Android Wear & LG G Watch – 1 week on
I can clearly see the value that such products bring but none have made me go ‘I want that’.
With the introduction of Android Wear my opinion began to change and like many I suddenly now had the urge for this new breed of wearable technology, after seeing the Motorola Moto 360.
The 360 looks like it can pass as an ordinary wristwatch rather than some Sci-Fi bit of kit (all be it is more than a conventional wristwatch).
For anyone who has yet to be introduced to Android Wear the following video from Android Developers explains it best.
Motorola’s Moto 360 is still weeks away and the LG G Watch landed first in the Clove offices, so I had to have a play; bearing in mind the OS would be the same on the Moto 360.
From the outset therefore my desire for the G Watch was actually quite limited, in my head I still saw myself opting for the Motorola and this seems to be the general consensus on the web. Do you feel the same?
1 week on and I am not so convinced I will be swapping to the Motorola.
Whilst Google I/O gave the best glimpse of what we could expect from this wearable tech, it is not until you get it in your hands do you actually go wow.
There is no denying that to get the most out of this you need to sacrifice yourself to Google though.
Understandably you may not want this or you may be on the fence still, but for me, Google gives you so much for so little and if they want to read my emails and provide me with more targeted ads then I am fine with that. I have no secrets to hide, and I would rather see an ad for something I might be interested in that something of complete irrelevance to myself.
So committed as I am I can get the most out of Android Wear that is currently possible.
Having only just been released, Android Wear is and will be developing for some considerable time, so what you get today will not be what will be available in one month’s time. It is on this basis that I will be waiting a few weeks until I provide my full review and opinion on Google’s Android Wear.
Starting with the hardware of the G Watch; it is not particularly inspiring, for me it does not scream “buy me” or “wear me” and make a statement. It looks a little chunky with that black gloss display and bezel.
With not the biggest wrists I felt it might look out of place and oversized, but it does not and in fact is quite comfortable thanks to the silicone wristband. For the more masculine men out there with bigger wrists, it should look perfectly at home.
At 9.5mm thick and 63g I am surprised as to how quickly I have got used to wearing it, perhaps thanks to some of the heavier wristwatches I have previously worn.
I have yet to try, but the interchangeable wrist straps also allows the G Watch to be personalised, which is important when after all a watch is a piece of jewellery.
The ability to change watch faces also helps make it feel more personal. There is a good selection already, but I am sure many more will come in time. None look as fancy as the Motorola ones though (sad face).
The IP rating goes a long way to make the G Watch practical as an everyday wearable. I am not worried about knocking it or immersing it every so often in water.
At night, I tend to remove my watch, where fitness bands I have kept on in the past. I know many of you will wear your watch to bed (if you even wear one).
The G Watch should be able to be worn 24/7, like many normal watches are. OK it needs charging, but my biggest concern was accidentally activating the screen throughout the night and before I know it a random text has gone off to someone or I have started tracking my run… in my bed!
The pairing process with my smartphone was seamless and the Android Wear app is already evolving so there is little need to use the app than for the initial setup and a few future tweaks.
I have certainly noticed that the number of interactions with my phone has reduced as I get the notification on my wrist now, however that constant desire to check what the notification was has not gone away. Have I saved any time? Probably, but not as much as Google may have you think.
That said, I think that is in part to the limitations of the apps that work with the watch.
For example, a Gmail email that is all text comes through just fine. I can read it all on the watch which is great and I can reply from the watch which is brilliant, even if not always perfectly accurate.
Text messages however I cannot reply to from the watch because I use the default messaging app on my Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. This goes too for my corporate email which goes through Sony’s mail app.
If I used hangouts, this would likely be different. I may change, but I had got used to using the default app. I am sure in time Sony will add the compatibility, or perhaps not, as they have not shown any interest in Android Wear as of yet?!
If you are already using the G Watch or Gear Live from Samsung have you had similar problems or more success?
Lots of other notifications have come through very well too. Calendar reminders and notifications from other non standard apps. Again there is scope for improvement, but just the fact that they show up is a real plus point.
Another nice touches in line with this is the background of the notification will often change based on what and who the notification is from. So a Google+ notification from a contact will have their profile image.
It can be a little too easy to clear notifications when you do not intend to. This might just be me as a user getting a bit carried away, but swipe it right too quickly and it has gone, unless you go to the app on the phone to retrieve it.
Sending messages is possible too, just by talking to the watch. This works quite well, however as good as Google Voice is I would not rely on this 100% yet for sending messages.
In the last week I have had a couple of messages sent to the wrong people and incomplete text put in the message.
Whilst there is an option to cancel the send, this is less than 10 seconds and by the time you get to cancel it or realise something is wrong, the message has gone.
General web searches and instructions have on the whole worked, but you need to be clearly spoken, any stutter or change of voice tone can often throw the search off and the results returned are incorrect.
