Our correspondent Melissa Perenson is at Google I/O this week, and she got her hands on the first set of Android Wear watches to be shown to the public. Here are her impressions:
With the LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live, and Motorola Moto 360, a big challenge became clear: how to differentiate themselves from each other. Price will certainly be an issue, but so will design finishes and subtleties of operation. Although we got some limited time with the watches, the units on display all ran in a demo “retail” mode, showing off how to access Google card-like info like weather and time, ask Google questions, view messages, or how to control music on your smartphone.
The most interesting of the three Android Wear watches was the Moto 360. It’s the only one of the three to have a circular display that mimics what we’re used to for a watch. Motorola didn’t discuss the display size, but we’re guessing it at about 2 inches. The Android Wear spec supports a circular interface at a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels.
The Moto 360 stands out the most for doing something that’s unique—at least for now. The well-executed, elegant circular design and lightweight aluminum body made this a quick favorite. More critically, the watch not only felt comfortable to wear on our small wrist, its circular form and soft leather wristband felt at home, too.
Of the three, the LG watch looked and felt the squarest of the bunch, with simple design and interchangeable bands. The display handles the 280 x 280 pixel resolution of the Android Wear spec.
The Samsung Gear Live appeared stylish, with chrome finishes and a very similar design to Samsung’s other smartwatch, the Samsung Gear 2. The Gear Live has some graceful contours, and uses a flexible 22mm standard watch band.
What’s notable about the Gear Live is that it exists at all. Samsung has been backing away from Android; its Gear 2 runs the Tizen operating system and costs $100 less than the Gear 2. When asked, a Samsung spokesperson noted that the market (a/k/a consumers) was still sorting out what it wanted from a smartwatch. We suspect one (or several) of three things: that the Gear Live is simply Samsung covering its bases; that Gear Live was so far down the development path when Samsung switched to Tizen that the company figured that it may as well release it anyway; or that Samsung was contractually obligated to get the Live to market. Regardless, the idea of having two such similar watches from one manufacturer could get problematic for consumers.
The one clear difference between Samsung’s two models is that, as an Android Wear-device, Gear Live is optimized to work with Google’s own cloud services.
The LG and Samsung watches are available now for pre-order via Google Play, and will be available by July 7 for $229 and $199, respectively. The Motorola watch will ship later this summer; the price hasn’t been announced yet.