2014-07-01 09.57.09

Thanks to some friendlies on the inner circle, I managed to get my hands on a Samsung Gear Live Android Wear smartwatch ahead of next week’s shipments. It’s rather cool.

The Gear Live has a 300 mAh battery behind a 1.63-inch 320×320 Super AMOLED display. It’s got 512MB RAM, 4GB storage and is run by a 1.2 Ghz processor. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and it’s no secret that the device is designed to be a watch that delivers notifications to your wrist, in a more sophisticated and elegant way than other devices like the Pebble.

What does it do well?

Once you have the Android Wear app installed, setting up the connection between your watch and your phone is simple: open the app, wait for an unpaired device to appear on your list of devices. There’s a well-designed setup and tutorial process to lead you through the pairing process.

I’ve found the voice recognition very good, as long as you speak clearly and there isn’t too much background noise. If the voice-to-text transcription for messaging (Hangouts) doesn’t get your message right, you can cancel it – if you’re quick.

Google has put a lot of time into the Android Wear design and user experience around notifications. It’s a very natural flow for such a small screen. Pull down from the top of the screen to view date and battery (like any other Android), and up from the bottom (where notifications dock on Android Wear) to view notifications in more detail. You can also swipe the notification left to expand it (same again to reply), and finally, swipe it to the right to dismiss it (similar to Android’s notification shade, although that allows you to swipe in either direction to dismiss).

2014-07-01 09.50.51

Are there any shortcomings?

There’s really only a few small gripes I have with the Samsung Gear Live so far.

I’d like the voice recognition to work better. I understand the complexities of voice recognition software and know that it’s never going to recognise our voices 100% of the time across a room, in a noisy pub or in other environments like that but I’d like it to be just a little bit better with background noise. A few very messed-up messages found their way to my colleagues last night when I was near my kids playing and the television was on.

The other issue I think will be a downer for some users is the fact that you’re almost certainly going to need to charge it every day. This isn’t an issue for me – I charge my phone every day, so there’s no major hassle in adding the watch to that routine – but for other users this may cause them problems.

One other minor issue (perhaps by design, i’m not sure) I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere yet is that when your Android Wear device is disconnected by distance then you have to manually reconnect the devices to each other via the app on your phone when you come back in range. It’s not my impatience, either – I waited overnight! Perhaps this is just a simple bug that can be addressed in the companion app on the phone.

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Is it worth the money?

After my initial time with the Gear Live, my honest answer would be yes if you have the money and a compatible phone. Android Wear is the latest in Android tech, it’s functional and it’s fun, and in the age we’re living in it keeps you connected.

I’m impressed with the interface, the design and the features on such a small device.

If it really does capture you and you have to have one now, head over to the Play Store and take your pick of the Android Wear devices already available (shipping starts later this week).

You don’t have to buy the Samsung watch, but you won’t be disadvantaged if you do. Many of the Ausdroid team have purchased the LG G Watch, so watch out for some first impressions on that too!

Will you be going for a Gear Live, G Watch or Moto 360? What do you want to see from Android Wear to make a smartwatch your next must-have device? Tell us in the comments!

  • moldor

    After looking at the LG watch, just on aesthetics alone, I’m going to get the Samsung. The LG, while probably quite capable, just seems a little “cheap” for my liking. The Motorola looks good, but the small black area at the bottom of the screen (for, apparently, the sensors) would annoy me no end.

    Strap on the Samsung isn’t as bad as the LG, but it too takes a 22mm strap so I should be able to re-purpose my LunaTik band or get another metal one cheaply.

  • James Z

    the watch is running on snapdragon 400 processor

  • vijay alapati

    does this have a gesture wake like samsung gear fit?

  • eug

    Awesome, can’t wait to get one. Any idea when a store like JB will stock it? Can you use it as a speaker phone like the Gears?

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Daniel Tyson

      We’re waiting on Samsung to advise local availability in retailers. LG has advised that the LG G Watch will be available at retail at some stage in the future.

      • eug

        Ahh, I wonder why Samsung are dragging their feet. I had to switch back to the Pebble from the Gear when I picked up the M8. I really miss the more vibrant screen on the Gear.

        I hope it’ll be the same price as the play store, minus the $20 shipping!

  • Cameron Harvey

    I’ve ordered both the G Watch and the Gear Live… I’m thinking the Gear Live will be my daily until the Moto 360 comes out. By not releasing it at IO they’ve only increased the demand for it, Google know what they’re doing…

    This is a really exciting time and it’s been a while since anything really cool like this has come out so I can’t wait to see how it all works together.

    • Cameron Harvey

      Also, what’s with the Gear Live being $30 cheaper in the US but $1 more in AU?

      There’s that Australia tax again…

      • http://www.philtann.com/ Phil Tann

        Yeah it’s the AU tax again…

  • GregAndo

    Would you mind providing any information about the ‘always on’ display? Eg what happens when the device is idle?

    • http://www.philtann.com/ Phil Tann

      The screen is dim lit so you can still read the time (not forgetting this is a watch too!) You can disable that but I’ve decided to leave it on so far.

      • Matt

        And if you disable it can you see the screen at all? Or is is black?

    • http://www.philtann.com/ Phil Tann

      in fact, the header image is with the screen “not lit” just the watch face visible.

      • GregAndo

        Thanks Phil. So the watch always shows the watch face when idle? How would that idle watch face go in the sun? Does it wake automatically when you turn your wrist to look at the watch or anything?

  • JeniSkunk

    Thanks for putting this review up so fast Phil. Noting your connection issues, have they also shown up using the Samsung watch with a suitable Samsung phone?

    • http://www.philtann.com/ Phil Tann

      Note my reply to Yianni It appears to be a bug due to me running the preview of the Android Wear App.

  • http://www.gadgets4geeks.com.au/ Yianni soc

    Nice quick review Phil! I hope the repairing issue is just a simple bug – here’s hoping. I’ll be going the Moto 360 for sure!

    • http://www.philtann.com/ Phil Tann

      After rebooting my phone it worked properly this morning. I’m running the preview of the Android Wear App so it’s likely a little buggy since it didn’t work again a short time later.

      • Alexei Watson

        Oh good, that sounded like a less than ideal feature.