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The Apple Watch almost came to Android, but ‘technical’ difficulties got in the way

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The showdown between Apple and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is gaining steam with every passing day. One of the latest revelations is that Apple thought about making the Apple Watch compatible with Android – but ultimately scrapped the idea.

A new report from 9to5Mac claims that Apple confirmed to the outlet that it spent three years trying to make an Android Apple Watch work, but eventually “determined an Apple Watch with Android support wasn’t doable because of technical limitations.”

That might come as frustrating news for Android users. The Apple Watch is undoubtedly one of the best smartwatches you can get, full of class-leading features for health, fitness, calls and more. 

Apple’s inability to get the device working with Google’s operating system has meant a little less choice for Android users. But despite this revelation, the reasons behind those technical difficulties remain a little vague.

What was Apple’s motivation?

Apple Watch Ultra in use on wrist and on table

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple’s statement to 9to5Mac was made in response to a claim from the DOJ that “if Apple can steer a user towards buying an Apple Watch, it becomes more costly for that user to purchase a different kind of smartphone because doing so requires the user to abandon their costly Apple Watch and purchase a new, Android-compatible smartwatch.”

While the DOJ’s argument is that Apple deliberately withholds the Apple Watch from Android users in order to keep its walled garden intact, Apple says that it actually tried to cross the aisle and make the Watch available to Android users, but ultimately couldn’t overcome the technical hurdles. Exactly what those hurdles are, though, isn’t completely clear.

Interestingly, the report from 9to5Mac backs up a claim made by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman from November 2023. Back then, Gurman quoted sources inside Apple who said that the company was concerned about “privacy requirements and … the difficulty of gathering viable health data from the wrist” when it came to making an Android-compatible Apple Watch.

As well as that, Gurman noted that the project was canceled when it was almost at the finish line, in part because “if you gave up the watch to Android, you would dilute the value of the watch to the iPhone,” to quote one of Gurman’s sources.

In the end, it seems like a mix of these factors prevailed. The ability of the Watch and iPhone to promote each other is undoubtedly attractive to Apple, but it’s unlikely to be the company’s only consideration – after all, Steve Jobs was adamant iTunes would never come to Windows in order to protect the Mac, but that decision was eventually reversed and it didn’t negatively affect Apple. 

But combined with the technical difficulties of making the Watch work on Android while preserving user privacy, it probably helped make up Apple’s mind. And that situation doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.

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