First, let’s talk about Android Wear, because both watches run on the same platform, and both of them have more or less the same software. Android Wear really does two main things, it moves app notifications to the watch’s face, and it puts Google Now’s voice-powered search capabilities on your wrist. That’s about it. But that’s pretty powerful.
The Google Now stuff is especially great. Here’s an example. I had an appointment at 3pm on a Wednesday. When the time to leave came, I was absorbed in what I was doing, reading through a magazine proof. My phone was on my desk. My computer screen was dark. But an alert popped up on my wrist, telling me it was time to leave. It’s a small thing, but it was effective and you can see that type of action rippling across your life. And in all those other ways Google Now is serendipitous on your phone—alerting you about things happening in the real world around you based on your location and digital history—so too is it on your wrist.
Having Google’s intelligent assistant on your wrist is great. It is precisely the kind of thing that makes sense on a watch.
You can use Android Wear to do all of the “OK Google” stuff. You can dictate a note and that will show up in Google Keep. You can Google search. You can set a reminder to do something, using real language. For example, you can tell it, “Remind me to grab my dry cleaning when I get home today,” and it will parse that successfully, flashing an alert as you approach your doorstep. You can also do things like check your calendar, see how many steps you’ve taken today, set timers, send emails, and even get map directions.
Having Google’s intelligent assistant on your wrist is great. It is precisely the kind of thing that makes sense on a watch, and Android Wear is wonderful for taking action on the random and disparate things that pop into your head.
The apps developed by Google are truly interactive because they’ve already enabled voice actions. For example, both SMS and email will let you send a reply right from your wrist. (And this is true of both Gmail and the Android email client.) Admittedly, these work best in short bursts. “Yes.” “No.” “Thanks.” “I got it.” It can also handle even longer messages, typically quite well. But as of yet, no other developer has had the ability to enable this kind of thing in their applications.
But as developers release Android apps optimized to work with Android Wear, those voice actions are going to become common across third party apps too. That’s when things will get truly interesting. But for now, most notifications are kind of dumb. Worse, they’re kind of a mess.
Take Twitter. Right now, you’ll get a little buzz on your wrist every time you’d normally get a Twitter notification (notifications on your watch mirror the way you have them set up on your phone—so this could be an @ reply, a favorite, a direct message). If you get several that come in at once, or before you have a chance to check in, they all appear on the same card and are effectively unreadable. They’re useless.
And even if you are just acting on one notification, there are still problems that abound. Let’s say you get a notification about an @ reply. Swipe right, and you have the option to reply to it, favorite it, retweet it or open it on your phone. Choose favorite or retweet and you’re done. You’ll get a big green check mark floating up on the screen and you’re on your way. But let’s say you want to reply. Again, you get that big check mark but, um… no actual option to reply. Turns out, when you open your phone, you’ll now see an option to reply. This is confusing.
Really, the “Open in phone” option is universally confusing. When you select it, you might expect your phone to light up and, you know, open the notification or app or whatever in the phone. Instead it just waits, a cool slab of black glass, empty until you physically unlock it. And only then does it marginally do what you expected.
We expect lots of this to change in the coming days as developers roll out Android Wear compatible apps, and as Android Wear itself gets its official release. It’s why we’re not posting a full review of either device yet. Stay tuned.
OK, But I Still Want a Watch Now. How Are They Different?
There are several little things that separate these two watches, but there are a few major distinctions: price, heart-rate monitoring ability, build quality, and the docking cradle.
Let’s start with price. The LG costs $230. That’s $30 more than the Samsung’s $200 watch. Let’s say you go with LG’s, and you upgrade relatively quickly, replacing this watch in a year. That works out to less than a dime a day. You won’t miss it. Price shouldn’t be a real factor in your decision here.
Then there’s the heart-rate tracking. The Samsung Gear Live can detect your heart rate on command, the LG cannot. But honestly, this is not a very useful feature. It isn’t continuously tracking your heart rate, and although it will keep a record of its previous recordings, it doesn’t do this automatically at the same time every day—you have to track it manually—so it isn’t much use for doing things like tracking your resting heart rate at the same time every day. And let’s say you’re using it during exercise. I had difficulty ever getting it to track my pulse without completely stopping what I was doing and holding still—which typically negated the very reason I wanted to check my pulse. Bottom line: I’m not putting this as a pro in the Samsung camp. It’s interesting, but that’s about it.
The last major difference is the docking cradle. You’ll need to charge these watches up every day, just like your phone. And that means cradling it—neither watch can power up directly from a USB cable. Samsung threw about a dime’s worth of plastic and maybe ten minutes of thought into its cradle. It’s flimsy plastic, and difficult to snap onto the watch. It’s a piece of junk. LG, on the other hand, included one of the nicer cradles we’ve seen. It covers the complete backside of the watch and feels rather hefty and substantial. Better yet, it connects magnetically to the back of the watch, and the two click together in a satisfying union that will assure you that yes, indeed, my wrist computer is charging. You will dance.
OK, So Which One Should I Buy? Good question! Again, we’re going to have a full review of both of them coming soon. But the hardware isn’t going to change, and honestly that’s probably what you’re going to make your purchasing decision on since the software is so similar as to be identical. And the answer is, “it depends.”
We really prefer the aesthetics of the Samsung Gear Live. It’s got a better-looking body, it’s more comfortable, and has a better display to boot. If you mostly care about look and feel, this is the one for you.
Then there’s the cradle. You’re going to hate the Samsung cradle, and you’re going to deal with it every day. It’s hard to overemphasize how bad Samsung’s charging cradle is compared to LG’s very nice one. If you are the kind of person who loses things, or breaks them (like me), you can bet you’re going to leave this cradle on some lonely Marriott dresser somewhere.
Yet both are pretty amazing. These are the first truly useful smartwatches to hit the market. They aren’t for everyone, they can be annoying, and both have lots of rough edges to the interface. But if you find them intriguing, and have $200 to spend, go for it. And really, we can’t wait for more.
source: wired.com By Mat Honan