Archive for the ‘Smartwatches’ Category

Top 10 Android Wear watch faces

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Android Wear smartwatches have only been available for a few weeks, but already developers have produced some excellent custom watch faces for the system. While the official SDK will be released to developers later this year to smooth over the rough edges, already it’s worth taking a look at what’s available. Let’s have a look at ten of the best watch faces for Android Wear!

Woto Watch Face

This watch face is a recreation of the stylish analogue design on the Motorola Moto 360. The face is perhaps the nicest custom analogue option I’ve seen for Android Wear so far, although it’s still possible to have larger notifications block the bottom part of the display. While the face will look better on a round dial, it still looks good on the Gear Live or G Watch.

Better Wear Face

Better Wear Face is a customisable face, which has the time and temperature in rather small print. The standout feature of the watch is being able to set a custom background, so you can do amusing things like set your own face as your watch face.

Wear LCD Watchface

Want a retro LCD watch? You can have just that with the Wear LCD watch face, which puts the look of an entire old-school LCD watch on your wrist. The face even includes those sweet feature descriptions like “ALARM CHRONO” and “WATER RESIST”, which are all technically true, I guess.

Chron

Chron is a Tron-inspired watchface, with a mixture of digital and analogue elements. Like many others, its bottom third will be covered by larger notification cards, but unobscured it’s definitely one of the sweetest looking faces available. The only downside is that the second counter disappears when the watch face sleeps, leaving something like “17:11:–”.

Matrix

Matrix screensavers were officially the coolest available a decade ago, and now you can recapture that glory with the Matrix watch face. The Matrix watch faces overlays a simple LCD-style time readout with the famous columns of letters, numbers and Japanese characters.

Binary Watch Face

This watch face is unadulterated nerd cred, even though it’s far from the most convenient watch face to read. You can choose the colour of the face, and make some other small changes too.

Terminal Watch Face

Open the terminal of your choice and type in date – you’ll get a nice little readout of the date and time. Now imagine the same thing on your watch – that’s the Terminal watch face. It’s not the most readable choice, but the glowing green on black lettering should be appreciated by most Linux nerds.

Secret Agent

If you’ve ever played Goldeneye on N64, you’ll appreciate this watch face which mirrors the one that James Bond wore in the game. While the dial is fairly obscured, it’s a faithful recreation that will definitely get a few nods in sufficiently geeky crowds.

Text

This watch face is one of the few good text-based faces available. It has words for each possible time written out, and then it highlights the relevant areas to give you the information you need. It’s a bit cluttered looking, but it’s a nice style.

StarWatch

Our final watch face is a must have for any Star Trek fan. Called StarWatch, the face mirrors the look of consoles on The Next Generation era sci-fi show, with brightly coloured geometric shapes on a black background. There’s plenty to see here too, with the time, date, and Unix epoch (seconds since January 1st 1970).

Moto 360 revealed: charger, back, compared to G Watch & battery life

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

The Moto 360 has yet to be formally launched, but a lucky Italian blogger called Luca Viscardi has managed to detail his experiences with the watch on his website. The article includes some interesting new photos of the device, including our first look at the watch’s rather stylish charger, the back of the watch and even a comparison with the G Watch. Let’s take a closer look.

So this is the Moto 360 while charging. It sits atop an angled wireless charger, seemingly similar to that of the Nexus 4. The Qi charger is just the right size for the watch, and it looks like the 360 is held in place with a small lip and/or magnets. Hopefully it’ll be possible to use third-party Moto 360 accessories too, particularly less expensive chargers.

The charging interface shown on the watch is quite beautiful (particularly compared to the simple icons we’ve seen on the G Watch and Gear Live), but the circle is unfortunately broken by the lower section of the watchface, which houses various display circuitry and remains black. This looks fine while the watch is vertical, but when placed horizontally it’s a lot more noticeable… hopefully the design will be changed before the watch is released.

The back of the watch also shows a few secrets. There’s a small hole (presumably for the heartrate sensor) in the centre, with a ring of feature descriptions. The circle reads ”stainless steel 316L - optical heart rate sensor - wireless charging - pedometer - water resistant IP67 – Moto 360″. There are no charging pins here, so we can assume that wireless charging is the only way forward. I wonder how the Moto 360 will connect to a computer for ADB, then?

