One of the key differences to Google’s approach to Android Wear as compared to other smartwatch platforms is that it’s partially open source, just like Android. This means that even if you’re not one of Google’s official Android Wear hardware partners, you can still download the source code from the Android Open Source Project (ASOP) and build your own.
The group behind one of the first Android Wear smartwatches that’s not from a major partner is currently taking pre-orders on Indiegogo to raise funds to release an Android Wear smartwatch, called the Com1, as soon as December this year.
If the Com1 is successful at entering production, it could be a very attractive value. The specs listed on Indiegogo resemble an Android Wear wishlist.
The screen will be a 320 x 320 AMOLED display, it will have both GPS and a heart rate sensor in addition to a gyroscopic sensor, powered by a 400mAh battery (which promises a two-day battery life), all packed into slim waterproof aluminum or stainless steel cases. It will cost for $125 for early birds, or $175 when it officially goes on sale, which is significantly less expensive than the Android Wear devices currently offered by major OEMs and a little less than a third of the announced price for the entry-level Apple Watch.
Of course, as with all crowdfunded projects, there is a risk that the final product — if it’s successfully completed and ships — may not be exactly what was originally promised.
One of the most interesting things about the Com1 is that this team of independent hardware developers have eschewed the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip found in most Android Wear devices up to this point. The Com1 team is using a CPU from Ingenic, which isn’t ARM-based. Instead, it uses a Imagination Technologies-designed MIPS microarchitecture. According to the Com1 team, they chose that processor because it is “specifically designed for wearables, battery life, and Android Wear” and that their developers had no problems installing Android Wear on it.
It’s also most likely a good deal less expensive than Qualcomm’s processor. The Ingenic processor could potentially hurt app compatibility if Android Wear apps are compiled for ARM processors, but Google’s new ART runtime means the MIPS processor shouldn’t break app compatibility.
If other indie hardware developers follow the Com1 and start quickly iterating different approaches to Android Wear, that would be a major advantage over Apple Watch, the same way that countless different handsets have propelled Android to become the most common mobile OS. After all, crowdfunding and smartwatches have been a good pairing since the Pebble kicked off the latest smartwatch boom by raising over one million dollars on Kickstarter.