Android Wear – How Much of Our Data is a Wearable Worth?

Brain

“Android Wear” looks very cool. There is no doubt about the future of “wearables” as an integral part of our lives. As a tech lover, I am extremely happy that companies like Google are exploring our future to the point of creating devices to test ideas in the real world (Google Glass) and that wearables are quickly becoming reality. The questions now shift to which type, which brands and how will it become mainstream for consumers.

However!

I have a slight issue with the marketing and positioning tactics aimed at the everyday person that we’ve seen for some of these products – specifically Glass and Watches – positioned as the solutions of the future with amazing, seamless integration into our lives. I have less of an issue with Samsung, as they market actual products, while Google seems to market perception of their products – whether invite-only, not-yet-existent or those that people don’t realize require tons of personal data.

Full transparency:

I’m not a fan of Google Glass. I don’t wear glasses and found the OS to be unusable, making it very limited for everyday use (read: everyday use, NOT specialized use for doctors, pilots, etc…in those cases there is tremendous potential).

I also like my watches. Some are expensive and I won’t stop wearing them – I’d imagine most people won’t.

I believe that the future of wearables lies in the fitness band realm, both in design and tracking. I see a big difference between a fitness band with a screen (a la Samsung Gear Fit) that can be used as a watch and the actual watch replacements that we’ve seen from Samsung, Google and other manufacturers. This is the type of thing I wish we could have seen from Apple, rather than the iWatch, but there may be more yet to come.

But besides skepticism of a smart watch-style device taking off as mainstream for consumers, my deeper concerns begin with a note about  the passing assumption by Google that the average person keeps all of their personal information in the Google-sphere.

Did you happen to notice that Android Wear (based on the video released with the announcement), has Google Now at the center? And for Google Now to function so amazingly assumes/requires that you use Google services for nearly everything?

I don’t know about everyone else, but I do not use Google for everything. I have Outlook for work, Mac at home, I use an iPhone/iPad and most of my personal life exists within the Apple universe. I like it that way, it’s clean, separate where I need it to be and works well. If I had a smart watch and were using it in the way described in the video (example: waking up in the morning), I would also want to see my Outlook (work) calendar for the day – not just my Google Calendar. Of course one may say “calendar syncing is easy!” But for the average person, how easy is it? and will I be able to see my calendar without swiping through a bunch individual tiles? With that in mind, is the experience really better than picking up my iPhone/iPad instead? I’m not sure it is.

There are only a few people I know that store their entire lives in Google, and they are obsessed with Google/Android, to the point of it being irrational. I’ve had a number of friends/colleagues switch to iOS because Android devices were too problematic. From a consumer point of view, it also seems like the direction is moving to further segment Android vs. iOS, rather than giving ways to integrate their products into how I, as an example, currently live my life – which is probably how most people live their lives.

Further, while I expect that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple have access to much more of my personal information than I’m be comfortable with, the level of integration required for something like Android Wear to function as noted in the video, being tied so closely to Google Now, is…scary. That’s the part nobody is talking about, which is strange, especially amid revelations about the extent of behavior tracking and NSA spying.

I’m also a concerned about Google’s use of the “coolness” factor to excite consumers, potentially getting them to hand over a large amount of personal data, probably without realizing it.  This is something that largely goes under the radar with marketing efforts that make these devices look so cool, and is compounded when coupled with subtle misleading marketing, like the fact that Google is Myth-busting Myths about Google Glass that Don’t Exist. While I’m sure that Apple is also using my data to their benefit, I’m less afraid of them because there isn’t the giant search/SEM segment to feed.

The underlying, but largely ignored financial benefit for Google that comes with deeper data and behavior tracking, coupled with misleading marketing efforts and the subtle direction to silo consumers into the Google universe, rather than integrate, is all somewhat big brother-like.

It almost feels like propaganda to me, but rather than playing on the fears of communist infiltration, tech companies are capitalizing on our obsession with cool technology in a world where being wired is now a necessity.

Should we be worried?

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