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Google expands Android to wearables

SAN FRANCISCO--Google said Tuesday it was bringing Android to wearable devices, as LG and Motorola started the countdown to Internet-enabled watches based on the dominant platform for smartphones.

The move allows developers to create apps for smartwatches, the first phase of the Android Wear platform.

Two manufacturers — LG Electronics and Motorola — quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

“We've barely scratched the surface of what's possible with mobile technology,” Google Android chief Sundar Pichai said in a blog post.

“That's why we're so excited about wearables — they understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.”

The news comes amid a surge of interest in wearable electronics which can connect with smartphones, and after the launch of several smart watches by large and small manufacturers.

In Seoul, LG Electronics said Tuesday it would launch by the end of June its first Internet-enabled smartwatch powered by Google's new operating system, tapping into the nascent but growing market for wearable devices. Its engineers worked closely with Google, LG said.

A rough image of the watch unveiled by the firm showed a black screen displaying time and what looks like an upcoming flight schedule.

Motorola also said Tuesday on its blog site it would make a similar watch available this summer, starting in the United States.

A typical smartwatch allows users to make calls, receive texts and emails, take photos and access apps.

The new Android Wear system will make it easier to develop apps specifically for a watch or other wearable device.

“Today we're announcing Android Wear, a project that extends Android to wearables,” Pichai said.

“And we're starting with the most familiar wearable — watches.”

He said the platform would help facilitate apps that provide news and information, allow chats, monitor health and fitness or help in shopping. The system will enable voice-controlled apps and connect to a smartphone or other device.

“Because Android for wearables works with Android's rich notification system, many apps will already work well,” Pichai said.

“We're also already working with several consumer electronics manufacturers, including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm; and fashion brands like the Fossil Group to bring you watches powered by Android Wear later this year.”

Samsung's new smartwatch, the Gear 2, which was launched in February is powered by the Tizen operating system developed by the South Korean giant along with other partners.

Global smartwatch sales are expected to grow this year by more than 500 percent from 1.9 million units in 2013, and to expand further in coming years, according to the market researcher Strategic Analytics.

Google said separately it was expanding its Google Play catalog of films and other content for purchase or rental to 39 new countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

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