We’ve all wondered if Google will ever decide to release its own smartwatch as the Wear OS platform has continued to flounder. According to a new report, Google already tried to do that once, but it canceled the effort at the last minute because the experience wasn’t good enough. The Pixel Watch hardware eventually debuted as LG-branded Wear OS devices, and indeed, they were not good.
The story begins in 2016 as Google was gearing up for the Pixel launch under the stewardship of its new hardware czar Rick Osterloh. The Pixel phones would replace the company’s Nexus devices with a new focus on elegance and ease of use. The October 2016 unveiling of the Pixel and Pixel XL was originally supposed to feature a pair of Pixel Watches as well. However, Osterloh pulled the plug at the last minute.
According to a former member of the Google hardware team, some basic features of the watches simply didn’t work correctly. For example, syncing between the shiny new Pixel phones and the Pixel Watches was spotty at best, and Osterloh was wary of mediocre wearables casting a pall over his first major hardware launch.
Google allegedly had branding, product photos, and marketing plans ready for the watches when Osterloh canceled the project. Google announced the Pixel phones soon thereafter, and the rumored Pixel Watches were nowhere to be seen. The hardware, which was manufactured by LG, didn’t go directly in the bin, though. LG salvaged the designs to launch two smartwatches under its own brand several months later.
The LG Watch Style and Watch Sport launched in early 2017 to largely lukewarm reviews. Google gave the devices some promotional attention as they were the first with the new Android Wear 2.0 update (this was before the Wear OS re-brand). Neither device sold in significant quantities.
The report also notes that the current state of Wear OS is abysmal, and no one seems to know how to address it. Google still is not working on its own smartwatch because of the continued issues with the platform. So, don’t expect any wearable devices at next month’s Google hardware event. For now, Google seems content to let Fossil release mediocre smartwatches generation after generation while Apple gobbles up more of the market.