Android Wear Review: Living with the Samsung Gear LiveSupport
If you’re into tech cool, you’ll want an Android Wear watch as soon as you get to experience a demo model. As I look at my wrist, I see a colorful and detailed, Star Trek-style, clock display (provided free by a third-party developer). Swiping down over the watch’s face brings up a long line of miniature Google Now cards.
The cards might display snippets of weather, stocks, and updates generated from your most frequent search topics as well as heart rate and step data (depending on features of the Wear hardware that is connected to your Android phone through Bluetooth 4.0 LE.)
Swiping from right to left on any card may bring up further information such as history or details. On this first set of watches, a simple swipe to the right can bring up a (add-on, third-party) launcher displaying all the mini-apps on the device.
Out of the box, the first watches to carry the Android Wear banner are not breakthrough products in terms of hardware. The Samsung Gear Live (reviewed here) and LG G Watch are on a par with the previously available Samsung Neo 2, but unlike its Tizen-based platform, the Wear watches have attracted a strong community of very fast-working developers who may see a gold mine in Wear.
They have been putting out an average of over 10 apps a day since launch. Most of these cannot be found in the official Google Play Wear Store (link), but are easily accessed through social media (especially a Google+ Android Wear group) or third-party listings (search for Android Wear .apk for a current list) which are helpful, but at this stage too ephemeral to provide permanent links here.
At this writing, there are almost 300 watch faces and mini-apps available, with almost a dozen new ones appearing somewhere on the Web daily. Most require some searching to uncover. The official Google Play marketplace remains anemic, since Wear’s API is still in official flux at Google and apps that make assumptions about what it will contain are unwelcome in the Play store.
Without the addition of unapproved apps, the initial Wear watches are uninspiring to use. They require too many steps to access apps or other features and are more or less a Google Now platform. It may not be enough in a competitive market with a presumed Apple “iTime” looming in the near future. But the robust Android developer community is pressing the limits and the Samsung, LG and Motorola watches are capable of doing much more than Google intended and will bring bliss to gearheads around the world.
Conclusion: Early adopters will enjoy any of the three Android Wear watch options and be able to use any of them interchangeably. They will be able to add widgets and other apps to make these truly useful for the active business person, (unless they labor outdoors where Wear’s colorful displays are generally unreadable)
Those not accustomed to living on the cutting edge of tech may want to wait for devices with longer battery life and more fashionable sizes and options.
Samsung Gear Live-Pros and Cons:
- Bright, colorful high-resolution display
- Works with Google Now and most phone notifications right out of the box
- Controls most audio and music players
- With third-party apps, can display many widgets, perform control functions (lights, etc.) and more
- Microphone is sensitive and accurate
- “OK Google” offers a robust list of voice commands
- Not readable in bright sunlight
- Battery life is less than two full, active days
- Charger is fragile and spare or replacement chargers are not yet available
- Band is uncomfortable and hard to fasten, but replaceable
- Non-voice entry of texts is not recommended, though micro-keyboard apps are available
- No speaker on watch for alarms or phone calls, vibration is the only option for notifications
- Voice-control and entry is required for most functions. This can lead to socially awkward situations where the user appears to be emulating Captain Kirk—sans his starship.
What can you do with additional apps for Android Wear?
- See remote, live images from your phone’s camera and trigger photos or videos from the watch
- Ditto for voice recordings
- Browse the Web or control your PC (neither are recommended)
- See your Outlook calendar
- Trigger items linked to Tasker which will allow remote control of smart locks, smart light bulbs and other devices that speak WiFi
- Control your phone’s hardware: WiFi, volume, battery status, ringer condition, etc.