Updates on Android smartphones have been a total disaster and an ongoing headache for Google for sometime. They had to deal with several OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) using different hardware to come up with their line up Android products. Now that we have Android Wear on the horizon, the question to ask is how Google will handle Android wear updates on these devices in the distant future. Shall we be in such a confusion where some people will be waiting for version 5.2 for their Moto 360 while the LG G watch is already updated with the latest version 5.5? So with the advent of Android Wear, will it just be an extension of the frustration of Android smartphone updates that a lot of people still have? Can Android Smartwatch users live in a dreamland where all devices are updated at the same time and day irrespective of OEM/ODM and region just like iOS updates on phones?
A Smart-watch’s OS shouldn’t be 400MB in size
We all see it on our phones, telling us we have bought a 16GB model but in actual fact you have only 8GB free.
Fact number one, not every Android Wear device will be updated at the exact same time and the exact same day. I just don’t think logistically, Google’s model of bringing different manufactures on board to produce these devices, will make it possible. As most of them will love to differentiate their devices hence the skins and gimmicky features will be ushered into the Android Wear space as well.
Fact number two and to play devil’s advocate, it would also not surprise me a bit if the first Android wear reference devices (the Moto 360 and the LG G watch) run exactly the same firmware. And they are only differentiated by the assets and icons keeping the firmware as small as it should be such that updating the phone could be as simple as downloading an app from the Play store just like on the pebble. The firmware that runs on an Android wear device doesn’t have to be 400MB, there is just no need for all that in there. It could be very some small, easy to manage and all get pushed out at one, or it could be the cluster mess we have today in smartphones.
Stock Vs Skinned
The dream here is that Google could hold all Wear devices to a strict standard such that by the end of the year even if we have five smartwatches on the market from different manufactures they would all be running running the same software with version. I still don’t see it happening the same day as that would be the wonderful Android Wear utopia we would all like to live in and the only way that would happen, is if Google holds all Wear OEMs to a strong framework and push out the updates normally and very simply.
On the other side the only reason Android has been successful mobile platform, is because it allowed OEMs to pimp up stock Android User Interface (UI), that’s why you see and HTC, Samsung or Huawei UIs will look very different but they all run Android underneath. When it comes to this new category of wearable devices, I don’t want to see Google holding OEMs and ODMs down, I want Android wear to be able to be ‘touchwizfied’ (with a Samsung Skin ontop). I personally would also love to see HTC’s implementation of sense on a Smartwatch, the whole point here is that Google is not the epitome of software design, if some other OEM can make it better why not?
A Modular OS for Android wear
The general wisdom is that you can’t have it both ways, as you cant have something that is easy to customize and also fast updates. If you allow manufactures to get into the kernel and tear everything apart, that same code plus the manufacture’s additional code has to be put back together whenever there is a new version. There is also the fact that Google knows how much of a mess Android updates are on phones and tablets and if they are designing Android for a new class of devices, they need to work around those issues. My theory is, they could make it so that stuff that lives on top of the core Android OS is a bit more modular and easier to update separately from the core Operating System.