The blog post also includes some impressions of the watch. The watch appears to last a long time – 2.5 days – compared to the day or so of the G Watch. The strap is replaceable, like the Gear Live and G Watch, so it should be possible to swap in your own strap in the material and colour of your choice. The leather strap Moto 360 seems to have been used here, but a metal Moto 360 variant has also been teased.

The final picture is the size comparison between the G Watch and the Moto 360. The 360 looks smaller here than I expected, with a wider but shorter face than the G Watch. The default watch face really looks stunning here, particularly while the full colour is active, with notifications sitting fairly naturally above the screen element at the bottom.

What do you think of the Moto 360, as revealed by these photos? Let us know in the comments below or speak to us on Twitter @mobilefun!

LG G Watch reviewed: the first Android Wear smartwatch

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

i7pxkSS.jpg (636×291)

The LG G Watch is one of the first smartwatches on Google’s new Android Wear platform. The G Watch offers a fluid new interface, Google Now integration and a powerful hardware specification. With the Moto 360 and the iWatch still to come this year, is the G Watch worth it for anyone else than an early adopter? Let’s find out together.

Pros

  • Rapidly expanding watch face & app ecosystem
  • Sensible interface for seeing and responding to notifications
  • Google Now provides timely, often accurate information
  • Good performance with horsepower to spare
  • Water-resistant and rugged design (including charger)

Cons

  • Requires recharging with your smartphone each day or two
  • Sunlight visibility is poor compared to real watches
  • Voice commands are still socially questionable and not always understood in real-life situations

Summary

The LG G Watch is one of the best smartwatches to be released to date, thanks to a sensible interface, a strong developer community and the eery prescience of Google Now. That said, the form factor is still immature and the G Watch stumbles into many of the same pitfalls as its peers, namely poor sunlight visibility and limited battery life.

Hardware

The G Watch sports a square 280×280 1.65-inch display that monopolises your attention, with the black bezel and standard 22mm watch strap fading into the background. The three layer main body – black plastic, metal band, white plastic – is sealed for IP67 water resistance and feels solid in the hand.

AriW2xO.jpg (636×237)

There are two colour options available: black (with silver-coloured metal) and white (with gold-coloured metal). The white strap is a little more eye-catching than the standard black colour, but both are thoroughly ordinary. If you’d prefer something a little more interesting, then it’s simple to swap in a different 22mm band of leather, plastic or metal.

msZBs1l.jpg (636×249)

Inside, there’s a Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor running at 1.2GHz, half a gigabyte of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage and a few sensors – compass, gyro and accelerometer. That package is better than some mid-range phones on the market, an impressive feat for a watch.

Connectivity is limited to microUSB (via a rectangular dock connected with pogo pins on the bottom of the watch) and Bluetooth 4; there’s no built-in GPS, WiFi or cell connectivity here, so the watch relies on its connection to your phone.

cKPno7Z.jpg (636×209)

In terms of hardware, the G Watch sits between the minimal (but long-lasting) Pebble and the feature-filled (but complex and short-lived) Gear 2. It feels like a fitting place to be, providing a nice platform for Android Wear to perform at its best.

Setup

Google have done really well to craft a painless setup procedure which gets your watch connected quickly. Installation is just a case of installing the Android Wear app from the Play Store on your phone, turning on Bluetooth and running the app. The only way the process could be improved is through NFC in the watch; then you could just tap it to your phone to perform the whole pairing process.

ETTFL92.jpg (636×281)

After pairing, you’re shown how to navigate the watch’s touch interface with a few easy examples. After that, you’re left to swipe and perform voice commands at your own pace – and even if you’re new to smartwatches, you’ll pick things up fast.

Software

Android-based smartwatches have been fairly disappointing in the past (e.g. Samsung Gear, Sony SmartWatch 2), so it’s great to see Google step up to provide its own vision: Android Wear, a custom version of Android 4.4 with a card-based interface and voice controls.

E5P2E7k.jpg (636×208)

The new OS is based around Google Now, the Californian company’s personal assistant on Android. Google Now scans your email and monitors your web searches to provide well-timed and unusually accurate information as you go about your day. You’ll find directions to the restaurant you searched for, reminders to leave in time for appointments on your calendar, traffic information,  fitness tracking, local weather reports and even shipping despatches for items you’ve ordered online. If you’re willing to trust Google with your information, you’ll be rewarded with a genuinely useful personal assistant.

