Google will make it easier for third-party developers to create Android-based smartwatches and fitness bands, the company said today at the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW).
Google is a huge player in the wearable device market with its Google Glass product, although that device has garnered almost as much negative press as accolades, since it was released on a test-basis last year.
However, Android has not made much of an impression with smartwatch and fitband makers, but it hopes to correct this situation by releasing a software developers kit (SDK) in about two weeks' time. SDKs give developers all of the technical background needed to properly use the Android operating system in their products, making it easier to create apps.
Sundar Pichai, Google's senior VP of Android, Apps, and Chrome, said he expects the wearables market to develop in a similar fashion as the smartphone market. There have been reports that Google will roll out its own smartwatch later this year.
The move could come just in time, as consumer interest and knowledge of wearables such as smartwatches, fitness bands and smart glasses has reached 52 percent, according to the NPD Group's new "Wearable Technology Study."
"[Some] 52 percent of consumers say they've heard of wearable technology devices such as smart glasses, smart watches, and wearable fitness tracking devices. Among those aware of the devices, one-in-three say they are likely to buy one of them," the research firm found.
Smartwatches have a somewhat higher level of recognition among consumers than fitness bands, with 36 percent of those surveyed saying they had heard of smartwatches. On the negative side, only 23 percent said they intended to purchase such a device.
Smart glasses awareness is also quite high, due mainly to the excellent level of press received by Google Glass. Among early adopters, smart glass awareness is nearly 50 percent. Making and receiving calls (19 percent), browsing the web (19 percent), and taking photos and videos (19 percent) were most commonly cited by likely buyers as sought-after features, NPD said.
There are still problems that are keeping wearable products from broader adoption, though. NPD analysts noted that people believe smart glasses can easily be broken and that most smartwatches are too large, unattractive and have a short battery life. Fitness bands also suffer from an image problem with consumers citing many of the previously mentioned problems and adding in that they fear they will lose interest in the device.