On The Road with Android Wear

Android Wear Layover

… Aaaand I’m back. Did you miss me? Don’t answer that. 😛

As I battle with jet lag over the next few days I’m making good on my promise to share some mobile-related insights from my two-week vacation in Australia. Today it’s Android Wear. I got in on the first run of the LG G Watch back in July with this trip in mind; here’s how I got on with it while I was away.

Getting There and Back

I’ll say again that my biggest disappointment was not being able to perform the boarding-pass-on-my-wrist trick, as demonstrated by YouTuber MKBHD on his way home from Google I/O. But I already knew this going in; though I had one hop from YYZ to JFK and back on American Airlines the remaining flights were all on Qantas. Plus, I’m not a frequent flyer with AA. Why? Because Cathay Pacific, that’s why!

But I digress…

As a tool to help my girlfriend and I more easily make our connections in JFK and LAX Android Wear was pretty much a bust—this wasn’t a fault of the G Watch, per se, but more a shortcoming of the travel apps on my phone. FlightTrack used to be really good at notifying me of gate changes and such; no such luck on this trip. I even signed up for a trial of TripIt Pro on the way back, but the ensuing flood of email alerts contained no more information than was already on my ticket.

Android Wear Compass

Back to the G Watch… On board my various flights I now had the novelty of putting another device into flight mode. There’s no “killer app” for Android Wear yet—at least for me—but during take-offs and landings I found myself glued to my favourite new thing: a compass! I’m fairly certain that this feature isn’t exclusive to Android Wear, though.

Wear Mini Launcher

Getting to that compass was made much easier by the Wear Mini Launcher, an app so useful that I don’t honestly remember how I got around my G Watch without it. If there’s a must-have utility that makes Android Wear better I’d say this is it.

On a long-haul flight—like the fifteen hours we spent in the air from Los Angeles to Melbourne—I try not to check the time too much. In fact, shortly after our first meal I took the G Watch off my wrist and put it away until breakfast. Because this was an overnight flight the cabin lights were turned off so that people could sleep. And every time I moved my wrist the G Watch would immediately light up, likely annoying the hell out of my fellow passenger across the aisle.

A Life-Saver (Kinda)

The moment when my G Watch paid for itself came with an unexpected phone call from the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. I had reserved two VIP tickets for a visit to the property the next day, but for some reason my credit card payment didn’t go through. Because I saw on my wrist that the phone tucked away in my bag was ringing I was able to take the call and save the day.

Only thing is, I not only felt the vibration of the G Watch on my wrist, but also the vibration of my actual phone in my bag. Would I have still been able to answer that call without Android Wear? Maybe not as quick, but yes nonetheless.

Wear and Tear

G Watch Corrosion

During two weeks of rough and tumble travel my G Watch fared pretty well, despite the inevitable bump against a door handle or some other stupid thing. I was pretty surprised, though, to discover upon my return home that one of the metal contact points for the charging cradle was showing signs of corrosion. It’s a known problem, one which I don’t think I can attribute to my own sweat—it was winter in Australia when we visited, after all!

Is Android Wear For You?

So, my verdict… How many Howies out of five do the G Watch and Android Wear get? It depends.

Based on what I’ve read about Samsung’s flimsy charging mechanism for the Gear Live, I think I made the right choice with the G Watch. Then again, there are already rumours about the imminent announcement of the G Watch 2. And then there’s that Best Buy leak of the Moto 360’s retail price, significantly less than what was expected for the most watch-like execution of Android Wear to date.

Speaking of price, I’d be entirely remiss if I didn’t point out that the $249 CAD I paid for my G Watch is the same going rate for an Acer Chromebook, also from the Play Store.

As for Android Wear itself it still seems to me that its primary raison d’être is notifications on your wrist. There have been attempts to get more content on that tiny 280 x 280 pixel screen—some, like Attopedia, aren’t actually too bad; others, like the Wear Internet Browser, seem to have completely forgotten the bandwidth limitations of Bluetooth for data.

I’m still waiting for Android Wear’s killer app—something that’s both useful (like a compass) and unique (not like a compass). Until then my G Watch is a handy but expensive and not-at-all indispensable accessory.

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