Smartwatches like the Pebble and Samsungs Gear series have been out for a bit now. Pebble has been running it's own proprietary OS, which Galaxy Gear has been working with a more stripped down version of Android. And now Google has gotten into the mix by bringing their own OS into the game with Android Wear. The new OS aims to streamline all your daily notifications onto your wrist in a Google Now like fashion. You can control your music, ask for directions, get email snippets, check the weather, and many more things that I'm still trying to figure out. It has an always-on display that dims itself when idle. Holding the watch up instantly turns on the display, which is a nice touch, as you can just bring the watch up to your face, say "Ok Google" and then get to business.
As a guy pondering whether I needed a smart device on my wrist, I decided to finally take the plunge with the latest set of Android Wear devices and I picked up the LG G Watch. Not because I thought they would be revolutionary devices, but because I think this is the beginning of something that can be revolutionary. On average, it takes me about 3 try's in order to get the time from my phone. Once to open it and see a notification and then put it in my pocket again. 2 to remember that I needed to check the time, and then glaze over the time and forget again, and 3 to finally make note of it. Also many times my phone isn't anywhere near my vicinity when I'm at home. It could be charging a room away from me, where there was an available plug, or on some random countertop. In the meantime, emails are missed, texts are ignored and tweets go unread. At 229$ it's not the cheapest option for a wearable smart device, as you can pick up Samsung's Gear Live for 199$ with a better screen and heart rate monitor. I currently own the LG G2, and as such decided to stick to the LG name. Also I like the plain black design, as it kind of suits my style a bit more.
What's In The Box
- User Manual
- Charging Cradle
- Travel adapter
- Data USB cable
- The LG G Watch
Nothing too crazy, just the essentials.
Powered by Android Wear
Useful information when you need it most
Android Wear organizes your information, suggests what you’re going to need, and shows it to you before you even ask, such as weather forecasts in the morning and flight time and gate information before leaving for the airport.
Straight answers to spoken questions
Just say “Ok Google” to ask questions, like how many calories are in an avocado, what time your flight leaves, and the score of the football game. Say “Ok Google” to get stuff done like sending a text, setting a reminder or taking a note.
Compatible with Android 4.3+
The G Watch can be used with any Smartphone running Android 4.3 and above. Visit g.co/WearCheck from your phone to see if it's compatible.
The G Watch never sleeps. Its Always-on display allows you to check the time and see new information at a glance without touching it.
The G Watch's powerful yet compact battery will keep your watch going all day on a single charge.
Certified water and dust resistant
Don't worry about wet or rough conditions. The G Watch is IP67 water and dust resistant.
I read tons of complaints online about the design of the LG G Watch and the Gear Live. Mainly people were comparing it to the Moto 360, which is coming out later this summer and has a circular watch face. The Moto 360 still runs Android Wear just like the other devices, but it's the first to have a round display. It's a nice looking watch, but for me a bit much. It definitely stands out as a gentlemen's watch where I was looking for something more sleek and stealthy, which is why I went with the G Watch. Solid black design with a diamond pattern wristband, which is also interchangeable with any 22mm band. The watch uses Gorilla Glass 3 and is also IP67 water and dust resistant.
The LG G Watch has a buttonless form factor, unlike the other smartwatches that just came out. Which gives it a sleeker look, but also makes it so that you have to touch the watch in order to turn un-dim the display. Turning the watch off requires going into the settings menu and scrolling down to "turn off". Turning the watch back on again, would require it being placed onto the charging cradle. This is kind of a hassle, but to be honest, I'm not sure why you would want the display to be off at all, when it can stay on for days in it's dim mode. However, in the settings menu you can opt to turn off the "always-on" feature, which could extend your battery life. I'll be doing some tests and posting results soon.
The LG G Watch display is on the lower end compared to Samsung's and Motorola's versions, but you're not going to be watching movies on it anytime soon anyhow. You'll be glancing at it for maybe a minute and with that in mind it's a great display. It has a 1.65” IPS LCD screen, while the Gear Live comes with a 1.63” 320 x 320 SuperAMOLED (278 ppi) screen. At this small scale though, it's not really that relevant I think. It's bright enough display to view in indoor lighting with no issues. The always-on dim display is also still bright enough to see just fine indoors. Outdoors, it's a tad bit though to view under direct light, but that's true of almost anything with a screen.
