Google Raises the Stakes Against Apple

Although they were both dominant in their own ways before, tech giants Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) central roles in creating the modern smartphone and tablet market helped cement each company's place atop the global tech landscape.

No one argues that.

However, as we seen the tablet and smartphone markets both show signs of maturing lately, investors in both Apple and Google will need to increasingly look to what's ahead for either tech giant to understand their possible prospects in the years to come.

Both Apple and Google have been widely expected to play roles in the coming "wearables revolution," similar to the places they hold in the smartphone and tablet market. And in that effort, Google recently made a what it's billing as a great leap forward in extending its Android empire into smartwatches this week.

"Android Wear: Information that moves you" 
Recent at the South by Southwest interactive conference, Google SVP Sundar Pichai announced that Google planned to roll out a version of its Android mobile OS for wearables in short order. And yesterday, Google followed-up on Pichai's announcement with a blog post on its official Android blog giving firmer details on just what Android for wearables, now dubbed "Android Wear," will entail.

As we've seen with other smartwatches, the primary benefit Google seems to be touting with this new device class is ease of use and accessibility. In the blog post, Google highlights convenient-use cases like voice integration to access information from your smartphone and quick notifications from smartphone apps to keep you posted on relevant information.

In addition to announcing Android Wear, Google also referenced partnerships hardware manufacturers like Asus, HTC, LG, Samsung, and Motorola. Motorola and LG both also announced their own smartwatches in conjunction with Google's announcement, and both look beautiful.

Source: Motorola

If either are any indication, but especially Motorola's Moto 360, the next wave of smartwatches should be set to make a major leap forward as far as design aesthetics are concerned. In addition to device OEMS, Google announced chipmakers -- Broadcom, Intel, Mediatek, and Qualcomm -- that are hard at work in developing chips to power this new device class. And lastly, Google also mentioned fashion brands like Fossil as also having an Android Wear based product in development as well.

Apple's shadow still looms large
This kind of functionality is pleasant enough. However, it seems to stop well short of the kind of game-changing new technological advancement we saw at the advent the smartwatch, or even the tablet. And to me, that's where Apple deserves mention in this discussion.

Even the "best" smartwatches on the market today, like Samsung's Galaxy Gear, still largely serve as extensions of a smartphones functionality: They push your texts to your watch so you don't have to take your phone out of your pocket; they give you directions to a location without having to stare at your smartphone; they let you answer phone calls while keeping your phone in the bag.

However, because they're Bluetooth reliant on a smartphone as a connectivity hub, these smartwatches are essentially still glorified digital watches when taken outside the proximity of the smartphones to which they must be tethered.

However, reports coming out of Apple's camp speak to the much anticipated iWatch that will actually do things your smartphone cannot, things like advanced sensor-based biometrics that won't render the device brainless in the absence of a smartphone. And especially with the price tags for this emerging device class likely to sit somewhere in the hundreds of dollars, it's hard to imagine the entire category gaining broad consumer adoption without adding an extra layer of usability.

These are still rumors of course, but they paint Apple's coming device as adding an entire layer of functionality that the current field of Android Wear-based devices simply cannot match.

Whether or not Apple meets these monumental expectations remains to be seen. However, if the current devices we're seeing surround the Android Gear rollout serve as any indication, the smartwatch field still leaves the door open to names like Apple to push this emerging category toward its broader potential.

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Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2014, at 12:30 AM, dwilh51183 wrote:

    ALWAYS GOTTA COPY WHAT AAPL DOES

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2014, at 1:21 AM, dlwatib wrote:

    SeekingAlpha gets a ridiculous number of Apple contributions daily, mostly far too glowing, glowing to the point of radioactivity. They're practically all speculative, and they're all sure that the iWatch and the iTV are just around the corner and will be at least as popular as the iPhone. Motley Fool is much more balanced. How could it not be when SeekingAlpha is practically a house organ for Apple?

    This article is not at all negative toward Apple. It assumes that the iWatch, when it comes, will be much better than what Google is offering now with Android Wear. No mention is made of the fact that Apple should have announced the iWatch last year at the latest.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2014, at 3:46 AM, peterg wrote:

    has ANY one noticed that not one aapl rumor has turned out to be true ? the iwatch rumor has already inflated to mythical proportions on its own, with not one utterance from apple or its so called management. I think it hilarious to listen and watch so called adults expound upon the merits of yet unfulfilled aapl rumors, products, deals and so on.

    cook has been attributed with iconic talent in running the biggest brand in the world, yet he continues to fail, day after day, year after year - he is merely babysitting and curating apple and its products. Why, because he is fully aware he has plenty of time before the money machine runs down, and plenty of time before sub average IQ's wise up and buy another brand with more value, he is safe for quite a long time, and he knows it. that is why he is so quiet.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2014, at 7:39 AM, jdmeck wrote:

    Andrew is one of the best balanced annalist I read. But I am sick and tired of the Google verses Apple. Google is an advertising company that also gives out operating systems with an occasional low level product. How does that really compare to Apple.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2014, at 10:43 AM, GaryDMN wrote:

    The media is trying to position Apple as a competitor in the fake iWatch frenzy that they created, with Google marketing. The next big market, ha! The joke is on them, because Apple doesn't chase rumors, like the copy cats do. Android Wear is in the news, when the Android price wars should be the next big thing.

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