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Will Google's Biggest Announcement This May Involve Apple's iPhone?

By Sam Mattera - Mar 28, 2015 at 9:00AM

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Will Google bring Android Wear to Apple's handset?

Is Google (GOOG -2.27%) (GOOGL -2.46%) planning to bring Android Wear to Apple's (AAPL -1.51%) iPhone? 

Maybe so. French tech site (via Macrumors) reports that Google is working on an Android Wear app for iOS, and that it plans to unveil it at its developers conference -- Google I/O -- this May. If so, it could be a boon to the Android Wear platform, allowing millions of iPhone owners to take advantage of the growing number of Android Wear watches.

Of course, this would provide compelling competition for Apple Watch, and could draw Apple's ire, too. But the interoperability between smartphones and wearable technology could yield larger implications for the smartphone market. 

Android Wear on iOS wouldn't be surprising
It's easy to see why Google would want to bring Android Wear to the iPhone. Despite its ownership of Android, Google's primary business centers on advertising, and its ability to sell ads is predicated on the use of its services.

Several of the most popular apps on Apple's app store are Google services -- including YouTube, Maps, Gmail and Google search. Although Android Wear is a hardware platform, it is largely an extension of these services -- its interface centers around Google Now, the search giant's digital personal assistant that integrates data from Google other services and products.

Google will likely update its iOS apps to support Apple Watch, but it would be beneficial if iPhone owners were using an Android Wear device instead. Android Wear supports third party apps, but it favors Google's: the Apple Watch will be far more agnostic.

Unfortunately, 01net's report has not been corroborated by other sources, but some developers have been able to get Android Wear devices to work with the iPhone. Mohammad Abu-Garbeyyeh has created software that allows Android Wear devices to receive notifications from the iPhone, as well as control music playback.

Apple has blocked Google's apps in the past
Apple's app store guidelines are broad: the iPhone-maker can block just about any app for any reason. In 2009, it temporarily blocked Google Voice from the app store, and it could do the same for an Android Wear app. True, it allows smartwatch-maker Pebble to distribute its app on the iTunes app store, but the kick-starter-backed upstart is less threatening than Android Wear.

If Android Wear does come to iOS, it could cause problems for Apple Watch. Although the Apple Watch may prove to be superior to Android Wear devices, it's easy to imagine many iPhone owners preferring the watches offered by Google's partners.

For starters, they're significantly cheaper: the Apple Watch starts at $349; Android Wear devices are available for less than $100, and even higher-end Android Wear devices like the Moto 360 are less expensive. They also offer some functions the current Apple Watch lacks -- the SmartWatch 3, for example, is completely waterproof -- and they come in a variety of different styles.

In fact, if Android Wear doesn't come to iOS, it could eventually cause Apple problems. Apple Watch, as Apple's next product, holds a lot of promise, but the iPhone is far more important to Apple's top and bottom lines. If Android Wear remains restricted to Android, Apple could lose some iPhone customers. It's possible that one of Google's hardware partners could eventually release an Android Wear watch so compelling that it entices some iPhone fans to ditch Apple's smartphone for an Android-powered device instead.

That may seem unlikely, but Android Wear is only in its early stages, which means its best days are far ahead. In fact, luxury watch maker Tag Heuer plans to support the platform, and other traditional watchmakers may not be far behind.

Google I/O could be key for Apple Watch
Apple investors are sure to keep a close eye on Apple Watch's debut next month, but May could be just as influential.

As a product category, smartwatches remain in their infancy, but their relation to handsets will allow them to play a vital role in the future of the smartphone market. As smartwatch platforms continue to evolve, their interoperability (or lack thereof) could be a powerful driver of future smartphone sales.

Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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