As well as Google Now items, you’ll also find that notifications from your phone appear on your watch as well. Many apps also allow you to act on these notifications immediately – you can dictate responses to text messages received, favourite or retweet your mentions on Twitter and accept or reject incoming calls. The practical benefit to all this is simple: 90% of the time, you can keep your phone in your pocket, dealing with notifications without breaking the flow of conversation or your own concentration.

lZqzOH9.jpg (636×207)

You don’t have to just use your G Watch reactively, either. You can also use voice commands or a few swipes to send messages, set alarms or mark down reminders. Android Wear can even run full-blown apps, which range from practical (compass, Tinder, Evernote) to amusingly impractical (Flappy Bird). Apps are being written at a considerable rate, which is an encouraging sign for the platform.

When it comes to software, Google’s Android Wear platform is the best we’ve seen on a smartwatch to date, with an intuitive interface, good performance and sensible data sources.

Watch

As well as being a smart device, the G Watch is also supposed to be an actual replacement for your watch. Compared to a traditional watch though, the G Watch suffers from many of the same issues as other smartwatches.

mXaOaDE.jpg (636×415)

 

Battery life is probably the most important. At 36 hours from the 400mAh battery, you’ll be charging the G Watch at least every couple of days. That’s terrible compared to the months or years of life you get out of most watches, and two or three times worse than the popular Pebble smartwatch… but it’s also an inevitability if you want a watch with an LCD display. It’s not a design issue, but it is something you should be aware of.

Sunlight visibility is the other bugbear. The G Watch’s LCD seems a bit easier to read in sunlight compared to the Gear Live’s AMOLED, but it’s still awful compared to the Sony SmartWatch’s transflective display, Pebble’s e-ink screen and actual watches.

3o9YH1D.jpg (636×207)

Style is the remaining consideration, and it’s another area of weakness for the G Watch. The watch doesn’t look bad per se, but it’s incredibly bland compared to the designs that have been produced from the long-running watch industry. Replaceable bands help somewhat, but even with the most stylish band in the world you’ll still have a boring piece of metal and plastic as the centrepiece.

Apart from these limitations, the G Watch performs well. The display remains on throughout the day and activates easily when you tilt your wrist, and there are plenty of analogue and digital watch faces to choose from. If you spend most days indoors and you already charge a smartphone every night, then you won’t run into many deal-breakers here.

Wrap-up

The LG G Watch serves its purpose: showcasing the Android Wear platform that Google has been developing for the past two years. The G Watch is powerful enough, simple to set up and provides willing early adopters with practical benefits: convenient access to notifications, the ability to send short responses, and it tells the time. If you want to buy a smartwatch now, then the G Watch is a great choice.

2pTpIl4.png (636×458)

Of course, there’s sense in waiting too; smartwatches are still an immature form factor, and rapid improvements may be made over the next year. Motorola’s Moto 360 and Apple’s iWatch are the next big smartwatches on the horizon, and initial indications are that style, sunlight visibility and battery life will all be improved. For that reason, you may want to put off your smartwatch purchase until these two anticipated models – and no doubt dozens of other contenders – are released in the latter half of 2014.

Replacement G Watch and Gear Live chargers coming soon

Friday, July 18th, 2014

The LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live came out earlier this month, and already we’re having a lot of fun with them. The two new Android Wear smartwatches are great, but they do have one big flaw: to charge them, you need a special charger that clips to the bottom of each watch.

That’s not a bad thing by itself, but it’s a bit risky – if you ever lose or damage that charger, you can’t charge your watch. The Samsung Gear Live’s charger is particularly worrisome, as we’ve already have reports that it is very easy to break accidentally.

LG G Watch charger

Samsung Gear Live charger

LG and Samsung do not sell replacement chargers, so we’re sourcing our own chargers to serve as replacements and spares. These chargers will offer the same charging speed syncing capabilities and other features, so you’ll have 100% compatibility with each smartwatch.

