Google’s Android Wear will celebrate the second year of its existence in a couple of weeks. The platform was first introduced by Google in March 2014 with the release of the developer preview. Google partnered with major brands like Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC and Asus for making Android Wear devices. The LG G watch and Samsung’s Gear Live were the first watches that Google launched internationally. Motorola launched the Moto 360 after a couple of months and was one of the best- looking Android Watches back then.
In India, these Android smartwatches were priced ridiculously high. Samsung’s Gear Live retailed for
Rs 15,900 while the LG G Watch had a sticker price of Rs 14,999. To put things into perspective, the Moto G went on sale at roughly the same time at Rs 13,999 and if that wasn’t absurd, Motorola went ahead and priced the Moto 360 at Rs 17,999 at launch, which was quite pricey for the outdated hardware it was selling. The smartwatches saw some quick sales during Diwali when e-commerce websites offered huge discounts. I picked up the G Watch for around Rs 10,000, only to find it plummeting to Rs 7,000 in a couple of weeks. I feel it was only the price drop that tempted people to try Android Wear; because Wear as a platform only worked with Android phones. Primary functions at that time, you ask? Well, display notifications from your smartphone and taking voice commands using the ‘Ok Google’ phrase. The smartwatch needed to be constantly in sync with the phone over Bluetooth without which it was and still is pretty useless.
The LG G Watch for me was the only device that offered good value for money. Bigger battery, powerful processor and higher-resolution display were the main factors going for it. I was looking forward to being a part of the Android Wear journey, where I was hoping it to become more than just a secondary display. The development of Google’s Wear platform was much slower in comparison to Android, which delivered some massive updates like Lollipop and Marshmallow. Google did introduce new watch face APIs and other APIs to the developers but the scope of doing anything significant from it was limited.
The G Watch I bought was only used to unlock the device using the Trusted Devices feature introduced in Lollipop and to view the notifications that came in. Initially, it felt nice, going through all the notifications without having to pull the phone out of the pocket. While I could read and reply to messages and emails on the watch, for calls the phone still needed to be pulled out.
A year later, it is still the only thing I do (can do) with the smartwatch. The watch is just a display on the hand, which, while being useful at times, ends up being a distraction otherwise. I don’t even use the
G Watch as a trusted device now, thanks to the fingerprint scanner on my Nexus 6P. The notifications can be viewed on the phone using the glance feature, where the screen lights up to show notifications.
There has been no significant development for the Wear yet; yes they have enabled WiFi on the smartwatch but it still doesn’t make it a truly standalone device. Yes, they’ve put a speaker in newer Android Wear devices but I don’t see myself taking a call on the watch. It’s equivalent to taking a call on the loudspeaker on the phone, and that brings up a major privacy issue.
The watch to me now looks like a tiny display wrapped on my wrist that needs constant charging and pairing. I do understand that the G Watch is now older, but the newer ones don’t have anything significant. Manufacturers did include heart rate sensors as soon as the platform supported it, some came with an inbuilt GPS for tracking runs. There are devices like the Mi Band 1s that can do record your pulse rate and will cost less than Rs 2,000. Functionality apart, Google has managed to get premium watchmakers like Fossil on board and we can expect well-built classy devices. But it is sad to see these expensive watches crippled with the same issues like the other Android Wear devices.
Google has brought incremental changes to the Android Wear platform; the Marshmallow update got the much-loved Doze feature to the watch, so the battery life is a marginally better, but that’s about it. Android Wear for me has hit a roadblock; nothing significant has come out from the Google HQ for the wearable platform.
The smartwatch is nothing more than a geek’s toy. I feel it’s a supplementary device at the moment, which one can skip buying. If you aren’t using an Android Wear device, you aren’t missing out on much. It’s pretty much like a modern pager strapped to the hand.
In my case, I’m fed up of charging this device that showed a lot of promise but failed to deliver. I don’t see the point of wasting precious battery life on my smartphone to keep the watch paired. I’m done with Android Wear for now.
Disclaimer: Aditya Shenoy is an Android Enthusiast and a Wear user for over a year. If you disagree with him, feel free to give him a piece of your mind @adishenoy. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of T3 India.