But the boycott works both ways, and in a less-publicised consequence of the deteriorating relationship between the two companies it’s Huawei that is keeping Google literally at arm’s length.
The Chinese firm had in recent years been behind some of the best Android smartwatches – elegant pieces of jewellery which contained some of the innards of a mobile phone and could serve as a remote control for one.
They were powered by Android Wear, Google’s slimmed-down version of the operating system it makes for phones. But they’re not any longer.
Huawei has decided it can do better and has taken a cue from Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit and others in developing a system of its own to take on the better-known Apple line of watches.
It is a wise decision, for while Android Wear embodies many of the benefits of Android phones, it also carries over a very significant disadvantage: a battery that needs charging every day.
Huawei’s latest watch, the GT2, claims the battery can last up to a fortnight. The same is true of the 46cm Honor Magic Watch, which it also makes. Yet it shares with its Android predecessor an LED screen that can change faces with your mood: digital one minute and a Rolex-style analogue dial the next.
There is a difference, though. For while the new Huawei watches still serve as extensions to your phone, they don’t support downloadable apps in the way that your handset does. You’re stuck with the software that comes with them. There’s no wi-fi or NFC, either, so you can’t use them for contactless payments.
This may sound like a drawback, and indeed it is reflected in the lower price – the Huawei range starts at around £130 – but whereas Android watches are designed to be as flexible as your phone, Huawei has taken another lead from Fitbit in building its range with fitness tracking specifically in mind. That means you can listen to music, check your messages and take phone calls on some models while you’re out running, but you can’t play games or order a Uber back home. You’ll need to reach all the way into your pocket for your phone to do that.
There is Bluetooth, though, to keep your watch and phone in sync. And there is a collection of third-party watch faces to choose from – not as many as with Android but enough for most people.
There are 42cm and 46cm models to choose from, depending on the size of your wrist, with just around £10 separating them. The battery in the smaller watch lasts only a week and lacks a speaker and microphone for making calls. Those in the UK are sold mostly with black resin bands but you can replace them with a leather strap from any jeweller, should you wish.
At up to £100 less than equivalent Android watches – and very much less still than Apple’s most basic timepieces – the Huawei offerings are tempting. Their modest success also means that all five of the best-selling smartwatch brands have now eschewed Android That puts a question mark over its future as a platform for “wearables” and makes an Android watch a questionable investment right now. In trans-Pacific technology war, the Chinese may have the upper hand after all.
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