So the other day eri (I am too lazy too write out names at this point for everyone and use the nicknames I've given some of you) asked me some questions about Android Wear, mostly around my thoughts on it.
Seeing as how I've been using my G Watch for two months now, I'd like to think I know the OS pretty well and all its good and bad and everything in between.
Given the release of the Moto 360 and the number of sleeker looking upcoming devices in both form factors (square and round), figured it'd be a good time to familiarize more of you with the OS and what it can and can't do.
Normally I'd attach pictures to any review I put up here on the Odeck, but I'm just not quick enough to snap pics of my watch with my phone to illustrate a given point. If I can snap a pic and post it for any given part of this I will, if I can't then I'll just try my best to accurately describe things.
First and foremost, the OS itself.
Android Wear runs basically it's own offshoot of Android if you will, it's not a full fledged version and it is what it is. That's something mostly defined and arguably even limited by the limitations of the hardware on which it runs.
It will not work on its own, short of showing you the time and in some cases, thanks to whatever apps you may have installed, pop up some things that you can still interact with. (The minute I turn off Bluetooth on my phone, my "phone finding" app launches and ask me, "Did you forget your phone?" I can still also use the calculator app I installed on my device and the pedometer one built-in to the OS functions perfectly despite the lack of a Bluetooth connection.)
As for how it feels, it's quite pleasant to use overall. I've noticed no stutter ever in every day usage and absolutely zero "issues". "Issues" in this case constituting anything that would be abnormal behavior of any kind.
To emphasize a point though, Android Wear is not something you use in lieu of your phone but something you use in conjunction with. This is a point I'll touch on a bit more further down.
It's also something that is very clearly centered around Google Now. Google Now for those who don't know is basically an "information you might want or need to know" platform, with the focus being on giving you that information before you even realize you want it. This might sound weird, but when seen in use (and tailored to you) it's pretty mind blowing. The more you feed into Google (they are totally trying to steal your soul! oh no!) the better Google Now becomes and the more accurately it tailors what it presents to you and for you.
Regarding everything you can put into Google Now, well there's just too much you can put into it and get it to show you. Rather than try covering it all (and overlooking some important stuff), I'd much rather give you links you can peruse at your convenience and let you do some learning on your own.
Like I said, Android Wear is very much an extension of your phone and utilizes Google Now pretty heavily. To the point that anyone who has used the latter will immediately be reminded of it the moment they use an Android Wear device. So to that end, if you're even remotely interested in picking up an Android Wear device at some point in time then it is a pretty good idea to start using Google Now more on your current smartphone or tablet, if only to be ahead of the game and have it start getting tailored to you before you ever strap something to your wrist.
But the beauty of Android Wear lies in Notifications.
What do I mean by that? Well, the point of the device is to work in conjunction with your smartphone and give you the information you need (and might want to response to) quickly and at a glance. It does this very effectively in my opinion, which allows for some really great things overall.
First off, what notifications does it display? All. I mean that. It will display everything that hits your statusbar/notification shade. Some might hear that and develop a tick in their eye out of nowhere, but rest assured that you control what you see on your wrist (and your phone).
On your phone you can delve into Settings and then Apps and disable notifications for any given app. Once you tick the correct box that's it, no more notifications from that app. If you've done that on your phone you've done that on your device. If you haven't done that within the Settings of your phone you can still do that by launching the Android Wear app on your phone and muting notifications from the Settings section within that.
Just click on the gears and you're taken into Settings and Mute Notifications is only a click away from there.
Once you've done that you'll have to get down and dirty and tell it what specifically not to show you.
Per my usage, for some god awful reason iHeartRadio just loves showing up on my phone and G Watch. I've told it not to through my phone and the settings within the app and it still randomly was showing up. No more! Muted it in the Settings for my G Watch and that was the last I heard of it. (Seriously though, fuck iHeartRadio. If I didn't love the alternative stations out of Dallas and Houston I wouldn't even have it on my phone or tablet.
Beyond that, let's get to the fun stuff.
What can you see and reply to?
Text messages, text messages and text messages! Those are the main ones most of you will be dealing with and replying to on your Android Wear device.
When you receive a text message on your phone you'll see it on your wrist. It'll appear in a very Google Now style looking card and you'll need to swipe right to see the full message. Once you've done so you've got options. You can swipe left, to get to the mini version of the message and swipe left once more to clear it from your notifications. Or you can swipe right and you're given the option to Reply. Tapping the button will bring up the "speak to me" menu (so to speak). You dictate your reply and it'll be transcribed. Look it over because once you're done talking it's going to send, although you'll have a few seconds to hit cancel. Hitting cancel doesn't immediately cancel the message though. You've got to hit it once more to do that, otherwise it'll send as is.
