With the launch of Android Wear 2.0, we also have hard facts on the new models. Are they and the new features enough to make things interesting?
The most important news is that we have two new watches after months of nothing:
The first watches with Android Wear 2.0 are the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport—both designed in collaboration with Google.
The Style sells for $249 but it is just a standard watch with WiFi and Bluetooth.
If you want GPS, heart rate, NFC for payments, i.e. a full function watch that can work as a fitness/sports tracker, then you will need to find $379, although you can get it cheaper on a contract with a phone provider.
If you share my opinion that the biggest market for smart watches is the fitness tracker then the LG Watch Sports is the more attractive. It is still unclear if this is a big enough market with sufficiently diverse needs to support a healthy developer community as well as healthy users. The question is are there any discoverable "killer" apps once the basic fitness tracking functions have been included.
Google Fit, the pre-installed fitness app on most Android Wear watches, now lets you track your pace, distance, calories burned and heart rate* as you’re walking, running or cycling. You can also measure weight-lifting reps, in addition to push-ups, sit-ups and squats. When you work out with a cellular-connected Android Wear watch, you can stay in touch with calls and messages, stream tunes from Google Play Music and still use your favorite apps right on your watch.
Google is making a lot of the range of watch faces that are available to users and is keen on promoting apps like ordering an Uber ride or checking you phone. It is also emphasising the standalone abilities of the watch. If you have a celular connection then you can message and you can download apps from the new on watch app store.
AI has a lot to offer as well:
When you receive a message, you can expand the notification and tap to respond by dictating, typing or handwriting your answer, or drawing an emoji.
Can voice input work for a watch? There is a huge difference between yelling at Alexa or Google Home in the privacy of your own house, but when you get outside the same behavior will probably result in an arrest for disturbing the peace.
The same is probably true of the other big AI hope:
Android Wear 2.0 brings the Google Assistant to your wrist, so you can find answers and get things done—hands free. Ask your Google Assistant about the weather or remind yourself to bring an umbrella. Make a restaurant reservation or navigate to work. You can even update your shopping list right from your wrist. To ask for help, just hold down the power button on your watch or say “Ok Google."
I can already hear trainloads of people saying "Ok Google". At least users have to hold the power button for it to be effective which reduces the chance that some stranger is going to book you a table for two. Chatting to your watch probably isn't going to catch on. Indeed, one of the problems that the whole smart watch industry suffers from is that, despite a long history of wrist communicators being the promise of the future, talking to your wrist in a public place just isn't cool.
The upgrade should also be available for some existing watches in the near future and the LG watches will trickle out to the rest of the world in time.
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