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Why Android Wear will give the Apple Watch a run for its money

Google has created an Android Wear companion app for iPhones.Google has created an Android Wear companion app for iPhones.
Google has created an Android Wear companion app for iPhones.Courtesy of Google

Earlier this week, Google announced an important update to its Android Wear platform: Support for the iPhone. In doing so, the company will bring mobile users on iOS newfound options when it comes to smartwatch hardware. While there are some trade-offs in design and functionality, Google-powered wearables are starting to look a lot more promising—and with Android Wear devices selling at a variety of price points, they might just gain a footing among consumers in a way the Apple Watch hasn’t.

Initially, only a handful of Android Wear smartwatches will come with official iPhone support, including the $350 LG Watch Urbane and the $349 Huawei Watch. While many consumers would likely choose the identically priced Apple Watch Sport over these options, upcoming, lower-end Android Wear watches could start to look much more appealing to first-time wearable users. For example, the sub-$200 ASUS Zenwatch will go on sale next month with iPhone support baked in, and the popular, mid-range Moto 360 already appears to offer some basic functionality when paired with an iOS device.

A variety of smartwatch options—including some high-end designs that rival the Apple Watch’s good looks—will give iPhone users the gift of choice, and it doesn’t hurt that Google (GOOG) has demonstrated some early mastery of wearable notifications, either. With Google Now displaying updates in an easy-to-digest format and with voice commands offering convenient shortcuts, Android Wear provides a solid complement to the smartphone—which is about as much as you can say about any smartwatch at this point.

There are some potential drawbacks that could give iPhone users pause, though these could change further down the line. For one, Android Wear won’t work with Apple’s (AAPL) HealthKit fitness-tracking technology. (They’ll be forced to use Google Fit instead.) iPhone users won’t be able to download third-party apps either, though this should be less of a dealbreaker.

As of July, iPhones make up 44% of the smartphone market share in the U.S., and this is the biggest reason that Android Wear is starting to look like a serious competitor. Some iPhone owners won’t want to make the jump to Google-powered software, and some aren’t yet sold on wearables at all, but for those dipping their toes into the smartwatch waters, the lower prices and more plentiful hardware options available on Android Wear make it an appealing first choice.

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