You do too need a good data connection for this to work effectively. This is of course becoming more common, but I found on a few occasions, it would have been easier to get my phone out and search or just scroll through the wear menus to get to what I want.
The ability to set alarms, add notes to Google Keep, set a reminder and a timer all worked well. In fact I can see the integration with Keep becoming one of the biggest things for me. Small reminders about things saved right where I need them.
Call notifications and the ability to accept, reject and even send a rejection text from the wrist is handy.
Issue here is that if you accept the call, you need to then get your phone out or wait until you are with your phone to answer the call. There is no speaker on the watch, so whilst speaking to my wrist and having it play back the call audio is not something I would want in every scenario, it would be useful, especially for very short calls and navigation, but more on that later.
The lack of speaker does give scope for the future I suppose.
Google Fit is a pedometer element of the Android Wear OS and although fairly basic at the moment, is functional and has already made me more active. I know it sounds silly as there are plenty of fitness bands and apps that do this, however if you are flicking through notifications and your steps come up, it is another reminder, and for me that works. The added congratulations on hitting your daily step goal is another good motivator.
I would like to see a web interface for the Fit element and the ability to add other activities in for more detailed tracking. For example putting in a cycle, a swim and maybe what you have eaten for the more fitness conscious. I am sure this will all come in time, but it is not there yet.
For those who are interested I have used the Runtastic app which already has an Android Wear extension and this works well.
Whilst you can ask Google what your steps are, the act of getting to this and other settings are not the most simple within the Android Wear interface and I would prefer settings to be more of a card/screen itself rather than its current location at the bottom of the voice search screen.
Navigation is a superb touch and works brilliantly for someone on foot. It works a lot better than I thought to. Just ask it to navigate to a location such as a local supermarket or petrol station.
I have yet to get it to work to navigate to a contact I have in my phone, which is a shame and would make this even more powerful, but I am sure such will come in time.
The information displayed on the screen of the G Watch is not as complete as the phone itself but it has what you need to get you from A to B.
I had heard that the watch was supposed to vibrate just before you arrived at a junction as a reminder to check which way to go. Mine does not, unless I am missing something, this would be handy. It would also be handy here if the voice navigation could be read out through the watch as an option, rather than the phone. A point to note is that you do not have to have the navigation app open on the phone to navigate on the watch.
Other nice additions include a world clock and compass for those who need such.
Any screen in bright sunlight struggles and the G Watch is no exception, however there are various brightness settings which you can control manually to get it to a point that suits you. I have been using it on setting 2 of 5 and found this to be perfectly good enough most of the time.
As the G Watch is always on, you are at night left with a glow coming from the watch face. Although this dulls slightly with the power down of the screen there is always a small amount of light. I have had to turn it over to hide this light.
You can turn the watch off completely if you like, although turning it on again is a fiddle. A night mode would be good, where the watch is on but the screen is off.
A daily charge will be necessary and the portable magnetic charging dock is easy to use and the watch generally charges from flat to full in about 1 hour which is pretty good. Then again it is only a 400mAh battery.
From full charge to complete discharge I managed 39 hours. Approx 8 were through the night where the watch was still connected to the phone, but not in use. This means that even the hardest of users should get a full day out of it. Anyone would struggle for 2 unless you turned it off completely.
The charging dock is nice itself with magnets that hold the dock and watch together and even a sticky pad on the charger for secure mounting.
If many of the people around you are not fans of technology, they will probably roll their eyes at these wearables. My Mum is a bit of a technophobe, but she tries but was quite simply amazed at what it could do, although she did ask why?
And why will be the response you will get from most people. If you are confident in public and social situations you are onto a winner. However, if you are on the bus and talk to your watch to remind you to buy eggs, milk and bacon, you will probably get that look of ‘really..?’ or ‘freak’. This is the price you pay for being an innovator (they are jealous).
It has been some time since I have been so warmed by a technology. Whilst I always like to get hands on with tech, that raw excitement is not what it was, because lots of smartphones in particular are so very similar and lack the real wow factor. (Maybe I just feel like this because I am l lucky enough to handle so many products).
Android Wear is for me like what owning one of the earliest smartphones must have been like.
You can see the platform developing and there is something to look forward to. Each week there will be something new, whereas with smartphones not a lot changes.
If you are undecided on whether you should buy an Android Wear product, if you can afford to spend the money then I say do it; it’s innovative and a developing market that will give you lots of advantages for the relatively small financial investment.
However if raising the funds is a bit more of a challenge, continue to do so but perhaps hold off for a few months and watch at how the platform develops and take advantage of the feedback gained from a pool of users of the G Watch, Samsung Gear Live and soon the Motorola Moto 360.
I will be sure to bring you more thoughts and opinions over the coming weeks as I learn more about the G Watch and how it can work for me.
If you already use Android Wear, please share with me your thoughts and opinions.
Image Source: Arstechnica – Android Wear Images