Pictured: Broken Gear Live chargers

These chargers will be coming soon to Mobile Fun. In the meantime, you can register your interest and see more information via the product pages linked below:

We’ll bring you more information on these replacement chargers and other LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live accessories as we have them, including a potential release date and price.

Thanks for joining us and stay tuned for more accessories, news and updates from Mobile Fun. Please feel free to leave your comments below or talk to us on Twitter @mobilefun. We’re always happy to hear from you!

Top 5 smartwatches: July 2014

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

2014 is the year of the smartwatch. These wearable accessories offer notifications, fitness tracking and even the time, all on your wrist. In this article, we’ll share our recommendations for the five best smartwatches on the market.

5. Sony SmartWatch 2

Sony SmartWatch Android Watch - Black MetalSony SmartWatch Android Watch

Sony were one of the first mobile companies to create a smartwatch, letting them hit a second generation before most companies had come out with their first. The SmartWatch 2 is a solid choice, with a transflective display that’s easy to read in sunlight, decent battery life and a reasonable amount of apps. The price is right too, usually coming in a fair bit under £100. Unfortunately for Sony, Google’s new Android Wear OS is gaining speed fast, and the SmartWatch 2 is far less attractive as a development target – meaning we’ll see less apps in the future.

4. Samsung Gear 2

Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 Smartwatch - Black    Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 Smartwatch - Black

The Samsung Gear 2 is another watch to be released just before Android Wear, so it too will have to fight for developers to create apps for it, despite quite strong sales. The Gear 2 is the ultimate do-everything watch, with tons of functionality you won’t find anywhere else – including a built-in camera and speaker, so you can take phone calls and photos from your wrist. It’s all very futuristic, but poor battery life, medicore interface and relatively high price point make the Gear 2 a poor choice if you’re not interested in its additional functions and/or you don’t have a Samsung phone to use it with.

3. LG G Watch

LG G Watch for Android Smartphones - Stealth Black    LG G Watch for Android Smartphones - Stealth Black

The LG G Watch is one of two Android Wear smartwatches to be released this month, giving the watch a clean touch and voice interface and a rapidly growing stable of apps. The watch’s square design isn’t ground-breaking, but it does the job, and its 400 mAh battery and Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor provide lasting performance. At £150, the G Watch is decently priced too.

2. Pebble

Black Pebble Smartwatch - Jet Black    Black Pebble Smartwatch - Jet Black

The Pebble is the first popular smartwatch, the result of a record-breaking crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter. Unlike the other watches on this list, the Pebble opts for a Kindle-style e-ink display, allowing it to last much longer – you can get about a week from a Pebble, compared to a day or two from LCD/AMOLED screens. The black-and-white display has a low refresh rate though, limited the kind of apps that can run on it.

In terms of style, the Pebble is a mixed bag. The original, cheaper model is plasticky and hobbyist in looks, although the later Pebble Steel improves on this front considerably. Another plus point is that the Pebble works with iOS and Android equally well, making it one of the few good cross-platform options. The final consideration, apps, goes the Pebble’s favour as well, thanks to a hearty developer community that has been working for a long time now.

1. Samsung Gear Live

Samsung Gear Live Smartwatch - Black    Samsung Gear Live Smartwatch - Black

The Gear Live is the other Android Wear smartwatch to debut this month. Compared to the G Watch, the Gear Live has a cleaner look with a more form-fitting shape, a neater watch-band and a higher-resolution Super AMOLED display. The G Watch does compare favourably on some points though, as the Gear Live has a 25% smaller battery and fewer watch-faces pre-installed. On balance, the Gear Live is probably the better option of the two, and that’s enough to give it the first place ranking this time around.

Conclusion

While the G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live are two great additions to the smartwatch ecosystem, there’s still much more to come that’ll certainly shake up the rankings. The Moto 360 from Motorola launches this fall and has a beautiful circular dial, and runs the same excellent Android Wear OS as the G Watch and Gear Live. Apple’s rumoured iWatch is another big contender, although we don’t yet know what exactly what it will look like. Knowing Apple though, it could be a blockbuster.

It looks like it’ll be an exciting few months. Stay tuned for the latest smartwatch news right here at Mobile Fun, and be sure to let us know what you thought of the ranking in our comments below! You can also reach us on Twitter @mobilefun.

Index of Smartwatches