Now, for those of you who are uber popular, you will likely see multiple notifications. What happens in that case is they get stacked. You'll see them like the first picture and on top of one anothe. It'll actually show the first one and then another card saying "+1 More" (or something to that effect). When you click the card it will then show them separate.
To address them at that point you need to swipe up or down to the card you want and then tap it. It will kind of detach and you can then at that point swipe left to clear it or swipe right to deal with it.
Emails come in the same way, although as of yet I'v not bothered to see if I can reply to them the same way as text messages. Most emails require a bit more than a few words or a sentence to deal with. So I tend to respond to those on my desktop or laptop.
Also of significance is that this only handles text messages well. Yes, you can respond to Hangout messages, but you can't vocally tell your device to send a Hangout message. Merely reply to those sent to you.
For text messages you can tap the screen or say "Okay Google" and it'll fire up, at which point you say "send a text to Jane Doe". If there are similar entries you will be asked to select one, you can either specify better (vocally) or just use your finger to tap the appropriate one.
Now, the part about dealing with certain notifications that might bug some people about such a device/OS is the "Open on phone" thing. This is basically Android Wear's way of dealing with notifications it can't fully handle, it'll fire them up on your phone and you can take things from there. This is good and bad in my book.
Good in that for things like a Google+ post I want to read in full (or something like that) I can deal with it on a bigger screen.
Bad in that naturally some people won't want to take out their phones or grab them or whatever and basically dub this "a failure on the part of Android Wear".
Keep in mind that whichever way you choose to see it, this is likely a limitation only in the short term and Android Wear as a platform is growing and updating pretty frequently. There's been at least a handful of updates since I bought my G Watch and there are more on the way (with at least one major one having been confirmed for next month or so already).
How do you know you have notifications though?
This one is easy, you know through one of two ways.
The more obvious way is through vibration. When you get a notification your watch vibrates slightly. I do mean slightly. Your arm won't be shaken off, nor will it be so slight you don't notice the movement. It's enough to know that something just hit your notification shade on your phone and therefore on your wrist.
The second way is at a glance. I don't know about the rest of you, but my main reason for ever pulling my phone out of my pocket is to check the time. I have it on silent 24/7 and with good cause, mostly I'm just not interested in replying to anything (that isn't an email). Why? Cause I'm an introvert and general loner and I just want to be left to my own devices. I'll reply in due course when I feel like it. That said, I like knowing the time. Why? Mostly cause I'm a relatively punctual person and any kind of delay in my schedule gets me antsy like you wouldn't believe. So checking the time is a thing for me and naturally when I've got a watch on my wrist that's even easier. So how does the at a glance aspect work? Due to the fact that I have my watch set to "Always On" as far as the screen mode goes, merely turning my wrist is enough to brighten the display and show me what's there. If it's anything besides the weather then it takes precedence and appears at the top.
What you can't quite notice unless you've got an eye for detail and spotting the obvious is the weather notification being dark in one of those above pictures and lit up in the next. Although not the kind of "lit up" I'm extremely partial to. (You judgmental bastards! I meant I like the song! Get your minds out of that drug using gutter!)
Now naturally as with anything else hardware differentiates from device to device and the software deals with it as best it can.
What this means to you the end user is that if you want to keep track of your heart rate during a run Android Wear can do that, provided you buy a watch that has a heart rate sensor/monitor. Currently the Samsung Gear Live and Moto 360 do, the LG G Watch doesn ot. However, the Samsung device's method of doing this is very hit or miss. Readings, per reviews I've read and people I've spoken with, are all over the place. Motorola, like usual, has knocked things out of the park and delivered with their offering. It just works, each and every time.
I'd like to add that what you see above is not the usual thing, the reason you're seeing zeroed out readings and that other message is because both heart related apps are being pushed from my phone to a watch that doesn't support heart rate monitoring. Those apps come from the Moto Connect app on my phone, so they get installed along with other stuff I've sent to my watch, despite the fact that I can't use them. (Once I get my Moto 360 though I will be able to use them and then some!)
Then there's the other fitness related stuff like pedometer counting and all that. The hell if I know how it works, but it does. Also, I walk a lot. (Although that might not be evident by the pic I took this morning shortly after getting into the office and deciding to write this thing at all.)
This one is one of those "your mileage may vary" type things. If you get a ton of notifications, plan to reply to each one from your device and basically fiddle around with it throughout the day then you're battery life isn't going to be stellar, but neither will it be poor.
I've noted time and time again that I am very much a power/heavy user of all my devices. That includes my LG G Watch and at the very worst, by the time I head home (after work and running errands immediately after) I'll be walking in the door around 7:30 PM and have at worst around 30% battery left. At best I can walk into the house with around 50% left or so.
