back to article Android Wear: The bloatware that turned into gloatware

After multiple delays, Google is finally launching Android Wear 2 today, nine months after revealing it to world+dog. This is Google's last chance to give Wear a purpose, in a market that's been savage to so many wearables. Otherwise, it's back to the drawing board. The Wear platform was rushed out to beat Apple to market, and …

  1. djstardust

    Not an essential piece of kit

    I had the LG G Watch R for about 9 months.

    It was a decent piece of kit, but the fact the charge only lasted 36 hours and the bluetooth disconnecting all the time essentially made it useless.

    I did like the bright display, the instant notifications when they actually worked (handy in meetings) and the app to change the music remotely in Poweramp but that was it really.

    I'm back to my Casio CFX-200 scientific calculator smartwatch from 1983 which is better looking, far more reliable and only needs a new battery every six years.

    To me the smartwatch market is dead. I certainly wouldn't consider another one. I know several people with the Apple watch and they just use it to show off and look like twats.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Yes that's very clever,

    What exactly does it do for me and why will I pay $WTF to do it?

    Technology push can sometimes take people in directions they never realized they wanted to go.

    But a lot more lasting success seems to come from finding out what people are unhappy with now and just doing something to fix that.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Yes that's very clever,

      Once upon a time, I might play music by physically plugging my phone into an amplifier. In such a scenario, a smartwatch that would let me skip a track without walking up to the tethered phone would be handy.

      However, these days the phone just instructs a Chromecast Audio - there is no need to leave the phone on the other side of the room, and so less use for a 'remote control for my phone'.

      That said, I would like to see more control options for phones. I'm probably not the only one. I've seen quite a few people hear their phone ringing from deep inside their handbag - they might benefit from a little screen that clips to the top of their bag so they can see whether it is worth rummaging to take the call. I also know people who get genuine use from their 'Tile' - about the size of a bottle cap, it allows them to 'page' theior phone if they have mislaid it. This paging works both ways, so that their phone can be used to find whatever their Tile is attached to - usually a bunch of keys.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Apple Claims...

    As they don't release sales figures for the Watch it is hard to justify either that they are claiming or anything else. They are saying that sales are good but if the plan was to sell 1,000 and they sold 2,000 then yes, sales are good.

    Other people (Apple Watchers(sic)) are claiming that the Apple Watch is taking up to 80% of the market. Again, there really is little evidence to support these claims one way or the other.

    I'd even go futher and say that I've never seen anyone wearing a 'smart watch'. I saw plenty of FitBits in San Francisco last year but that's it.

    I have no inclination to even try a smart watch.

    Now if there was a Half Hunter (or proper Fob) version then I might think about it.

    I suspect that I am not alone in going 'Meh' to the whole smart watch thingy.

    I suspect that Google knows this and this is the Android Wear swansong. Get one (if you are interested) while stocks last.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple Claims...

      Actually, someone did craft a metal, pocket watch style case for iWatch. Go to Amazon and search for Apple Watch fob and I spotted one there. Looks interesting and coincides with my own wish for such a thing last summer when I got the iWatch. I got one because I was working at the Fruit Factory kicking that stupid iPhone 7 out of the door. I'm not there anymore, so no need to wear it, right? I've got every type of solar+atomic watch that Citizen and Casio make, and the iWatch is still easier to care for despite the daily charging. The atomic watches all need to be off-wrist during their nightly time-syncing AND facing east, there is no wearing it 24/7, no syncing if you get the position wrong.

      Who cares if those batteries last ten years? I can't wear them that long. To me, the fitness tracking is not a necessary service, but I end up using it everyday to track my sitting too long, and a low-calorie day makes it look like I did something more than nothing. The NFC Apple Pay works great, and I don't have to pull out the giant phone to do it. Same thing with taking calls, or checking news, weather, messages, replying to texts, and the other goodies I installed on there like a Kodi remote. Its as small and light as any other watch I own and the fact that I don't have to walk around with my phone in hand like a teen-douche is worth the price of admission alone. So, please, check your time with a giant phone device, and keep it in hand. You look AWESOME! You can't even tell this is an iWatch unless you're right on top of it. Still, it keeps the Apple Hater Club going to complain loudly about some popular tech gear you can't afford, don't understand, and just need something to bitch about to make yourself seem informed. How's that working out for you? :P

      1. AIBailey

        Re: Apple Claims...

