Android is the best hope for making wearables into sellables

15 March 2014 by Steve Blum
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Good intentions meet the harsh light of day.

The buzz this week around the announcement that a reasonably high profile fitness band – Jawbone’s UP24 – is finally supporting Android as well as iOS phones is a bit overheated. Launching without Android support is a huge minus for any wearable device. Unless the feature set, connectivity and server-side support is limited. And that’s a good description of the Jawbone UP24. It’s a simple product that’s attractively designed, but it doesn’t do anything particularly innovative.

So far, wearables like the UP24 or Fitbit are novelty items, not “must have” accessories for serious fitness enthusiasts or breakthrough lifestyle products for average consumers. It’s early days, though. Soon enough, someone will find the right combination of smartphone connectivity and features, server-side processing and wearable sensors and create a product that makes life more enjoyable and productive, with less effort and greater convenience. That’s what the iPhone did, after years of proto-smartphone products that didn’t exactly fail but remained in the niche category.

To do that you need the flexibility and developer support that the Android platform provides, including its easy integration with Linux server-side development. The problem will be solved by a cowboy developer, not someone living between the lines of Apple’s store policies. That’s why Google is coming out with a wearable SDK and why not putting Android at the top of wearable product development priorities is a mistake. Unless the feature set, connectivity and server-side support is limited.

That said, the UP24 will perform nicely as a novelty item, but my prediction is that 95% of units sold will be languishing in dressing table drawers within a month.