Google has actually been at the forefront of the relatively young smartwatch market at the start. Samsung’s first-ever Galaxy Gear ran a modified version of Android back in 2013, three years before the Apple Watch launched. Since then, Android for wearables has undergone at least two major branding changes. Despite that, however, a Google-branded smartwatch is still nowhere to be seen and insiders now reveal how a stillborn Google Watch in 2016 is indicative of the company’s ambiguity towards that market as a whole.
It’s not that Google didn’t see the potential of smartwatches. Android creator Andy Rubin definitely foresaw the future and wanted to create a Google-branded smartwatch. Rubin, however, was transferred to the company’s robotics arm and Google became more focused on finding a replacement rather than dealing with smartwatches.
What Google did, instead, was to focus on the software platform rather than creating a hardware and software combo. It presumed that Android Wear, as it would be launched in 2014, would replicate the success of Android itself on OEM smartphones. That success did happen but was short-lived and Android Wear’s market share peaked at 27%, and that was during its first year.
When Google set out to create its own hardware ecosystem, the topic of Google-branded smartwatches came up again. According to Business Insider’s sources, Two LG-made smartwatches were all but ready to launch with the first Pixel phone in 2016. They even had finished the photoshoot for product images. At the last minute, though, newly-minted hardware lead Rick Osterloh axed the products, citing inconsistency with Google’s new hardware branding efforts and disappointing hardware performance. Those two would launch in 2017 as the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport.
The ghost of the Google Watch has haunted the company since then and Google has time and again failed to make any headway into the wearable market. Even with the help of luxury brands, Wear OS, formerly Android Wear, falls way below the Apple Watch and even Samsung’s Tizen-based smartwatches. There have been rumors of new a Pixel Watch in the works but, in typical Google fashion, that seems to still be MIA this year.