What Android Wear reviews say: Features are great, but it needs a lot of work


At I/O, Google introduced new smartwatches - the Samsung Gear Live and the LG G Watch — powered by Android Wear. These devices are  among the first  to adopt the new Google software specifically crafted for wearables. We had got a glimpse of Wear earlier this year and looked like this new iteration of the OS aims at bringing the refinement of the Google’s card-based design language and the power of Google Now to your wrist and what looked  like a fantastic product. 

 

Now, both watches are already available in the US, and the G watch will start shipping in India on July 8, followed by Samsung Gear Live, very soon we experience the new Android OS. Till then, here's what the critics are saying.

 

With Android Wear, Google is focussing on notifications, something we've seen on devices such as the Pebble too. But there's all the Google Now functionality packed in as well. Google blends the card-style UI with voice ability to help users interact easily with the watch. This way, you can tell the watch what it needs to do, and vice versa. Firstly, it does what you'd expect from every watch - tell you the time. Android Wear brings a classic feel as the screen constantly displays the time and lets you choose from several clockface options.

 

The display also shows tiny cards for phone notifications, weather forecast and counts the number of steps you've taken. "The interface is easy; swiping left allows you to see more, a long swipe to the right dismisses the car," states WSJ.

 

However, it is simple only when you are looking for basic features. TheVerge points out, "Getting around the watch is simultaneously dead simple and a little complicated. It's dead simple as long as you treat the watch as a dumb terminal to your phone and don't worry about finding those advanced features."

 

This means accessing notifications and cards is quite similar to what you've been doing so far. However, the rest of the features are buried deep within. "You simply swipe up to scroll through your notifications, swipe right to dismiss them, and swipe left to access more options for each one. It gets complicated when you want to dig into some of the options; they're so buried under hard-to-find "Start" and "Settings" menus that I can only assume Google wants to you mostly ignore them. Fortunately, you can do exactly that most of the time," further says the report.

 

Android Wear has done a great deal of a job when it comes to  voice command. It doesn't disappoint users when you have to tell the watch what to do. "Even in louder environments where I expected it to fail, the voice recognition was fairly accurate. And yes, when I raise my arm to my mouth, even to set a reminder to pick up toothpaste, I feel like a Secret Service agent," reports WSJ.

 

However, TheVerge points out, "There is some logic baked in to that voice action, but not enough. It's smart enough not to launch a search on both your Android phone and the watch (it defaults to the watch when available), but not smart enough to know who is saying "Okay Google." It took about 15 seconds for the people around me to figure this out and start messing with me by yelling "Okay Google" when they saw me with my watch. Add in the fact that this thing can send emails and texts with just your voice, and you might have problems if your friends want to mess with you."

 

Android Wear is largely based on the card-style Google Now, something we also expect in Android L and eventually extended to OS for cars, connected homes, TV and so on. So, this is just the first step towards Google whole plan of taking card-style Google Now to the core.

 

Apart from displaying timely information and adhering to your commands, the new OS brings complete phone notifications to your wrist and serves as a handy companion. A Gizmag report states,"Like most smartwatches, Android Wear is largely about notifications. But while other watches simply forward a few lines of text from your smartphone's notification center, Wear handles alerts more maturely. With Wear, you don't just read a few words from an incoming message. You can also read the full message (other watches usually cut off longer emails), see your friend's contact picture in the background, view your conversation history and reply by voice. It handles SMS, email and Hangouts (though you can't start a new Hangout, only reply to an existing thread). It even lets you archive Gmail messages when you're done with them."

 

With Google Now in tow, the smartwatch is also capable of telling you what you need to do. It mines Gmail, calendar, web searches as well as other Google interaction, which makes it possible to alert users about meetings, appointments, traffic and so on. "You should leave now for Dave and Laura's rehearsal dinner -  my wrist buzzed at 7:05 p.m. as I was blow-drying my hair. With one swipe to the left, Google told me there'd be traffic on the way to the restaurant. Some updates are less vital, but still helpful. Having recently searched for "The Price is Right," my wrist buzzed to tell me the game show was going to be on in a few hours, said WSJ's  Joanna Stern.

 

"There are more signs of Android Wear's infancy. While third-party fitness apps like Nike will start to work with the software, the watch's current tracking capabilities don't go much beyond step counting. The Samsung model does have a heart-rate monitor, but for fitness you're still better off with a dedicated band", she adds.

 

Android Wear still comes across a little clumsy, something we usually expect from a new products. It doesn't seem polished and one cannot expect much on the fitness side either. It is more of a companion for those who don't want to pull out their device, at least till Google Fit support comes by. Till then it's a slightly more advanced second-screen for your notifications.

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