When Google introduced Google Glass, the wearable display only worked with Android phones and tablets. It took some time, but last December Google created a MyGlass companion app for iOS, allowing iPhone owners to get most of the same functionality from Glass as Android users. That’s not likely going to happen with Android Wear, however.
The first clue was when Dave Singleton, Google’s Android Engineering Director, shared more Android Wear details on stage Wednesday at Google I/O. During Singleton’s demo he showed how to order a pizza in under 20 seconds using the EAT24 app, noting that developers could add wearable functions to existing Android apps.
That means there’s no Android Wear app store like there is for Google Glass apps. In the MyGlass companion app, for example, you can choose apps called GlassWare to install to your Glass device, regardless if you’re running MyGlass on an Android or iOS devices. That’s a key difference.
Indeed, I later spoke with some folks about Google and learned a little more. Apps for Android Wear aren’t really standalone apps at all. Think of them as extended functionality to Android apps themselves. A developer would then add notifications or features for Android Wear through their own Android app. Those wearable bits get pushed to the watch from the Android app through the Android Wear companion app.
This is a smart move because we don’t need yet another app store for another device. Developers don’t want to maintain different apps for phones, tablets, TVs and now watches. By making the Android Wear components an extension of a traditional Android app, developers can manage everything in one package. And consumers don’t have to worry about keeping their watch apps up to date: The Android app on their phone or tablet that has Android Wear functionality will manage that.
Since Android Wear apps are tied so heavily into Android apps themselves, don’t expect to use Android Wear with an iPhone. At least not anytime soon, if ever: The way Google has engineered this makes it pretty much an Android-only play.