Product Review: Samsung Gear Live

What do you think about Samsung’s Gear Live smartwatch?  (Photo credit: play.google.com)

What do you think about Samsung’s Gear Live smartwatch? (Photo credit: play.google.com)

After focusing a Sunday Musings on wearables last month and toying with the idea of getting a smartwatch for about a week, I finally caved and purchased the Samsung Gear Live from the Google Play Store.  Within two days, the smartwatch was at my doorstep and ready for use.  Below are a few thoughts and considerations for the device, along with a wishlist for improvements.  You will also find a few app recommendations sprinkled in.

Ahead of the purchase, I had read a good amount of complaints about the Gear Live’s band and the way that you snap it into position on your wrist.  I actually don’t have any problem with getting the band on my wrist and it fits comfortably.

Samsung Gear Live Band

There were also a lot of comments on the charging device.  Again, I don’t have a problem with the charger either.  Is it a little awkward?  Sure.  Is it hard to attach to the back of my watch?  No, not at all.  That said, my mind/opinion would immediately change on the charger if (or when) the prongs start to break and I have to purchase a new one.

Samsung Gear Live Charger

Finally, setting up the phone is as easy as promoted.  Simply download the Android Wear app in the Play market, turn on your Bluetooth on your mobile and power up the smartwatch.  You will receive a sync approval message and that’s that, you are connected.

Positives:

One of the biggest reasons for purchasing the smartwatch was to track my health a bit more closely.  I tried using my S5 and the S Health app, but I found myself getting annoyed at trying to remember to put my phone in my pocket as I walked around the house.  I figured using a pedometer on the smartwatch would be much easier … and it is.  I also found the heart rate monitor to be much easier to use vs. putting my finger on the sensor on the back of my S5.  Net/net, the beta version of Google Fit works better on my smartwatch vs. trying to track this data via my phone.

Voice texting is pretty awesome on the Gear Live … after switching to the Hangouts app.  Originally, I was using the Message+ app from Verizon and voice texting simply was not working.  After switching off to Hangouts for my primary texting service, voice texting worked almost flawlessly.  Occasionally there will be a misunderstanding or the watch doesn’t catch what I’m saying, but overall, this works pretty well and is becoming more regular/normal for me to do as each day passes.

Where there is room for improvement:

In my first positive I mention the good parts of Google Fit.  However, what I mentioned as the “positives” are really the only parts to Google Fit right now.  This is very much a beta version.  At the very least, it would be nice to have a complimentary app to plug in what I eat/drink on my mobile devices, note when I exercise, etc.

I would like to see better integration across Google Apps as soon as possible.  While you can drop a new note/reminder into the Keep app, you can’t edit existing apps that you have already created.  I would love to be able to use Wallet directly on the Gear Live as well.

Apps:

There are two essential apps that you will want to download as soon as you get your Gear Live.  The Wear Store app will keep you up to date on all of the latest and greatest app releases for Android Wear.  The Wear Mini Launcher app is also a must have.  After downloading, simply swipe to the left on your Gear Live and and all of the apps will appear for you.

I’ve downloaded two games to keep myself occupied and to see how functional they are.  The first was a simple tic-tac-toe app.  The second is Flopsy Droid, which I love.

Finally, I have switched weather apps across my devices.  So long Weather Channel and hello to 1Weather.

The app market for Android Wear does make it feel that much more of a beta version.  There are Twitter apps, but nothing official from the company.  One only lets you send a tweet, another only lets you read your Twitter feed.  So, that leaves a lot to be desired.  I would also like to see an official app from Foursquare/Swarm.  The ability to check-in via voice control would be a nice little perk.

Overall:

Personally, I really like the Samsung Gear Live.  The smartwatch does have a beta feel to it and there are obviously improvements to be made / forthcoming.  If you are in the market for a smartwatch, I would have no reservations about recommending this to you.  For those that aren’t ready or aren’t sure if they are ready, you are probably better off waiting until the market becomes a bit more mature, or you are likely to feel a bit underwhelmed with the product.