Google’s Android Wear watch
is about simplifying future
NEW YORK — In its first iteration, Google’s Android Wear software for computerized wristwatches isn’t so much about innovation as it is an effort at simplification.
Available in two smartwatches out within the next week, Android Wear is rather limited in what it can do. Even last year’s smartwatches do some things that Android Wear can’t.
But the new software should help rein in a marketplace of confusion and encourage app developers to extend smartwatch functionality, the way they have made smartphones even smarter.
I’ll have more to say on the first two watches, Samsung’s $199 Gear Live and LG’s $229 G Watch, in a separate review later. I used both to test Android Wear, and this review is about that.
Android Wear requires a companion smartphone running Android 4.3 or later. That covers Kit Kat and the later versions of Jelly Bean, but according to Google’s own stats, only about a quarter of Android devices have either.
The companion phone doesn’t have to be from the same manufacturer as the watch. With both watches, I was able to use Motorola’s Moto G phone from November, Samsung’s Galaxy S III phone from 2012 and LG’s G3, which is coming to the U.S. this summer. After getting or updating some free apps on your phone, you need to link the watch and the phone wirelessly using Bluetooth.
You can send texts by dictating a message or using canned ones such as “Yes,” “No,” or “On my way.” Android Wear lets you send and receive emails and read Facebook notifications.
Where Android Wear advances smartwatch technology is in navigation. As long as the phone is nearby, you can get turn-by-turn directions on the watch.
Beyond that, the watch offers the types of notifications you’d get through Google Now on the phone, if you’ve turned that feature on. That includes local weather, birthday reminders and scores for your favorite sports teams.
Android Wear isn’t quite there yet as a must-have product, but I can only imagine what it will evolve into in the months and years ahead. It helps that there’s now a unified system that software developers can focus on improving.
Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press