At Google I/O in June, Google made Android Wear official, again. It was actually announced earlier this year, but we actually got to see how well it works at Google I/O as well as some hands-on time with both the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live, with them shipping in about 2 weeks after the conference. A few of our staff members have picked up either the LG G Watch or the Samsung Gear Live. Tom and I both have the LG G Watch while almost everyone else opted for the Samsung Gear Live. They are great watches, and I’ve said before that they are probably the best stab at a smartwatch, but they are definitely not ready for primetime just yet. Which is expected, as it is very much beta. We are seeing the first hardware for Android Wear now, along with the first software versions. So there’s lots to critique.
Obviously, Android Wear is going to get much better when the Android L release is official in the fall. Seeing as Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV all tie into Android beginning with the L release. But as for right now, there’s not a whole lot that Android Wear can do. Sure it can track your steps, but what about competing with your friends? Or other features like that. Before using the LG G Watch, I was using a Fitbit and really loved the experience I got with that. As I could compete against my friends, see how many minutes I was “very active” see how many calories I burned, etc. But with Google Fit – at least now – there’s not much too it. Tracking steps and that’s it. There’s not even a companion app yet. I’m hoping Google will really build out Google Fit over the next few months. You can also get notifications on your watch, which is pretty neat. But there’s very few apps that actually support dealing with those notifications on your watch. For instance, Gmail you can reply or archive, Hangouts you can reply, but with Google+, all you can do is open on your phone. Almost pointless to me.
There are apps coming, and some of them are cool, but many of them are like “Why?”. Like with the Web browser for Android Wear? Why would I want to browse the web on my watch? Now having a launcher is another thing, but a web browser, nah. Some of the cool apps like Lyft where you can call a car from your watch. There’s also Runtastic, which helps with your running or walking and it works great. There’s others like Hue control, which lets you control your lights if you are using Philips Hue lights in your house. But for the most part, there’s not a whole lot of app selection so far. So you’re basically stuck with Google Fit and notifications. Which is all smartwatches need to do, but it needs to be a bit less clunky and apps need to update to work with Android Wear better. Specifically Whatsapp, at least for me. I use Whatsapp a lot. Most of my friends use that instead of hangouts – I have no idea why – but I can’t reply to them on my watch, I have to instead open my phone and reply. Kinda defeats the purpose of a smartwatch.