The real thing about Android Wear devices and battery life is mostly about how you use them, but you will likely be charging any device you get overnight and there's honestly no reason to complain about doing so, unless you (ignorantly in my opinion) think battery life on a device of that nature should be anything more than a day's at best (given what it is, the hardware within it and the nature of using it overall in general).
Seriously, if you're one of those people who reads "you have to charge it every night" and prepares to fly off the handle, you clearly don't know the limitations of battery technology at the moment and all things surrounding it. Clearly though, you are an expert and since it's so simple to make tiny, tiny batteries that last a week and then some (or should be according to you and others like you) then you should have no problem designing, building and bringing to market a device that'll do exactly that. Right? I thought so. At this point I'm sure you're probably thinking along the lines of "sin commentario". Or for those of you who are not fluent in Spanish, "No comment."
What's an Android related device without apps though?
And in this case I've found there are numerous useful apps for Android Wear devices. Most at the moment are useful, but naturally there are and will be more that are anything but useful (and in point of fact kinda defeat the purpose and general idea of what an Android Wear device is and should be used for).
Fire and foremost though is the fact that to install apps on your device you don't do so through it, you install them on your phone (via the Play Store) and they automagically show up on your watch. It's easy peasy.
Wear Mini Launcher is basically a launcher for your Android Wear device, where it differs from the usual launchers is its simplicity. You won't be delving into menus here and tweaking things like crazy. No, you'll have a a quick way to access your apps and basic settings and that's it. Nothing more, nothing less.
To get to that "menu" you simply swipe from the top left of your device to the right. I highly suggest practicing this carefully at first until you can do it without issue. Otherwise you might accidentally swipe away a card (like the weather or pedometer) and when you do so there's no way to get it back manually. It'll show up when Google sees fit for it to do so, but otherwise you're screwed. You'll have to do a manual reset (as in Factory Data Reset) of your device and set it up all over for you to get it back. (I've had to do that at least twice in early use of my G Watch when I was still learning everything I could about it.)
Lockable is a way to enable a lockscreen on your device. It doesn't come with one out of the box and of the few out there Lockable is the only one I would recommend due to its options and general ease of setup and use. The app installs on your phone and the "default" lockscreen is a lock that you swipe out of, a pin or swipe lockscreen will require an in-app purchase of I believe ($1.99) and it is well worth it in my opinion. Swiping down enables the lockscreen and you'll have to unlock it to use your device per normal.
Some of you might wonder why would you need a lockscreen at all. Well, put simply, otherwise your device is accessible to anyone the moment it leaves your wrist. I don't know about the rest of you but I'm big on privacy and really don't like people touching my stuff. Sadly, I can't always prevent the latter (at least not yet, but I am working on a Tesla coil ala Red Alert 2 and once I've got it going everyone who enters my room should be forewarned that they're in for a shocking surprise if they touch my stuff). I can, however, enable the lockscreen thanks to this app and know my watch is safe from prying eyes and nimble fingers. Plus, if I get caught out in the rain it won't go nuts with the touch sensitivity. (That's not an issue I've personally encountered yet, but I've read about a few people experiencing it firsthand. So better safe than sorry I say.)
Find My Phone (Android Wear) is perfect for those of you who have a habit of losing their phones, car keys and children. Install it on your phone, tweak the settings and then forget about it til needed (which is likely whenever you forget about it).
Once your watch notices it is out of range of your phone you'll see the app popup a notification, tap it and then simply swipe left to get to the "tap to find" screen. Tap it and you're in business! Your phone will start making noise. Once you've found it, simply tap the "stop" button" (on your phone or watch) and you're good to go.
But wait, bangishotyou, what if my phone is always set to silent?
Ringtone Remote has you covered in that case! Install the app on your phone, launch it on your watch and select the setting for your phone. Normal, vibrate or silent. Tap it and a notification will appear saying it's enabled or set (or something to that effect) and that's it. It's changed on your phone. In fact, you'll notice it change immediately on your phone. Set it to ring and you'll hear a noise, set it to vibrate and it'll do that and silent gets you silence. Oh sweet, sweet silence. It's golden, you know?
And then you get into the apps that are more entertaining/informative for use.
Wear Camera Remote is an app that lets you launch and control your cell phones camera. You can switch to front/rear facing, turn the flash on or off and even set a timer. It's actually quite useful and will give you a view of what your phone's camera is looking at. Tap your watch's screen and the picture is taken. No fuss, no muss.
