Apple Watch support for Android was ‘nearly complete,’ canceled to protect iPhone

Apple was working on making the Apple Watch, along with various health features, compatible with Android before the project was canceled.

A Bloomberg report into Apple’s health ambitions today includes a tidbit about how “Apple engineers were also deeply engaged in an effort to make the watch and Health app compatible with the billions of Android devices in circulation.” This would have particularly helped Apple in countries where the iPhone doesn’t have high market share.

We do not know when this occurred in the life span of the Apple Watch, but development was said to be “nearly complete” before Project Fennel was canceled. If it came before the Fitbit acquisition, Wear OS 3 relaunch, and 2022 Pixel Watch, Google and Samsung’s wearable efforts could have been deeply impacted.

“Business considerations” were cited as the reason why:

“If you gave up the watch to Android, you would dilute the value of the watch to the iPhone,” said someone with knowledge of the decision.

Getting Android owners to switch to iPhone remains a big goal for the company, with iMessage being the other big incentive.

Many unknowns remain, including what functionality would have been available to Android owners. Would a third-party App Store exist, or would nonhealth functionality be limited to basic applications (timers, alarms, weather, etc.)? Would this have been the way for Android owners to get access to iMessage and other services like Apple Music and Maps?

Meanwhile, what would the Android app notification experience from your phone be like? At the very least, an Android companion app would be needed to set up the watch, as well as relay internet connectivity and notifications. On the iPhone today, Activity and Health are separate apps, which likely would have had to make their way to Android. Another possibility could have been combining the functionality of three applications into one. 

Bloomberg also reported today that the 2024 Apple Watch could get a new sensor to help detect elevated blood pressure (but not exact systolic and diastolic readings), as well as sleep apnea detection. It also detailed the long road to blood sugar measurements.

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