Smart watches have already come a long way and now a new OS, Android Wear, has arrived on the scene to shake things up. At the moment you’ve got a limited choice with only the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch currently on sale.
I’ve had the pleasure of being able to give the Samsung Gear Live a test and as a first generation device it’s actually pretty impressive.
Let’s kick off with the nitty gritty, it has a 1.63″ Super AMOLED screen with vibrant colours and a high pixel density (320 x 320). The processor is a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400, like the LG G Watch. It has 512MB of RAM with 4GB of internal memory. It’s pretty much a smartphone on your wrist.
From a pragmatic point of view its IP67 rated, giving you high levels of dust and water resistance (no one wants a watch that you have to protect in the rain). The big addition of the Gear Live over the competition is the inclusion of a heart rate monitor. I tried it out and whilst I didn’t have a way of testing its absolute accuracy it certainly seemed to give approximately accurate numbers and it climbed to a realistic after exercise. The watch does warn that it’s not to be relied upon for medical purposes.
But what is it actually like to live with? Pairing with your phone is simple. Download the Android Wear app for your mobile, switch on Bluetooth, and the pairing process happens automatically (no need to type in codes, just check the codes match and click ‘ok’).
From that moment on your watch is now the convenient way to know what’s happening on your phone. Any notification that pops up on your phone – whether it be a new email, text message, or Google now card – will appear on your watch, accompanied with a gentle vibrate. These notifications can be scrolled through and dismissing on the watch, thereby dismissing them on your phone too.
The display itself can be put into a mode where it switches off until you bring it up to your face to look at it (via gyroscopic means rather than a proximity sensor) or left on all the time which I think makes it much more desirable and useful as a watch. And, unlike a traditional watch, you can download new watch faces from the Google Play store.
This is the big difference between an Android phone and the Gear Live, there isn’t a home screen as such. You can install apps but you have to navigate through a couple of menus to get at them. The primary interface is Google’s voice input, which by and large ok.
For example, you can say “OK Google” into your watch and then something like “send Jon a text”, followed by whatever you’d like to send in the text. It certainly works up to a point but since the message automatically sends after you finish speaking you’d better hope it didn’t get any of the words wrong. I wouldn’t text my boss using it, that’s for sure.
Overall I’ve enjoyed the watch. It’s not crazily expensive for a luxury watch. The notifications are something that you start to get used to and you miss them when they are gone, consigning you to checking your phone every time it vibrates in your pocket.
The only thing that would stop me from rushing out and buying one is the battery life. In all my testing I never managed to get more than a day and a half out of it. That’s not really enough for a watch. Samsung’s Tizen-based watches (the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo) promise a significantly higher battery life, still not stunning by any means but enough to make them more practical devices. However, if Santa Claus happened to drop a second generation version of this down my chimney for Christmas then I’d welcome it with open arms.