How to use an Android Wear watch with an iPhone—and why you might want to

Editor’s note: This article originally ran in May 2016, but was updated in July 2017 to include info on Android Wear 2.0 and the latest Android Wear watches. 

Apple built the Apple Watch to coexist with your iPhone, and they’re a near-perfect pair if you want a connected device on your wrist. However, it’s not the only smartwatch out there for iPhone owners. The dearly departed Pebble watches are compatible, as is the Samsung Gear S3 and S2—and yes, even Google’s Android Wear watches work with your iPhone.

It’s true! Google first rolled out iPhone compatibility in late 2015, back when Android Wear was still in its first incarnation, and several watches gained functionality when used with Apple’s phone. When we first wrote this article in 2016, it became clear that a lot of you were curious about Google’s alternative watches, and whether they were worth using with an iPhone. 

What a difference a year makes. Android Wear has been updated to 2.0, and along with the version upgrade came a couple of big new features for iPhone owners—and there are several new watches available that support it. But the old v1 watches still work too, albeit with less functionality. And now that the Apple Watch Series 2 is out, with the first-gen watches sold for less, the value comparison has certainly changed as well.

Looking for a different kind of watch to pair with your iPhone? Here’s a look at what Android Wear offers for iPhone owners, which watches are available, and what kind of functionality you gain or lose as opposed to wielding an Apple Watch instead. 

What is Android Wear?

Android Wear is Google’s smartwatch platform, but while Google makes the core software that all of the watches run, the company doesn’t manufacture any of its own watches. That used to be Google’s approach to smartphones, as well, although last year’s Pixel and Pixel XL marked the first Google-branded phones. Still, there’s no “one” or “flagship” Android Wear watch as of this writing.

android wear iphone appsAndrew Hayward/IDG

Android Wear 2.0 improves the interface while adding some new features.

In fact, since the first models came out in June 2014, more than 30 watches have been released from various manufacturers, including Motorola, Samsung, Sony, LG, Huawei, and Asus. The array of different makers means that every Android Wear watch is unique in look and materials, unlike the Apple Watch, and some offer larger batteries or include GPS, an NFC chip, or even standalone 4G LTE functionality—so there’s more flexibility, too.

However, since they all run the same Android Wear platform, all of the watches essentially act about the same in terms of software, at least when running the latest version. Nearly all Android Wear watches are dependent on your phone for connectivity, although apps can run natively on the watch and you can, say, listen to music via Bluetooth headphones without needing your phone. As mentioned before, a few Android Wear watches offer 4G connectivity for phone-free calls and notifications.

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