The Android Wear smart watches – the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live are officially up for sale. But is it time to invest in one? We make the case for and against them.
Yes, go ahead and buy one!
1. They run the official Android Wear OS
Yes, we have had smartwatches which ran Android before but they ran versions of the OS that were heavily customized by manufacturers and as a result, each Android smartwatch bore little resemblance to another. This however will change with Android Wear which comes with a standard feature set and ensures a minimum level of performance. It also means that one will get more apps (developers have a standard APK to work with) and also regular updates.
2. They work with any Android device running 4.3 and above
One of the biggest headaches with most smartwatches in the past was that they worked only with specific handsets – for instance, you needed a Samsung Galaxy phone or tablet to use a Galaxy Gear smart watch and the initial range of Sony Smartwatches were again compatible with a limited number of handsets. Well, that is not the case with the current Android Wear watches – they will run with any Android device running Android 4.3 and above.
3. Google Now magic
While other smartwatches mainly revolved around notifications from your mail and your phone, Android Wear devices come with Google Now support. In simple terms, they will actually try to give you information based on your context – so you will be alerted about traffic on your usual office route or be informed about when the next World Cup football match will be getting underway. All of this in the form of cards, just as on your smartphone. It is much more than your usual notification system, which is there on other devices – this is trying to anticipate what you need based on your location, your search history and your Gmail.
4. The voice command system
Always dreamt of speaking to your watch like in those high-tech secret agent films? Well, you can now do so. Tap your watch and say OK Google, and you can search for an item, dictate a note, set an appointment or even say something as vague as “Remind me to have a coffee in half an hour.” It will be done. We have not actually tried out the watches yet, but evidently the voice recognition system is very snazzy.
5. The notifications and the apps
Of course, you will be getting alerts about new mails, messages, tweets and other events on your social network calendar right on your wrist. You can also respond to them right from your wrist. And then there is the little matter of apps – not too many have appeared as of now and at the time of writing, there were problems with downloading and installing paid apps, but their number is likely to go up, making your Google Wear device one of the most versatile wearables out there.
Hang on! Wait a while…
1. The price
At USD 199 and USD 229, both smartwatches are on the expensive side, and in countries like India, cost more than a Moto G or a Lumia 630, and much more than most wristwatches that they will be looking to replace. This definitely makes them expensive propositions, unless you happen to be a rich geek. Wait a while and prices will come down as more models make their way into the market.
2. The battery life
Battery lives of a day to a day and a half means that you are likely to be charging these devices on an almost daily basis, depending on how hectic your social networking and mail and messaging life can be. Given that we never have to charge a regular watch, this is frankly ridiculous.
3. Extensions of your phones
The utility of these watches stems from your phone. They are not independent entities but actually are notification servers from your phone. Are you willing to spend a significant amount of money for the luxury of not having to pull out your phone all the time?
4. The design
They might pack a lot of hardware muscle and Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, but both the G Watch and the Gear Live are big and chunky, and not exactly premium looking. They might appeal to some but by most watch design standards, they are not very good-looking for the price they command. They are definitely going to look very odd on most of the wrists of almost half the human population.
5. The Moto 360 and the iWatch(?)
The Gear Live and the G watch might be decent performers by most standards but looming on the horizon are the very good-looking Moto 360 (which will run Android Wear) and Apple’s own watch – the iWatch or whatever the Cupertino company chooses to call it. The Moto 360 will in all probability like the Android Wear watches on sale right now, but has a more premium appearance. And well, if the iWatch does come out, it might be a totally different kettle of fish, if Apple’s reputation of disruption is anything to go by. Would it not be better to wait?