Android Wear review: Taking smartwatches in the right direction
Android Wear is the strongest smartwatch platform we've seen so far, and it has enough support from manufacturers and developers to thrive. But it's a first-generation product, and limited battery life, notification anxiety and other issues make it tough to recommend Wear quite just yet.
- Strong manufacturer and developer support
- Hands-free voice control and Google Voice Search
- Clean design
- Google Now cards and Knowledge Graph integration
- Short battery life on current hardware
- Excessive notifications
- Still requires plenty of screen touching
- Gestures and UI come with learning curves
- Only compatible with newer Android devices
When I was a tiny tot, I watched Knight Rider and pretended I was Michael Knight, talking to KITT on my watch. Yet now that there are real-life watches that can do even more things, I don't find myself quite as excited as my 5-year-old self was. Smartwatches have been around for over a decade already (remember Microsoft SPOT?), but the category hasn't evolved at the same pace as smartphones. It's not because there's a shortage of digital wrist-worn timepieces. The problem is that there's no common platform for third-party apps, which means there's little potential for growth.
There also doesn't seem to be any vision. Some watches act as Android phones with SIM cards and tiny touchscreens, while others try to establish their own platform to entice developers. Still others have even tried to put fitness bands and smartwatches into one device, to limited success. Even worse, most of the watches on the market today are what you might call "fashionably challenged" -- they simply aren't attractive enough to entice the masses. Google's solution is to extend its Android platform -- which has very strong market share and developer support -- to the wearables genre with Android Wear.