Fresh off the scuttlebutt that Fitbit is likely buying Pebble, more smartwatch news is making the rounds: Android Wear darling Motorola has decided to bow out of the wearables game, at least for the foreseeable future.
Lenovo has confirmed to The Verge that its Motorola brand will not release a third version of its Moto 360, despite the imminent appearance of Android Wear 2.0. As Shakil Barkat, Motorola’s head of global product development, told the publication: “Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year.”
“We believe the wrist still has value and there will be a point where they provide value to consumers more than they do today,” Barkat added. (The tl;dr version: smartwatches don’t make Motorola money, and the company has nothing compelling to offer via wrist-worn wearables.)
The first (and, for a time, only) round smartwatch for Android Wear, the Moto 360 lost a bit of its edge early to competitors like Huawei and Fossil. Later on, round smartwatches from Michael Kors and Nixon sealed Moto 360’s fate.
Furthermore, Motorola won’t update its first-generation 360 to Android Wear; only the second generation device, released last year, will receive the latest operating system. Android Wear 2.0 focuses on independent connectivity and makes improvements to fitness tracking; it also offers up a bit more customization.
To take full advantage of Wear 2.0, Motorola would have to make an entirely new smartwatch with better hardware, not to mention a chip that allows connectivity without a smartphone. There’s also no solid method for tying a Motorola smartwatch to a Motorola phone without doing what Samsung did with Tizen – and that’s a lot of technical debt.
For consumers, the Moto news is yet another blow to wearables. While it doesn’t rely on Android Wear, Pebble is said to be on the chopping block (should it be acquired by Fitbit). In other words, two early leaders in wearables moving away from the space, a potentially troublesome trend.
Beyond its own issues, it’s easy to see why Motorola would drop wearables. Google, which controls Android Wear a bit more tightly than it does Android proper, is behind the curve that Apple is setting with watchOS. Couple that with the competitive Android Wear hardware landscape, now dotted by dedicated watch-makers, and it seems doubtful that we’ll see another Motorola smartwatch.