Google confirms that it's launching two flagship Android Wear smartwatches in early 2017
Two reports from a few months ago claimed that Google was working on two high-end smartwatches of its own, which were supposed to debut alongside the Android Wear 2.0 release this year. But then the new version of the company's wearable OS got delayed until 2017, and so we assumed the launch of the watches was postponed for that reason.
It turns out that's exactly what happened. Today Jeff Chang, Google's product manager of Android Wear, has confirmed that the company is developing two flagship smartwatches which will be on the market in the first quarter of next year (so before March 31).
These will be the first devices to launch running Android Wear 2.0, but then throughout 2017 we'll reportedly see more watches powered by the new OS version, from other partners. Some of those may even present their wearables at CES in January, while others will wait for Baselworld in March.
Google's watches will not be Pixel-branded as you may have expected, instead they will carry the name of the company that's making them. Which company that is hasn't been revealed, only that it's one that has created Android Wear smartwatches before. Chang compared the development of these devices to the now-dead Nexus program for smartphones, in which Google worked closely with a hardware partner for each handset and the final products were co-branded.
Past rumors said one of the Google watches will have LTE, GPS, a heart rate monitor, as well as a bigger footprint and more buttons than the other. This will clearly be the more expensive of the duo, while the entry-level model will not feature LTE, GPS, or a heart rate monitor, but will come with replaceable straps.
After these new watches launch, existing ones will be updated to Android Wear 2.0. Not every single Android Wear device will get the new version, but the most recent ones will. Here's the full list: Moto 360 2nd Gen, Moto 360 Sport, LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, LG Watch Urbane, LG G Watch R, Polar M600, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, Nixon Mission, Tag Heuer Connected, Fossil Q Wander, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Founder, Michael Kors Access Bradshaw, Michael Kors Access Dylan, Huawei Watch (including the Ladies editions), Asus Zenwatch 2, and Asus Zenwatch 3.
The fifth and last developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 will be out in January. Google Assistant support and Android Pay are both going to be features of the final release. Obviously, watches without NFC won't be able to support Android Pay. On the other hand, if you do have an Android Wear device with NFC, the payment platform will work even if it's paired to an iPhone.