I’ve been living with the Galaxy Gear Live, Samsungs answer to the Android-powered watch. It’s been an interesting month, as people typically notice that I’ve got a different watch on and a lot of people ask which model of the Apple watch did I get. With a bit of a smile and a laugh, I have to tell them that it’s not an Apple Watch and that it’s the Samsung Gear Live.
Some haven’t heard of it while others just know it’s an Android watch. I will admit I’ve gotten a few people that have asked why I didn’t get an Apple Watch. I won’t even touch that topic, but suffice to say I’m a major Android fan.
The Gear Live was released in June of 2014, by Samsung and Google. It’s Samsung’s only smartwatch that is powered Android Wear, and not by Samsun’s own Tizen OS. The initial advantage of this is that developers are already familiar with the Android OS and they don’t have to redevelop their apps for another system. But the app ecosystem, which you can see here, for it is still lacking and wanting for more.
The watch itself relies on Google Now and, in turn, your phone to do most things. But there are certain things, such as making notes, adding calendar events, and the lot that it either can’t do or doesn’t do well without another app to support or help improve the function. A great example is a calendar. I couldn’t do anything with a calendar or event via the watch before I downloaded a third party calendar app through the play store. I couldn’t view, add, change, or even look at a calendar.
I use Google Fit and it pulls the majority of the data from the watch, such as heart rate, steps via the watches pedometer. While I’m on the topic of fitness, something I feel was a shot in the foot on Samsung’s end was not offering support of the Gear Live through their own fitness tracking app S Health, which only supports their devices that are running the Tizen OS.
One particular launcher app, Wear Mini Launcher, really sucked the life out of my watch. This was with very minimal use. The app itself creates an app tray and really does make using various apps far easier on the watch, but for me, it wasn’t worth sacrificing battery life for. I’d like to note that I use the watch really as a watch, and occasionally use some of it’s more advanced features, and I do use the fitness end of it regularly but the mini launcher app was without a doubt the cause of the decreased battery life.
It works well with Google Now, and while the watch does run it’s Google Now through your phone I do find that Google Now works better on my phone directly, versus the watch itself. I’d give Google Now a 9 out of 10 on the phone, and a 6.5 or 7 out of 10 on the watch. It also isn’t as rich.
The watch face itself is extremely customizable. However, the stock watch faces are a bit simple but do offer a taste of what the faces can do. I use two separate watch faces, depending on my mood. One is a classic analogue style watch face that displays the union jack flag as the background. The second is a kind of crossword puzzle watch face which you can see in the first photo in this post.
I wear the watch to work and typically just use it as a standard watch and occasionally I use the timer or stopwatch. I also use it to track my steps and what have you through Google Fit. Now compared to my time with the watch, without Wear Mini Launcher, with intense use of the Google Now, text messaging, and various other things the watch typically finds it way back to the charging cradle at 40% at the lowest charge. I would say for battery life that apps will be the biggest factor, even if you don’t use them a lot or at all, it does appear that these do affect the battery life on the watch.
I must say that the Gear Live has an amazing battery in it, compared to what I heard about other smartwatches and compared to what I thought it would. It, however, isn’t as good as I’d had hoped and it can’t stand against something like a Fitbit which can go for days without needing a charge. One thing that I notice really affects the battery are the apps you install on it.
As for my phone, which is a Samsung S5, which is less than a year old, typically runs for a few days before I need to charge it. On an average day, the battery is depleted to 70% on average. However with the watch paired with it, via Bluetooth, it sits around 40% to 50%, depending on the use of the watch and the phone. While that is quite a difference, I don’t find my phone or the watch dead, which to be honest is what I thought I’d see every day.
I’d have to say when it comes down to it, I’d suggest that anyone who’s looking to buy a smartwatch should take a look at the Gear Live and seriously consider it. I haven’t lived with the other Samsung or most other smartwatches, but I have got to try them out to the limits that most store models will allow. I feel that this watch has one of the better batteries in it. This comes from my personal experience and a lot of different reviews and comments I’ve taken into consideration from other people and sources.
With it being Android-based it offers a preestablished app ecosystem that is already flourishing, but admittedly isn’t as robust as its phone counterpart. I love the display, and that it works as an extension of my phone, so while this may sound lazy, I don’t have to pull my phone out of my pocket or be near my phone most of the time. I can typically cross my apartment and it’ll still work. It also has a great value, as it runs around $199, however, you can find it cheaper through Amazon or other sites. I purchased mine off Amazon for $109 and got free shipping with my Amazon Prime membership. This included the warranty from Samsung, free return if needed, and refund if requested. However after a month, I’m as happy as could be with the watch.
I’d like to say one last thing about smartwatches and wearables in general. While they’re cool I feel like they still haven’t moved beyond the first iteration of what wearables are and could be. They’re all very cool, they can be powerful, and in the case of some of the newer smartwatches like the Samsung S, which I think is a beautiful watch, it can make calls, it has it’s own cellular and data modules built in so it’s essentially a phone on your wrist, I don’t think they are where they could be or where the companies and people want them to be. I’d say give it five to ten years and the watches and wearables will be even better and if we are lucky they’ll be as good or, at least, comparable to smartphones.