Attopedia for Android Wear is Wikipedia basically on your Android Wear watch. You'd think that isn't feasible, but it is. It's also surprisingly intuitive. Swiping right brings up more information (ala the actual info you'll want to know/read) and swiping up and down takes you between sections (for example Life, Bibliography, etc of a given author or artist or what have you). Being a person who easily gets sucked into Wiki-holes this app has proven awesome in day to day use for me when I'm not around my phone (usually because it's at my desk and I'm stuck covering the front desk at work for an hour or so each day, I can still get my "I need to learn something" on or win arguments with my bestie who is known to make up random bullshit that sounds legitimate).
Wear Calc is another useful one. I'm not a numbers person, I can do simple math in my head with no problem but anything more and you're asking a lot. Given time I can do it in my head, but the more numbers involved the more likely I am to fuck something up, that's where an app like this comes in handy. Fire it up on your watch and have at it. Don't expect to be graphing things and using sine and cosine on it (I think I spelled those right and if I didn't bite me, who do you think you are some kind of math teacher?!). In a quick mathematical pinch though, it works perfectly and you'll likely find some use for it.
Music Boss for Wear is one of the apps I'm very interested in trying, but can't until I get paid this Thursday night. It's $1.99 and basically gives you the ability to fire up any media player on your phone and control it from your watch, it'll also let you pause and resume Netflix (when launched from your phone at first). I think the idea is great and the controls look very intuitive, but until I've got some hands on time with it the best I can do is say it looks interesting (and if anyone tries it out be sure to share your thoughts in the comments).
Beyond that, naturally there are apps you want to avoid like Wear Internet Browser. I'm not saying it's a bad app, but the point of Android Wear is to enhance the functionality of your phone and not replace parts of it outright. A browser on your wrist really isn't something you need, much less actually want and a lot of the reviews say it all. Expectations are higher than what's possible with the hardware and people are leaving 1-star reviews largely out of ignorance of the limitations of what Android Wear can and cannot do.
As far as other recommended or not recommended apps, that's all I've got for now. My watch is for notification related use, not apps. I keep it to to a bare minimum, which means everything before Music Boss is on my watch (well I did just add a Simon clone during my lunch break, it's fun and a perfect time waster!). I'll be adding Music Boss this week.
Looks and appearances
Perhaps one of the best features of Android Wear devices is the look you see on screen. You can change it to suit your tastes with a few apps or from your device itself (as the current offerings come with a number of selectable screens. Then there are the options available from certain OEMs. Since I have a Moto X currently and use the Connect app on my phone and in Google Chrome, I've also noticed that with the launch of the Moto 360 I can see additional displays on my G Watch (although I can't select them).
Not too mention the options you have from various developers, like the Binary Watch Face or Secret Agent Watchface (aka GoldenEye 007 watchface). It's really important to note that outside of specific Android Wear and OEM customizations, no APIs have been released by Google for watch faces. So when selected the notification card will appear larger (and therefore taller) and cover part of the watch face (at least on square devices, not sure about circular ones just yet as I haven't seen any firsthand or even pictures shared online). This will be rectified by mid-October and many developers have said they'd release updates once the APIs were released by Google.
So what you see in the picture above is not what you'll be stuck with permanent and should be commended anyway. Developers got that on there despite the official lack of an API, you can't keep a good Android dev down!
Beyond that, overall I can say the OS as is is great and it's poised to get even greater soon enough. I didn't want to make this post any longer than it already is, thus I covered everything I felt was important as best I could. I have the LG G Watch, which I've written about semi recently.
I think it's a great overall device and I should be picking up a Moto 360 hopefully before the week is out, as my local Best Buy is getting an incredibly small shipment of them at some point this week. Also I'm like a dog with a bone when it comes to certain things. (That and you know, my Moto X is already being made. Far earlier than previous estimates given in the first email I received stated. And something else happened that is incredibly awesome and Motorola related which I can't discuss at all. So luck is very much on my side right now.) I'll do a review on both those devices when I've got them in my hands (the Moto 360 and new Moto X that is).
Overall though I really like Android Wear in general. It's useful, customizable and gives me an even greater reason to not have to pick up my phone. (Which is a huge pet peeve of mine, hanging out with people and touching the phone rather than giving others your full attention. Huge no no in my book. Very impolite.)
If there's any questions, comment or just general "goddamn you buy a lot of gadgets" type remarks feel free to share them below.
On that note, it took two days to write this. A personal record for one of my post, mostly since I wrote it at work (still no DSL, fuck you AT&T!) and even I occasionally have to work. Although lately my rule is "if they pretend to appreciate me, I'll pretend to work" and thus I goof off a lot more. Then again when you work in I.T. just sitting in front of a computer looks like work. : ) So yeah, I'm semi spent after this lengthy post. If it takes me awhile to respond assume it's because I'm goofing off somehow. I'll get to your remarks/questions as time (and the urge to do so) permits.