Here's a secret about Android Wear: at the moment, even more than a year after the first Wear devices hit the market, most of these smartwatches use the same Snapdragon 400 system-on-a-chip. That means that outside of screen resolution and quality, and of course the cosmetic changes implemented by the different manufacturers, there isn't much difference between the latest models and the originals. That being the case, the first Samsung Gear Live (the square one) is still a pretty good way to get into Android Wear, if only to see if you actually like it.
In just a few months, it will be the one-year anniversary of Android Wear's announcement (March 18th). Since the first two official Android-powered watches were released at I/O 2014, we've seen half a dozen total watches running Android Wear, each with its own pros and cons. These devices run the gamut from kind of ugly to truly gorgeous. A new wave of watches will be upon us in the coming year, but the current ones are still a great way to get into wearables. In fact, I bet there will be some solid discounts on these devices in the not too distant future.
If you simply can't decide which—if any—watch is the right one for you, here are all the strengths and weaknesses of the current crop.
The newest Android Wear update has started rolling out to the Samsung Gear Live after hitting G Watch and Moto 360 devices in the last few days. The update comes with version number 4.4W.2 and makes a handful of tweaks to the OS, not the least of which is the option to hide notification cards on the watch face.
When Samsung and LG began selling their Android Wear watches, it seems they made a small oversight: the only way to get the proprietary POGO pin charging docks was to buy the watch. That left customers who had lost or damaged the chargers with no way to get their devices charged again. LG made good on the problem by adding a G Watch Charger to the Play Store back in August, and now Samsung has followed up for the Gear Live as well.
Well, sort of. Windows 95 is running in ADosBox, one of several DOS emulators available on the Google Play Store. Naturally there are a few problems: in addition to a boot up time of several minutes and a few error notifications at login, the emulated Windows seems to run out of virtual memory if you try to open any programs.
Update #1 9/6/14: It looks like at least some of those who've run out to buy the Moto 360 at retail are already seeing the KGW42N update. Charge your watch, set it up, and you should get the alert.
Thanks to reader Justin for the tip and the photo!
Update #2 9/9/14: The G Watch is now receiving 4.4W.1 as well, though the build number varies slightly (KGW42Q):
Thanks, Devin Arthur.
Google representatives promised a notable update to the Android Wear platform this week, and it looks like Samsung's only non-Tizen watch is first in line. The Gear Live is currently receiving an over-the-air update to Android Wear version 4.4W.1, which includes some much-needed adjustments to the watch interface for Google Maps Navigation and the built-in alarm function.
LG responded to concerns over corrosion of the G Watch charging pins by making a few tweaks with the KMV78Y update. Now the same build is rolling out to the Samsung Gear live, which as far as I'm aware, doesn't have the same charging pin issues. How curious.
Big things are happening for the smallest of Android devices. Over the last month, we've seen several attempts to extend the capabilities of Android Wear, some have worked out, while others haven't fared so well. Most of the activity has come in the form of 3rd-party apps, so there hasn't been much action for dedicated modders. That is, until today. Team Win just posted its first official custom recovery for the LG G Watch (dory). Say goodbye to your warranty folks, the age of ROMing your wristwatch is upon us.
As you can see from the picture, the default TWRP theme isn't quite optimized for such a small screen, so those of us with larger digits will have to be careful.
Manufactures have been scaling back the included extras that come with hardware for a while now - you won't find included headphones or cases with any of the latest flagship phones. But you can generally rely on getting a USB cable and a wall-wart charger at least. Such is the case with the current Android Wear devices, the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. But if you have one, you'd better hold onto that charger like it's made of gold, because it might as well be. At present there doesn't seem to be any way to get a replacement.
The first Android Wear devices are just starting to show up on doorsteps, but already a second update is heading out to the Samsung Gear Live. The OTA bumps the build to KMV78X from KMV78V. What does it do? Unclear.