Google’s Retail And Tech Partnerships Could Lead To Wearable Revolution

Image screen-grab from GoogleMobile on Youtube, edited by Curiousmatic. 

Google goes all in for wearables, combining fashion and function to take the lead in an expanding marketplace.

On March 18, 2014, Google announced in an official blog post that Android will be coming to wearables in the form of a context-aware OS project called Android Wear.

Android, which has become ubiquitous in use along with Apple’s iOS in the rise of smartphones, is taking a step further into an exciting arena that Google and many others believe is the future of mobile technology: wearables, which we’ve also written about here.

Google is inviting developers to contribute with apps in Android Wear’s first, most traditional manifestation: the wristwatch. For this new smartwatch, Google chose Fossil as its retail partner – after all, style and money are an enormous chunk of the game.

This is also evidenced by Google’s partnership with the largest eyeglass company in the world, the Luxottica Group, which will design, manufacture, and distribute new frames for Google Glass.

Information that moves you – or at least with you

Google is excited about the future of wearables, with the belief that these devices “understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.”

With a tagline of “information that moves you,” it’s apparent that Google is taking steps to bring mobile technology to the next level, ready to shape this new field just as it did with smartphones.

Just check out their first promotional video. In it, people of all ages and genders clad with stylish Android Wear wristwatches accomplish all of the following, hands free: respond to texts with voice, scan plane tickets, open garages, check game scores, get directions, hail taxis, receive locational notifications (jellyfish warning!), and count calories.

On the other hand (or face, rather), Google Glass can already do some amazing things, even in its infancy. You check out our list of its most impressive apps here.

Importantly, these wearable products represent useful and convenient contextual enhancement, meaning they won’t replace phones and tablets in the marketplace. They are unique customer products, focused on mobile life interaction rather than static on-screen activity.

Fashion and function

Google’s obviously won’t be the first smartwatch, nor is Google Glass the first piece of augmented reality technology. In fact, there are a number of such devices already available, some of which have been successful, others which have not.

One reason some wearables have been unsuccessful has to do with fashion, or lack thereof, which is why Google’s partnerships with Fossil and Luxottica may be crucial in creating and sustaining demand. Android Wear’s sleek designs (Motorola’s MOTO 360 and LG G Watch) may help this significantly.

Google Glass’ biggest drawback, aside from the price tag and privacy concerns, might indeed be the admittedly nerdy-looking exterior that stands out rather than blending in terms of fashion.

Partnership with the Luxxatica Group, which owns numerous brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley, is another step toward making the device attractive and sellable.

An expanding marketplace

Why the aggression, and what is there to gain? And where does Google’s biggest competition, Apple, come into play?

To answer that, we can look at market predictions for the wearable sector. The market was worth 2.7 billion in 2012, and is expected to reach 8.3 billion by 2018, one market report estimates. (As Business Insider notes, such estimates vary.)

Graph courtesy of Sam Churchill via Flickr.

Smartwatches in particular are expected to to skyrocket in shipment by 2020.

Google, as the only company making steps of substance in regards to wearable computing, has the unique opportunity to lead a new class of technology if Android Wear is as effective as it seems their promotional video.

With high-end retail partners alongside hardware partnerships with LG, Samsung, Motorola, and HTC, such a project could turn into an explosive wearable revolution.

Still, with the iWatch rumored to be announced later this year, Google should watch out for what will likely be worthy competition.

Jennifer Markert