Android Wear: More than 20 smart watch apps hit Google Play store

Google's Android Wear, its mobile operating system for wearable devices such as smart watches, introduced more than 20 apps that can be downloaded from the Google Play store. But will it affect the way people think of wearables? 

(Jeff Chiu/AP/File)
In this June 25, 2014, file photo, a man looks at the Samsung Gear Live, an Android Wear smartwatch, on the demo floor at Google I/O 2014 in San Francisco. Google released more than 20 apps to be downloaded from the Google Play store for Android Wear. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Google may have given Android Wear some major play at last week's I/O developer's conference, but what's a gadget without its own series of apps? That's why Google has now introduced more than 20 apps for Android Wear that can be downloaded for free from the Play Store

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Granted, these apps are not necessarily new. They're available for other Android devices, be they tablets or phones. Still, they do mark an important step in the evolution of wearable devices and Google's big push to be the go-to provider of wearable technology. From Google Glass to the Samsung Gear Live and the LG G watch (with the Motorola Moto 360 expected to be released later this summer), Google has placed its monumental brand firmly on the smart watch trend. 

But the question remains, will consumers respond? 

Smart watches, at least the ones that work with Google's Android Wear, essentially function as extensions of people's Android smart phones. Users download the Android Wear app to their phones. Then, using Bluetooth technology, they can sync applications of their choosing from their phone to their smart watch. Notifications then appear on your smart watch, alerting you that you've received a text message or that it's going to take a bit longer than expected to get to the restaurant for your lunch meeting. Upon receiving the notification, you can either get out your phone and, you know, use the app on your phone. Or you have the option of interacting directly with the watch using Google Now, Google's mobile personal assistant that responds to voice commands. For example, to find the latest flight information you could say, "OK Google," and then ask for a listing of flights to your destination of choice. 

But as a number of analysts have noted, the smart watch is by no means a substitute for the phone. For most functions, the watch only acts as an alert system on your wrist, buzzing to inform you there's something of note you may want to attend to on your phone – kind of like a modern-day beeper. 

Expectations are also mixed on how successful wearable devices will perform in the market. Market Research firm IDC predicts more than 19 million wearable devices will ship in 2014, with that number climbing to around 112 million in 2018. Meanwhile, research firm NPD DisplaySearch says the number of wearable devices shipped this year could be as high as 48 million units and as high as 91 million in 2015. But it then expects that number to drop off after 2015, following the trends of other consumer devices in recent years. 

"We expect that the dynamics of the wearables market will be similar to DVD, LCD TV, smartphones, and other digital consumer markets with commoditized hardware," says Paul Gray, director of European TV research for NPD DisplaySearch, in a May release. "The arrival of Samsung, LGE, and other large, cost-efficient manufacturers to the wearables market would bring prices and margins down." 

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