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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).

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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!

Companies: Samsung
Devices: Gear Live