It's about time! Google to release a pair of Android Wear smartwatches in 2017

Major manufacturers like Moto and Huawei may be rethinking their wearable strategies, but Google isn’t biding its time while they figure it out. In an exclusive interview with The Verge, Android Wear product manager Jeff Chang revealed that the company will release a pair of new flagship smartwatches in the new year, designed to take full advantage of Android Wear 2.0’s new features.

Rumors have swirled for several months about a Pixel-branded smartwatch, but these devices won’t bear Google’s name. Like the Nexus phones of years past, the company that manufactures them gets the branding, though Chang declined to name the partner. He said the two companies worked closely together on production of the devices, but didn't reveal any specifics about the size or design of the two models.

Google plans to release a fifth and final developer preview of the OS in January, which will reportedly bring support for two main features, Android Pay and Google Assistant. The fourth version of the preview landed last week, adding a single-click Google sign-in and a new system for on-device in-app purchases.

Since its unveiling at Google I/O in May, Android Wear 2.0 has seen delays that have pushed its release into 2017. While most major manufacturers opted to hold off on the release of new watches this year, Chang revealed numerous models that are primed to receive the new update, including:

  • Asus ZenWatch 2
  • Asus ZenWatch 3
  • Casio Smart Outdoor Watch
  • Fossil Q Founder
  • Fossil Q Marshal
  • Fossil Q Wander
  • Huawei Watch
  • Huawei Watch Ladies
  • LG G Watch R
  • LG Watch Urbane
  • LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE
  • Michael Kors Access Bradshaw
  • Michael Kors Access Dylan
  • Moto 360 Gen 2
  • Moto 360 Sport
  • Nixon Mission
  • Polar M600
  • Tag Heuer Connected

Chang told The Verge that Google remains “quite optimistic” about the future of Android Wear and said that other partners will be releasing new watches in the coming months. “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “This category of product is here with us to stay.”

Why this matters: With delays to Android Wear and no new flagship releases to speak of in 2016, it was starting to seem like Google was going to cede to Samsung and Apple in the smartwatch race. However, Chang’s comments inject a little excitement back into the Android wearables scene, and now we have something solid to look forward to in the new year.

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