Android Wear: A 10 Months Retrospective
by José Antonio Rey
It was the early morning of a November day. My dad got here from the US, and he was carrying a small squared box for me. It was my brand new LG G Watch. A solid 10 months have passed since I turned it on for the first time, and I have seen Android Wear evolve so much, I feel it is now the time to do a slight review on how the device has made a difference in my lifestyle.
I guess the first thing to start with is the hardware, so…
Going to the basics, you can see a square watch. It has a little hole in the side that faces you, which is the microphone. It has a touch screen that lets you interact with the watch. It has a rubber adjustable band, just as you would expect from the watch. At the back, you will be able to find 4 charging pins, that will get in contact with the dock’s pins and make the watch charge. It has Bluetooth, but does not have Wi-Fi. It also has a bunch of sensors, but it lacks from a light sensor, so there’s no automatic brightness settings. Pretty simple so far, huh? But it’s changed, and you can see some wear (pun intended) on the watch.
If you take a really close look into the screen, you will be able to see that there’s a small scratch on the screen. Also, there’s a little dent on one of the borders. However, all of this was caused because I excessively use my watch, and I tend to move my arm a lot, no matter whether I am in an open or closed space. So, yes, I’ve bumped my watch several times, and the screen is almost intact, the borders look really nice and, watch-wise, all parts are working almost-perfectly. I’ve been having some problems with my dock lately, where it just disconnects and reconnects randomly, but changing cables seems to solve the problem (or at least does not wake me up anymore!).
The band is a different story. The little strap that makes sure you don’t have a piece of rubber hanging on your wrist (I don’t know the name, sorry!) seems like it’s not as thick as it was when it got here. Also, the band has been losing it’s matte appearance and become a bit more glossy on the outside on the parts where the metal saves it from moving. This is not much of a problem for me, since I have been looking into replacing the band with a custom band in the near future. I haven’t found any options that I like so far, though.
This brings us to another point. You can change the watch’s band so easily that you can even do it on your own. As a real-life example, I took out my watch’s band inside a moving airplane, just because I was bored and it was fun. I don’t recommend it, though – if there’s turbulence you may lose the little pieces! There are several 18mm watch bands around the interwebz, that you can just buy one you like and put it on your watch. Make sure it fits with both your style and your watch! With that, I believe I have covered most (if not all) the physical aspects of the watch, so let’s move on to the software.
This aspect from the watch is the one I love the most. When I bought it, it was just a ‘get your notifications without taking your phone off your pocket’ device. However, it has evolved into something else much more than that.
Again, the initial main purpose of getting the G Watch was, for me, getting my notifications while I was in class, without bothering teachers. And if it was something important I could switch to it. The first big change I saw was the addition of Wrist Gestures. It meant I could now eat an ice cream cone and check/reply to my notifications, but AT THE SAME TIME! How amazing could that be?
Applications were there since the beginning. As an example, there was a calculator application, as well as tic-tac-toe and some other games and utilities. When Wear 5.0 was released applications had a complete makeover, and several started appearing. There’s now fully-working Hangouts on mobile, and the most exciting for me was Ingress. Replying from within any of these apps or the cards shown up on the main screen now lets you draw an emoji, and even though your drawing skills may not be that good, it recognizes what you’re trying to draw. I also found out about Together, a Wear app that lets you send messages to another friend’s watch face directly! I haven’t had the change to try this one out since I’m the only one of my local friends with a Wear device, so we’ll have to see how it works. If you want to test it out with me, let me know in the comments and I’ll update the review with this app!
Theater mode is also one of my favorite features on the watch. There are times, like when you go to the cinema, when you don’t want any light coming out from your watch, even if the watch face is set to always on. Or you don’t want any vibrations to interrupt that movie. So you set up theater mode, and, with a touch, you get both. And until you disable it, it won’t have the watch (or your phone!) with the screen always on, and notifications will not go through.
Screen lock arrived in 5.0, and it lets you auto-lock your watch as soon as it detects it’s no longer on your wrist or when it disconnects from your phone. You can set up a pattern lock that’s at least four dots ‘long’, and it will automatically apply. However, I had to disable this because I had a problem: I have been travelling a bit more than usual in the last couple months, which meant I had to put my watch in Airplane Mode. This meant my watch would be disconnected from my phone, and every time I wanted to take a look at the time, I would not be able to since the screen would be locked. When I arrived to my destination I set it back to on. This is one small thing I’d like to customize, but it’s definitely a security risk if you think about it. We’ll see how it develops, or if it stays this way.
The G Watch is lacking something, though. It does not have Wi-Fi available, which means you are not able to leave your phone behind and just use your watch. To be honest, I don’t know where this would be useful for me, but it’s something that’s not on the G Watch.
Finally, watch faces! This is the most amazing part of the watch, because you can download as many watch faces as you want (or as your watches storage lets you) and change them as frequently as you wish. For me, that meant that I had a watch face for formal wear / university, and one for the rest. And since there are several in the Google Play Store, you can either download one that has already been created and that you like, or create a new one from scratch. The two I commonly use are both downloaded from the Play Store, but I love them. The first one is called SkyMaster, and it is inspired behind the pilot’s concept of a watch: whenever you took a look at it you should be able to get the basic information, all at a glimpse. I have it set to show the time, the date, a second time (UTC), both my watch and phone’s battery, and the outside temperature. This it the one I use the most, because it has all the information ready for me when I look at my wrist. I don’t even have to take my phone out to get an estimate of the battery and to decide whether I need to plug it to my power bank or not. Of course, since watch faces are in the Play Store, that means that there are both free and paid watch faces. I have been able to get a couple great free ones, as well as some cool paid ones. I even catched a deal once.
The LG G Watch is definitely a great device. And not only because of the device itself, but because Android Wear powers it in a way that the device enables you to do whatever you may think in your wrist. Of course, it is not designed to replace your phone at all, but as an extender.
To me, it did turn out to be as useful as I could’ve thought, and I don’t have any regrets on buying it. Definitely a must if you are a busy person, moving around, or just someone who wants to extend their phone. If you see a deal for a G Watch and don’t care much about the Wi-Fi functionality, I would say take it.
The reason why I got the device was because it had a square look itself. Just as people want a Moto360 because it’s round, I wanted a G Watch because it was square. And it is a device that has, certainly, not let me down. I do believe that this is just the start for Android Wear and that a lot of new things are going to pop up in 2016. But until then, I’m happy with it, and I would say that you would be too.