Google’s Android Wear smartwatches are here! Well, almost. Those from Samsung and LG are available for pre-order now, with delivery early next month. A third from Motorola arrives later this summer. Should you go for one of the July releases and if so, which one? Or should you wait on Motorola? Here’s our guide that may help.
Want Google Now For Your Wrist?
Anyone who uses Google Now on their phone already — and loves it — may want to consider one of these. They effectively put Google Now on your wrist, along with other features such as voice search, sending and receiving messages, navigation and reminders.
Got An Android Phone?
These watches are designed to work with Android phones running 4.3 or higher (you can check your phone’s version here). Potentially in the future, they might work with the iPhone. But there’s no guarantee of that, and it wouldn’t be wise to buy one of them now in hopes of that.
Square Or Circle Face?
Assuming you’ve made it past the first two key questions above, now you’re closer to deciding which particular model you want, where one of the major differences is whether you want a square or circular face.
Both the LG “G Watch” and Samsung’s “Gear Live” have square faces. Motorola’s Moto 360 has a circular one. If the pictures below of the Moto 360’s circular face don’t appeal, then there’s no need to wait for it. Order one of the others. But if you want that circular look, then you’ll need to have some patience.
Which Look & Feel Do You Like Best?
Closely related to the type of face is the general look and feel of the watch. Do you find the design pleasing or not? Here’s a comparison of them, all of each company’s own product images:
Here’s a comparison from the devices I looked at on display at Google I/O:
For better quality images, consider Gizmodo’s close-up photos of the Moto 360, Engadget’s pictures of the Samsung Gear Live, The Verge’s photos of the LG G Watch and even further photo galleries you can find here via Techmeme.
Keep in mind that pictures don’t tell the whole story. Having tried on each of these watches yesterday at the Google I/O conference, I was surprised at how small and light the Moto 360 felt. It does have the largest face of the group, but it’s not as massive as it can seem in pictures.
Ideally, you should try them on. Samsung has said it will soon sell its watch through Best Buy, in the US. LG and Motorola are also likely to be available through some retail locations.
If you buy online, make sure you can make a return. Google Play, the only place where you can currently pre-order the LG and Samsung, gives you 15 days to return. Links to where you can buy at Google Play are at the end of this story.
Regular Strap Or Clasp?
Another key difference between the watches is the straps. LG and Motorola have regular watch straps that use a buckle to secure them. Motorola also has a metal expandable band. Samsung uses a mechanism where two prongs slip into holes in the band.
From my try-on experience, I found the Samsung band to be awkward to secure. As for the LG, while it secured nicely, the plastic strap didn’t feel as nice as Motorola’s leather one.
Those are my impressions; others may feel differently, but these are things to consider that might not be obvious just from looking at the pictures.
LG proudly highlights that you can swap out its strap for any standard strap that you’d prefer. Anyone who’s ever changed a watch strap knows how this works. There are little pins that let you remove the strap from the watch itself, to swap in another one.
Motorola has also said that its Moto 360 strap will be changeable, though it’s not clear whether third-party standard bands will work
You can’t change the strap on the Samsung. Rather, you’ll have to go with a choice of black or “wine red.”
How Well Does It Work?
If the watch is sluggish or fails to perform well, all the nice looks mean little. Unfortunately, no one really knows how well these really work. They’ve not been out to the public yet. Those shown in the Google I/O expo area yesterday to attendees were all set to demo mode, so you couldn’t test how they actually operate.
That’s about to change. All the attendees at Google I/O are getting their choice of either the LG or the Samsung today. You can expect reviews to be popping up soon — and we’ll have a story in the future with our own impressions, as we try them ourselves shortly.
Of course, the Moto 360 is still weeks, perhaps months, away. So its performance will remain a mystery for a bit longer.
While you won’t be staring at the watch screens as much as your phone, display might still be a key factor for some people. Both Samsung and LG have about the same screen size, but Samsung is using a slightly higher display resolution that Android Wear allows. That means it should be able to show a bit more information, or perhaps images of better quality, than the LG. But I’m not certain on this point — I’m going to track down a better answer and update.
There are other factors to consider, such as the brightness of each display, which can be dictated by the exact technology being used. But people can also have their own personal preferences. For me, the LG watch’s image felt a little more muted than the others. But it was hardly a drawback — and other factors like the physical form, look, strap and so on were more important to me. That can sound odd, but those things between the watches are more dramatic differences than the displays, from my experience with them.
By the way, Motorola hasn’t shared any of its technical specs, display or otherwise, at the Moto 360 site (link will be at the end). But it has shared some during a hangout it did earlier this year. So the chart below pulls those figures where I could find them, such as in this recap from Laptop and this from NDTV.
Battery Life & Charging Adapters
A watch isn’t very useful if it’s constantly running out of power. LG seems to have a slight edge in having a battery capacity a bit bigger than Samsung. But it’s not that much bigger, and other factors could allow a smaller battery to do better. Until we get some real-world testing and reports, things aren’t certain. But both are saying you’ll get about a day from a full charge.
Both the LG and the Samsung charge by means of an adapter that attaches to the watch. As a Galaxy Gear smartwatch owner, which uses a similar adapter, I can tell you that these are a pain. If you go on a trip, and forget to bring your adapter, you might find your battery drained with no way to recharge.
Motorola won’t say if it’s using an adapter or not. I had a good look at the Moto 360 yesterday, including the back, and couldn’t see any port where a charging cable might go in, nor pins that would align up with a charging adapter. CNET has a great photo of this in its own look at the Moto 360.
One thought is that the Moto 360 might be designed to work with a wireless charger. But the Moto 360 I looked at also had a thin circular cover over part of the back. This might be covering pins, though they’d have to be pretty small. Or, perhaps, there’s a false cover that doesn’t reflect what will actually ship.
It’s a mystery that Motorola sparked when it did that aforementioned hangout earlier this year, where it wouldn’t explain how charging worked. Some even wonder if the Moto 360 might get recharged using arm movement, as BGR covers, along with other theories.
Heart Rate Monitor?
Want to track your heart rate? Get the Samsung. The LG doesn’t provide this. It’s unknown if the Moto 360 does. I’ll update if I can track that down.
Sound crazy to want your fancy piece of electronics to work in the water? Hey, don’t forget that we’ve had digital watches for years designed to deal with being in water.
The good news is that you don’t need to make this a decision point. All the watches provide it. But don’t go swimming with them. It’s water resistance, not water proofing. You’re protected from splashes or those brief immersions at a shallow depth.
Samsung will cost you the least, $199. The LG is a bit more, $229. Motorola hasn’t announced pricing, but The Verge found reason to believe it would be $249, based on a contest that Motorola ran.
How About A Chart?
Glad you asked. And after the chart, where to get more product information and links to purchase. Anything on the chart with a question mark means information isn’t yet known:
Where To Buy & More Information
Currently, Google Play is the only place where you can pre-order the LG or the Samsung. Links to the order locations on Google Play are below, along with links to the official product pages on each company’s own web site. Motorola is also listed:
- Samsung Gear Live at Google Play
- Gear Live page at Samsung
- LG G Watch at Google Play
- G Watch product page at LG
- Moto 360 page at Motorola
- Android Wear category at Google Play (Moto 360 eventually will appear here)