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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Android Wear hardware review: Sometimes promising, often frustrating | Ars Technica

Companies are always on the lookout for the next big thing, the kind of product that will popularize a new kind of gadget and drive growth to the same extent that digital audio players, smartphones, and tablets have done over the last couple of decades. That's why they're all chasing things like smart TVs, smartwatches, smart glasses, smart homes, and various other "Internet of Things" things. Everyone wants to be the one to hit it big with a runaway mass-market success story.
The Gear Live and the G Watch are better than the gizmos that have come before. They're running better software that can do more things, and they're tied into an ecosystem that is likely to try to do something with them (seriously, thousands of developers went home with these last week). The trouble is that the things that came before didn't really set the bar very high; Android Wear barely has to hop to vault over it.
Of the two smartwatches we've reviewed, the Gear Live is clearly better. Its screen is crisper and more colorful, it feels better to wear, and it looks better (something I can't believe I'm writing about a Samsung watch). It has added hardware features. It's better at springing to life when I bring it up to my face. It's $30 cheaper. Its band is... well, it's easy to replace.
What it fails at is making the smartwatch into a must-have device. As it stands now, it's something that will make it a tiny bit easier to do a whole bunch of stuff you can already do. It exists only as an accessory, and at $200 it just might cost as much or more than what you paid for your phone on a contract. In a world where the Moto G and the 2013 Nexus 7 exist, $200 is too much to pay for an Accessory to a Thing. $200 is enough to buy an Actual Thing.
Maybe Android Wear will be useful enough to become indispensable in six months. Maybe the Moto 360 will strike a balance between semi-useful-thing and fashion accessory that hits a mass-market nerve. Right now, though, these watches are like their predecessors in that their promise is greater than their real-world utility. I might miss a couple things about the Gear Live when I take it off my wrist and ship it back to Google, but it's not going to be difficult to part with.

Android Wear hardware review: Sometimes promising, often frustrating | Ars Technica

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