It’s no longer news that the digital divide between mobile devices and cars are slowly thinning, and 2015 might be the year when the wall truly collapses. With endeavors like Google’s Android Auto as well as Apple’s CarPlay, we can expect more and more vehicles this year to integrate with our smartphones. But it isn’t just smartphones either, as more and more car makers are adding support for smartwatches as well. Here at CES 2015, we take a closer look with Audi’s smartwatch, a product of its collaboration with LG.
To be clear, this isn’t simply a reskinned LG smartwatch. While it is indeed based on the design of the circular LG G Watch R, it is definitely more than that, both inside and outside. Of course, the most visible difference is in the materials used for the timepiece, now with a metal body and leather straps that more closely matches Audi’s aesthetics. Deep inside, there are differences as well.
The most prominent, but hidden, hardware variation is that this Audi smartwatch has an NFC radio inside, possibly making it the first smartwatch to be equipped with that component. This enables users to quickly yet securely connect with the car in a one tap gesture. Audi is thinking of using this kind of security system in more ways, like unlocking rental cars, but that would still be a few years in the making. The timepiece also has physical buttons, three in fact, in contrast to the almost button-less G Watch R. The middle button is used to quickly switch from the watch face to Audi’s dedicated app.
The Audi smartwatch does run Android Wear and it bears pretty much the same functionality as what we’ve seen in Hyundai’s Blue Link app. You can remotely start and stop the engine, for one, as well as lock and unlock the car, replicating pretty much the functionality of a key fob. Audi demonstrated the functionality with the Prologue A8, the concept car unveiled last November. To make the show even more impressive, Audi R&D chief Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg summoned the self-driving car to him on stage using only the smartwatch. That said, don’t expect the Audi smartwatch to be offered any time soon. With the new NVIDIA DRIVE CX also in tow, Audi’s Prologue is shaping up to be one rather interesting smart car.