December 28, 2015 11:32 AM PT
How Android Wear fares on the iPhone
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
Earlier this year, Google brought support for Android Wear smartwatches to the iPhone. Using an Android Wear watch with an iPhone seems incongruous at best and heretical at worst. If you’re an iPhone user, why would you use any smartwatchÂ other than the Apple Watch?
There are plenty of reasons why Android Wear might be the best choice for your wrist, actually. Watches running Android Wear perform admirably at quick notifications without trying to cram too much functionality onto a small screen. Also, there’s far more choice in hardware, with both round and square watch faces available from several different companies. And if you’re a heavy user of Google services, some of your favorite tools practically come with the packaging.
Certainly you won’t see the same type of integration with iOS as you’d get from an Apple Watch. But if you’re looking for a little diversity in your wristwear, or perhaps making a first dip into the smartwatch pool, it could be a solid option.
Passing the Goldilocks rule
An Apple Watch may feel like too much computer on your wrist. A Pebble, however, might not be enough. That’s where Android Wear may be just right.
I’ve been using an iPhone 6S Plus with a second-generation Moto 360 review unit for a couple of months. While I also regularly use Android, I found myself surprised at how well the experience transferred across to iOS.
Google’s Android Wear app taps into Bluetooth to replicate your iPhone’s notifications to your watch. So just like with an Apple Watch you’ll get a gentle buzz on your wrist for each iMessage or calendar alert. I found the Android Wear interface easier to learn and less reliant on tapping small app icons.
An Android Wear watch’s main functionality is available through a list of cards that give you information like the weather, news updates, and scores from your favorite sports teams. This information comes from Google and is personalized based on your Google account, an essential part of the Android Wear experience.
Tapping into Google
While it isn’t mandatory, Google Now is place where Android Wear stands out. You use the Android Wear app to pick and choose which type of Google Now information you want to see: restaurant reviews, maps, and hotel reservation details for events saved in your Gmail.
Gmail cards also give you instant notifications about new Gmail messages, even if you don’t have the Gmail app on your phone. That’s because a lot of the information that appears on an Android Wear watch is supplied by Google’s servers—suggesting that there could be future feature improvements without requiring an update to the iOS Android Wear app.
Of course, the Google integration is something I love, but might not be for everyone. If you’re deeper into Apple or another company’s services, Android Wear is unlikely to satisfy you on iOS.
Many watches to choose from
My Moto 360 catches a lot of people’s eyes for one simple reason: it’s round. It smartly combines the traditional look of a watch with the multi-touch capabilities of a modern computing device.
While Apple certainly has embraced customization with its line of watch bands and the different types of Apple Watch hardware you can get, you’re still stuck with the same square face. Watches have long been a device that is a personal fashion choice, and it’s something the Android Wear ecosystem really excels at.
There’s a lot of choice out there. Great watches can be had for $300 or less, including the Moto 360 and Fossil Q Founder. You can even go high-end with the $1,500 Tag Heuer watch. And since all of them run Android Wear, any of them will work with the iPhone.
But about those limitations…
Not surprisingly, there are going to be a lot of features you can’t use on Android Wear with an iPhone when compared to an Android device.
For example, the watch face selection is rather limited in comparison with Android. Your iMessages and most other notifications are essentially notification-only—there’s no quick or voice reply method like you can do with so many Apple Watch apps.
The native Android Wear apps don’t do all that much, with very basic information like the weather, your steps, a timer, stopwatch, and flashlight.
But as Google refines how much it can get away with on Android Wear, it still may turn out to be a great pairing. Everyone I’ve encountered who liked my watch was happy to find out it worked with the iPhone. If you’re an iPhone user who is also heavily invested in Google services, it might be a good option for you, too.
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