There’s been quite a bit said today in the comments, on our social feeds and elsewhere about the apparent decision by LG and/or Google not to bring the two new Android Wear 2.0 watches to Australia. To be fair, neither Google nor LG have said anything concrete on that, but both have denied having plans to bring the new watches here. Whether that means they’ll never come, or they have no plans at present remains to be seen … but I think it’s safe to say they’re not coming in a hurry.
LG aren’t the only ones with a new shiny Android Wear watch or two that isn’t coming to Australia; just the other day we reported on a new watch from ZTE which — for the time being — won’t be coming to the Australian market either.
From what we understand, there’s a couple of reasons why these two watches — the LG Watch Sport and ZTE watch — in particular won’t be coming to Australia:
- For one, they’re both cellular watches. This means that — like smartphones — to work here in Australia, they need to support our unique mix of LTE and cellular bands, including the elusive band 28 which isn’t really used anywhere much else except Australia. That means that without expensive re-tooling and changes, the watches won’t support one of the best LTE frequencies we can use. Band 28 which operates at 700 MHz, arising from the shutdown of the analog TV spectrum, is uniquely suited to the Australian geography, and devices which don’t support it will simply not work as well as they could on our two biggest carriers Telstra and Optus.
- Secondly, we’re a relatively smaller market. Despite a large landmass the same size as northern America, we’ve less than 10% of the population, and of that, very few would be interested in spending hundreds of dollars on a smartwatch. You’d have to imagine that the number of smartwatches sold Australia wide are only going to be measured in thousands, and that’s for the big name brands. Those with less brand recognition or retail presence will struggle.
The question I find myself asking, and which we asked internally today, was do we really need a cellular watch? If we took that out of the equation, then it’s just a question of market demand … and if the production costs are lower, due to not needing unique Australian-specific hardware, then the break even will come at a lower rate of sales.
This makes it a more reasonable proposition to bring new watches here, by sacrificing a feature that few of the few who buy a smartwatch us would ever really use anyway.
What we do want, though, are watches that support Android Pay. Unlike Apple Pay which supports hardly any banks, Android Pay supports a lot of banks, and we want a watch we can use with it. To make this work, we need watches with NFC. It is NFC that will make or break a watch here, rather than cellular.
It just so happens that it’s a lot cheaper to leave cellular out and put NFC in, it makes for a thinner watch that looks better, which means you can stick with more timeless designs than technological monstrosities. Basically its a win, win and win.
To that end, we make our request to the makers of Android Wear watches loud and clear:
Please bring us watches with NFC. We — and likely, many others — don’t care about cellular, we don’t need watches that are an inch thick, we just have a simple request. Bring us a nice looking watch that won’t look dated in twelve months, put Android Wear 2.0 and NFC in it, and we the Australian tech community will buy an awful lot of them.
Who’s with me?