobbles), and Google Maps is everywhere. As such, if Google launches its other apps on the Apple Watch, it provides consumers with even less reason to consider an Android Wear device.
In part, it’s a concession that Google has lost this battle, and doesn’t want to be cut out of the smartwatch race entirely. But it’s also a necessary step to maintain its existing userbase on iOS.
As increasing numbers of people buy Apple Watches, they will look for apps compatible with their new wearable device to deliver their notifications and carry out essential functions. And if Google’s own apps can’t, they will simply switch to those that can.
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