When Google announced Android Wear, the world got excited because we did get our first smartwatch which has a strong foundation. However, after using it for sometime, things started to get really doubtful. Is Android Wear ready for mass adoption? Is it worth investing so much of money in a smartwatch which is primarily for notifications? Should you be waiting? In this post, we try to answer some of these questions.
What is Android Wear Right Now?
Before we actually start reviewing about Android Wear, let’s get to the basics on what Android Wear is in layman’s term. It’s basically an extension to an existing solution. So a smartwatch is an extension to your phone. An Android Wear powered remote control could be an extension to your Smart TV helping you do things you cannot do with your regular remote or an Android Wear Key which can keep your Android Wear powered Car ready and connected while you are at office. So when I said it’s an extension, I also meant that it’s not here to replace your phone or anything of which it is an extension of. At least not now.
That said, let’s get ahead with Android Wear Review where I will be using an Android Wear powered Smartwatch, the LG G Watch, and Android Phone, Gionee S 5.5.
What can it do?
Once the setup is done (which by the way is simple and straight forward), all notifications show up in form of cards which either show preview or full view and even option to reply back using voice. Here is the list of things it can do as of today:
- Display Time and Let you change watch face if you get bored.
- See All Notifications ( Literally any notification that show up on the phone)
- Basic Interactions like reply, like, re-tweets etc with apps which has it implemented.
- Control Music.
- Take notes, new calendar entry, sms, accept and reject phone calls, count your step. Most of these are voice based.
Interacting with Notifications:
That said, how do you actually interact with notifications? While it can change depending on which app sent you out the notification, the basic interaction remains the same. A notification when pops up on the watch, you get a vibration. Next, you can either tap on it to expand, and swipe left to interact with it, or just drag to it right and it closes itself.
To see the next notification, just swipe up. It will show card like notfications, just like “Google Now”. The notifications which you don’t interact with, stay back until you do when it’s more like marked read as they “dont show” up on the watch until something initiates it again.
As of now, Google hasn’t allowed anybody to customize Wear like Android for Phones so expect the same user experience on avery Android Wear powered smartwatch. Its biggest limitation is its ‘voice only interaction’ and need of keypad is much needed for two reasons. One, that it feels awkward to talk to the watch for everything and two, you need quiet environment to get your speech recognized, correctly, every time.
Those who can, Use Voice
If you don’t mind using voice with the watch, it will impress you. You can use voice commands to create appointments, set an alarm clock and even open the watch settings. It works just fine, but there is one big problem. The speech to text translation needs constant internet connection and to my experience, it goes on and off many a time. I had tried this with MOTO E, Gionee S 5.5 and even Asus Zenfone 5.
To initiate a voice command, you need to say in this format – “Ok Google, Send a text to XYZ”.
Having a digital screen has its own advantage. You can keep changing watch faces to keep a fresh look every day. There are lot many faces available and can be changed with a simple long press on the watch.
LG G Watch Experience:
Design and Display:
LG G Watch has a box design which doesn’t look attractive and it’s pretty sure that you would never want to exchange your regular watch with it. The watch comes with Silicone strap which makes it possible to survive in rain and is also replaceable with any standard watch strap.
The 1.65 inch IPS LCD Display is good enough for notifications, take small actions with them, do stuff like setting up a meeting or send out a text message, but that’s about it. The sunlight readability is poor except when it’s in idle mode where it displays notifications and the clock.
Interacting with notifications was pretty easy here if you ask me about swiping experience. I have hardly missed on any of the notifications because of accidental swipe or a swipe which never worked. Also the screen display is bright and rich, to improve the overall experience.
Surprisingly, the watch misses Ambient Sensor and hence cannot change brightness automatically which hits on both the battery life and user experience.
Setting up Android Wear on G Watch:
I am pretty sure that setting up Android Wear would be same on all the smartwatches so we did a separate post on it. In a nutshell the experience is pretty smooth once the pairing between the watch and phone is complete.
The first setup takes a bit more time compared to any consecutive ones as it needs to update the firmware and apps to be installed over the watch. Do check out the post for all the details.
G Watch is powered by Snapdragon 400 processor which is an overkill for a small device like this and it results in pretty poor battery life. The watch lasts for almost 12 to 15 hours max and needs to be charged up every day.
It’s quite possible for anybody to improve this by 50% if one can change the way it is used. Using Android Wear App, you can control notifications, apps and other stuff which will make the watch last much longer. More on this here
Conclusion: Do we really need it ?
No, and it’s mostly because of the price and value for money factor. Spending Rs.15000 or USD 229 on a watch which doesn’t even look good is completely pointless. Not to mention it’s not that useful yet.
I have lived with it and lived without it and then got back to using it again. The only thing which I really like is that I know what notification showed up without taking out my phone and even reject calls if I have to. At least I know who is calling before hand.
Android Wear is not ready for mass adoption for watches as of now except for Geeks and people who are willing to beta-test the tech at a price. I would suggest everybody interested in this category to wait for the platform to mature a little and then invest smartly.