I had big hopes for Mobile World Congress, and wearables were at the top of my list. Sure, I hoped to see some great phones — and we did — but great wearables we really haven’t seen yet, leaving me to conclude that the current batch of Android Wear devices really is just rather poor.
This really shouldn’t be the case; we’re at the precipice of Android Wear 2.0 which should really, truly reinvigorate the platform. Android Pay on your wrist is an absolutely killer feature (having used it over the last two weeks), and yet, there’s nary a device on the Australian market that supports it. Instead, we’re left with rather dated devices, and even though we can’t buy them, there’s some rather lame watches being released elsewhere too.
Firstly, let’s look at the Huawei Watch 2. It promises a lot — LTE variants, both sporty and more fashion-conscious variants, a range of colours etc. They didn’t rate too much of a mention at Huawei’s press conference, though … most of that time was devoted to discussing the new P10 smartphone. However, mentioned they were, and on show on the show floor they were as well. With relatively thin cases, LTE, GPS, NFC, a decent amount of RAM and support for Android Wear 2.0 and Android Pay, the Huawei Watch 2 sounds great … on paper. It even feels pretty great on the wrist…
… except that it doesn’t really use premium materials which we’ve come to expect from Huawei, the watch-face is actually smaller, and there’s only 2GB of storage available. This isn’t much for those who like to store music on their watches for use while exercising etc. Oh, the worst bit? While the Huawei Watch 2 will come here, we do have to wait a few months .. it’s not likely to arrive until nearer to the end of Q2, 2017.
If we then consider LG’s new entrants, the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style, there’s a similar “but”. The Watch Sport promises the inclusion of all but the kitchen sink, a rotating crown to interact with, all the three-letter acronyms, IP68 water resistance and more … but the design is kind of middle of the road, it doesn’t feel too premium and you can’t even change the strap. I tried the Watch Sport in Barcelona didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. As keen as I was reading about it on paper … I’m less keen on rushing out to actually buy one, but I could be persuaded to take a second look.
The same couldn’t be said for the Watch Style. Yes it has swappable bands, and the display (an OLED) looks kind of nice too. It has some of the Sport’s features, including IP67 water resistance, Android Wear 2.0 etc … but the battery is small, it’s not really my kind of ‘stylish’ for a watch, and without GPS or NFC, it’s next to useless for most of the things people want to use a wearable for.
We understand LG might bring one of these watches to Australia at some time in the future, but it almost certainly won’t be the LG Watch Sport, and that’s a real shame. It’s the only one that’s at least half good.
You can read my hands-on with Huawei’s Watch 2 and LG’s Watch Sport and Watch Style which I wrote from Mobile World for further details on these three watches.
The TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45. What can we say, from our coverage this morning you’d already know that this watch is everything that Android Wear devices should be … except for one thing. That ludicrous $2,000 price tag. I would absolutely wear one of these, but I’d have to sell a lot of my gear to afford one.
What else really is there? One of my favourite watches that you can buy at the moment is the Nixon Mission, but it doesn’t have NFC circuitry either, and (as yet) doesn’t have Android Wear 2.0. Even if it did, it wouldn’t support the new features like Android Pay, which is something I desperately want, and while I like the Mission, the design isn’t for everyone. It’s a big watch.
Samsung’s Gear S3 is a nice watch, but it isn’t Android Wear. This isn’t necessarily a problem; it handles notifications well, and the battery lasts for ages … but you can’t interact with Google Now / Assistant, and it has NFC but doesn’t support Android Pay. As much as I like it, I feel the Gear S3 could be so much more useful if Samsung would stop going it alone on software.
That’s kind of where we’re left … all of these watches have their upsides, some more than others. I’d love the TAG watch, but I just don’t think that’s realistic. I’d settle for the Huawei Watch 2, but it won’t be here for a while, or the LG Watch Sport, which probably won’t ever be here … and the rest just don’t offer what I actually want.
Is the category suffering because no one will make an affordable watch that actually offers consumers what they actually want?