Android Wear is essentially Google Now for your wrist. You'll get your standard notifications, like new email, new text message, phone call, etc, but based on how close you are to your Google Now, it will also show you cards that you might find interesting such as sports scores or recent reminders that you have set for yourself. It's a clean interface, just as you would expect from Google. You swipe down to scroll through cards, swipe left to see more information for said card or swipe right to dismiss it. I've accidentally found myself swiping away cards as I attempted to come back to the home area. It would be great to see the ability to bring back these cards somewhere down the line.
There is also an accompanying app for your phone that syncs up with your Gear watch. So far there isn't too much you can do from it, aside from connecting and disconnecting the devices from each other and getting a list of commonly used commands.
Google Keep running on LG G Watch
Currently the Android Market isn't swarming with Android Wear compatible applications. I count 35 on the market in it's specialized section. However, that's totally going to change soon with more and more people adopting this phone extension lifestyle. There's alot of potential in wearable applications. I already had a few ideas that I thought would be really cool to have, which I might start work on soon. Currently however it does offer Lyft integration, so you can call for a ride without touching your phone. American Airlines and Fly Delta have also added support for Android Wear allowing you to view your eBoarding pass right on your watch. Google Maps and Navigation is integrated very nicely onto the devices as well. At this point it's up to the developers to find clever ways to interact with their applications while basing it off of voice commands and swipes only.
In it's current state, Android Wear has some work ahead of it. Having said that, it's definitely on the right track as far as wearables are concerned. The watch does it's job. It notifies me of my social media happenings, then I decide whether it's important enough to take my phone out, enter my pin, load the app, etc. Or it tells me it's something I can ignore, and I can swipe it away in less then a second. Already it has saved me time as I now see my notification and can act on it immediately. Normally I check my phone every 30 minutes for notifications that decided not to alert me out loud. In that time, I'll waste 5 more minutes doing something unrelated to the alert. The more I get used to the watch, the less and less I find myself opening random apps on my phone. Navigation support so far has been my favorite feature. Since I don't have a dock for my phone in my car, whenever I need the GPS I position my phone awkwardly somewhere within ear shot. Now I just stare down at my wrist to see my next move. And it tells the time too! Almost left that out.
After spending a few hours with the watch, I have many a positive thing to say.
- It's surprisingly convenient having your phones notifications on your wrist. I now hear my phone chime from across the room, and just look at my wrist to see what the fuss is about.
- Voice search is pretty accurate, with a few edge cases here and there.
- Fits great.
- I personally love the way it looks. All black and medium form factor.
- Turn by turn navigation on my wrist is soo awesome T_T
- Charging cradle magnetically grasps the watch, so no worries about it slipping off. Just don't drop the cradle.
And here's a slightly smaller list of what went wrong, but will most likely be fixed in the future.
- Battery life is still a bit on the low end. You will get a full day's worth of use though but you'll have to remember to charge it every morning.
- Paid apps are having trouble running on these new Android Wear devices, however a workaround has been found that the app developers need to implement, so everyone must hang on tight for a bit.
- Many notifications only show small snippets of information and have no actions that can be taken on them.
- No heart rate monitor on the LG G Watch. Not a deal breaker, but it would of been nice to have.
- Once the watch is out of range from your phone, you have load the Android Wear app in order to reconnect it again. Not sure if it's just on my phone or others too however.
Overall, I think it's a great watch. It looks good and it's very responsive. And it's actually kind of fun to have. I can send a text in 5 seconds, or even order fast food using the Eat24 app. It's still very early to tell just what these devices can do however. You might get it and realize that you don't really get that many notifications ever and it kind of just tells the time. Or you might pick it up and realize it's saving you a huge amount of time in your day by taking out the clutter that comes with turning your phone on. I expect in the next few months there will be more widespread adoption among bigger applications out there and these watches will start to take a more serious role in the way we deal with our daily social lives.
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Walter G. is a software engineer, startup co-founder, former CTO of several tech companies and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He has been blogging for the past 5 years and is an avid BMX rider, bio-hacker
and performance enthusiast.