With photos to back it up, the Verge reported Thursday that Google is definitely developing an Android Wear app for use on the iPhone. This is the second time such news has made its way to the Web, having first been reported in March on French tech site 01net.
Before that, an enterprising tinkerer had figured out a way to connect his Moto 360 with his iPhone. There's even an app on the Play Store right now that claims to connect Android Wear devices with an iPhone (though my own attempts to do so with my iPad have all failed so far).
Google’s official response to my inquiry on this report has been the standard “We have nothing to announce at this time.” But the photos—showing both a Moto 360 and a G Watch R displaying iOS-specific notifications—make it seem pretty clear that the app is happening.
The real questions, however, are whether Apple would actually have the guts to allow it to show up on its App Store—and what Google has to gain by provoking Apple in the first place.
As we’ve discussed before, Apple isn’t completely opposed to letting other companies’ wearable companion apps into the App Store. Pebble, Fitbit, and Microsoft all have apps available in the App Store that link non-Apple devices with the iPhone.
Apple has even less incentive to allow any kind of Android Wear capability onto iOS, simply because Android Wear devices and the Apple Watch are such direct competitors. Add Google and Apple’s longstanding mobile rivalry, and it seems even less likely.
At the same time, it’s difficult not to see Google's potential iOS app as a gibe at Apple’s walled-off ecosystem. Assuming Google isn’t developing the app with Apple’s cooperation—which seems reasonable given their antagonistic relationship—an Android Wear app for iOS would only exist as a testament to Apple’s refusal to play nice.
The Pursuit of Appiness
However, Apple would actually have plenty to gain by opening its software doors to Google. For starters, it could show that Apple isn’t afraid to show off the Apple Watch’s superiority to Android Wear.
If iPhone users truly want to go for a less expensive wearable, they ought to be able to. And if the Apple Watch truly is the superior device, those cheapskates might realize their mistake before too long.
More important, however, Apple opening its doors to Android Wear might also mean the eventual appearance of an Apple Watch app on the Google Play Store. With Android’s worldwide market share exceeding that of the iPhone, allowing those mobile users to connect a shiny new Apple Watch might be a great business move. (If somewhat at odds with Apple's apparent desire to hook its users specifically into its services.)
Remember, the iPod was once an Apple-exclusive device. It became a true hit once a Windows-compatible version was released. The Apple Watch is the first new product to come from the company in years. Opening up its potential to users on non-Apple platforms would be a smart way for the company to ensure it’s as much of a hit as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad before it.