- Google has been working on its own smartwatch to take on the Apple Watch.
- Codenamed ‘Rohan,’ the wearable will be the first Google-branded smartwatch.
- Executives have told employees they plan to launch the watch next year.
Google is working on a smartwatch that it plans to launch next year, as the search giant makes a renewed push in the wearable tech space.
The device, which is internally codenamed “Rohan,” will showcase the latest version of Google’s smartwatch software to customers and partners, according to internal documents viewed by Insider and multiple current and former employees. Those employees asked to remain anonymous because they were not permitted to discuss Google’s plans.
To date, Google has opted to create software for smartwatches built by partners such as Samsung, but has not made a device of its own. A Google-branded smartwatch would see the company go toe to toe with Apple, whose Watch has proven a runaway success and captured control of the smartwatch market.
Unlike the Apple Watch, Google’s smartwatch is round and has no physical bezel, according to artistic renders viewed by Insider and employees who have seen it. Like Apple’s device, it will capture health and fitness metrics.
Work on Rohan has accelerated this year. Google has let employees outside of the smartwatch team test the device and provide feedback — a common practice known as “dogfooding” — according to employees and feedback documents viewed by Insider. One of those feedback sessions took place as recently as November, according to some of the documents viewed by Insider.
The watch has sometimes been referred to internally as the “Pixel watch” or “Android watch,” but executives have used a variety of names to refer to the project and it is unclear what branding Google will land on if and when it launches the device. The existence of a smartwatch codenamed “Rohan” was previously reported by YouTuber Jon Prosser.
Google has big plans for its wearables business. It closed a $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit in January, and Fitbit has said it intends to eventually build devices that run Google’s operating system. However, Google does not currently intend to brand the Rohan watch as a Fitbit device.
The Rohan watch has a heart-rate monitor and offers basic health-tracking features such as step counting. In its current form the watch will require daily charging, according to a feedback document seen by Insider. One employee testing the watch lamented the charging was slow. Like the Apple Watch, Google’s wearable will also use proprietary watchbands.
An early concept document seen by Insider describes Google’s ambitions to build a watch that would be comfortable to wear for at least 90% of the population. “Insufficient sizing excludes some users from wearable wristables entirely,” the document reads. It’s unclear if Google intends to offer the smartwatch in multiple sizes.
In meetings, senior executives have told employees they intend to launch the smartwatch next year. Two employees said a spring launch was possible if the latest testing round is a success, however all sources stressed that details and timelines were subject to change depending on feedback from employees testing the device.
A Google spokesperson told Insider that the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.
Apple has run away with the smartwatch market
Google’s smartwatch plans have been in stops and starts for many years. The search giant killed its first Google-branded watch ahead of a planned unveiling back in 2016, Insider previously reported, and has instead opted to focus on licensing smartwatch software to third-party tech companies like Huawei, and fashion brands like Fossil and Michael Kors.
But the platform has languished as Google struggled to gain market share. The Apple Watch, the first major new product category launched under Tim Cook, has soared, accounting for 45.1% of smartwatch OS shipments in the first half of 2021, according to IDC. Smartwatches running Google’s Wear OS accounted for only 3.1%.
The tide may be turning. At its I/O conference in May, Google unveiled a revamped version of its smartwatch operating system, which it built in partnership with Samsung. A recent Counterpoint Research report claims Wear OS shipments jumped to 17.3% against Apple’s 21.8% in Q3, thanks to sales of Samsung watches running the new Google operating system. Fitbit took 4.4% of the market.
Google has made several changes in recent months to unify work on Rohan and its broader wearable tech ambitions.
It has rolled the Fitbit group into its Devices and Services division and, more recently, has merged its wearables team with the Fitbit group, two sources said. It is also working on a Fitbit integration for Wear OS, internally codenamed “Nightlight,” which it hopes to debut with Rohan.
A Google-branded watch capable of capturing health metrics may also help nudge along the search giant’s business ambitions in the healthcare space.
Google disbanded its Health division in September, but said it still plans to pursue healthcare across the company. It has also moved teams working on health records into the Fitbit group, Insider previously reported.
“It’s a pretty direct mirror of the Apple Health stack,” one employee said of the makeup of teams inside the Fitbit group. “It seems like Google wants to catch up with the Apple HealthKit ecosystem, and is reorganizing everything in a future-looking sense to get there.”
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