Google will be launching two new flagship smartwatches in the first quarter of next year, according to Jeff Chang, product manager of Android Wear at Google. He added that the new watches will be the flagship Android Wear 2.0 devices and will be the first ones to launch with the new platform.
The new smartwatches had been rumored before, but Google confirmed the upcoming launch last week as part of a larger effort to convince consumers that wearables — smartwatches specifically — are still in demand.
The new models will not have Google or Pixel branding, but will be branded by the company that is manufacturing them. Chang says that Google collaborated with the manufacturer — which he would not name, but said has produced Android Wear devices in the past — on the hardware design and software integration for the watches. He likened the partnership to Google’s Nexus smartphone program in terms of collaboration and goals.
The new platform brings a number of new features, including standalone apps that do not require a phone to work, support for Android Pay, and support for Google’s voice-controlled Assistant, which has already launched on the Pixel smartphones and Home speaker. Certain features, such as Android Pay, require specific hardware, so not all models will support them.
Following the launch of the new devices, existing Android Wear watches will get the update to Android Wear 2.0. Android Wear watches that will be upgraded to Wear 2.0 next year include Moto 360 Gen 2, Moto 360 Sport, LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, LG Watch Urbane, LG G Watch R, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, Tag Heuer Connected, Fossil Q Wander, Fossil Q Marsha, Fossil Q Founder, Michael Kors Access Bradshaw Smartwatch, Michael Kors Access Dylan Smartwatch, Huawei Watch, Huawei Watch Ladies, Asus ZenWatch 2 and Asus ZenWatch 3 among the known brands.
In addition, Chang says that after Google’s flagship watches launch, other partners will release new devices with Android Wear 2.0 throughout 2017. Though the smartwatch market is still nascent compared to smartphones, Google has already spent two and a half years trying to make Android Wear a success, with less than stellar results.
Chang says that Google’s strategy of working with many partners on Android Wear devices is advantageous. Google, he said is quite optimistic about the prospects of smartwatches. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. This category of product is here with us to stay.”