        The atomic watches all need to be off-wrist during their nightly time-syncing AND facing east, there is no wearing it 24/7, no syncing if you get the position wrong.

        If you're so concerned about knowing the exact time, that you need your wristwatch to sync to an atomic source every evening, can I suggest you get a hobby instead. There are far more important things to occupy most peoples thoughts.

  4. joejack

    Nice overview!

    I think Pebble was on the right track with eInk screens and an open ecosystem, but they were too inaccurate for me to consider. I hope Fitbit does something interesting with them, but they seem to be going in the wrong direction lately.

    1. James 51

      I understand why they went for it but the fitness stuff was a distraction for pebble.

  5. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Features and Value

    What the features and their value to the user? Other than possibly some monitoring of something like pulse, blood pressure what do they do that a smartphone does not already do? Since most people will have a smartphone what is the real value to most.

    They seem to be niche products not mass market products.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Features and Value

      I really like mine (metal band Sony Smartwatch3). I can stick the rubber band on, use it for running, swimming and not need my phone, it will track my run, and do music on my Bt heaphones. It's got a battery good for 3 days. It's a rather impressive gadget and I use mine all the time. Aside from the sports use, with the metal band, it looks decent and means I don't have to take my phone out my pocket.

      I do REALLY like the look of the LG watch thou.

  6. Badger Murphy

    Doomed from the beginning

    Now that you've all probably recovered from the complete and utter lack of shock at this revelation, I'd like to really stress the main points here that, in my opinion, are the reasons for the failure of this market.

    1.) Wearables don't do anything that a significant subset of the market wants or cares about.

    2.) They're decidedly nerdy. No matter how elegant they are made to look, they are, at their core, a reincarnation of the pocket protector. Even the Apple Watch suffers from this.

    I don't consider myself to be a super cool guy or anything; I'm a network engineer and decidedly in the "computer geek" category, but even I find the very idea of these things to be LAAAA-AAAAME.

    1. quxinot

      Re: Doomed from the beginning


      My watch tells the time, and makes me happy each time I look at it.

      My phone is constantly reminding me to do crap and asking for my time (through the people messaging me in various forms with it). My desired life neither revolves around my phone nor do I want a reminder of the myriad ways my time is wasted when I look at my wrist.

      Therefore, my watch tells the time. And that's enough.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Doomed from the beginning

        >2.) They're decidedly nerdy. No matter how elegant they are made to look, they are, at their core, a reincarnation of the pocket protector.

        It is perfectly possible to make a connected smartwatch that looks indistinguishable from a traditional analogue watch. I would suggest that the 'nerdy' appearance is an issue of current implementation, and not an insurmountable problem.

        Making a watch vibrate in response to an incoming call or text doesn't change its appearance. Useful information can be conveyed through the watch hands, or even a single RGB LED.

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Doomed from the beginning

          Yes, the watch hands could be used like semaphores! It seems so obvious now... brilliant!

  7. Jason Bloomberg

    I actually like the idea of the Neptune Prime and similar; too big to sensibly be a watch but potentially a convenient micro-tablet. But they don't cost £20 nor last a month without recharging so I am not that interested. I'll be sticking with my Casio watch and an Android phone in my pocket.

  8. Jason Hindle

    Well I like my Motorola 360

    And I'm sad to see Android Wear hasn't been some sort of success. I guess it will have to join MSX computers and Olympus DSLRs* among many other failed things I've bet on over the years.

    * Just the DSLRs though - since they started with the whole mirrorless thing, they seem quite a safe bet these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well I like my Motorola 360

      I have the Moto 360 sport and find it really useful too. I hadn't worn a watch for 20 years and thought I never would again, but I wear mine daily. So why do I find it useful (of course YMMV , these is my personal use cases)

      I don't have notification sounds on at work on my phone so to have my watch vibrate and tell me I have a meeting soon is really useful when I haven't realised the current meeting/chat/task is overrunning a little. I can quickly and subtly glance at it to see that I have an appointment - getting my phone out is a bit more intrusive. I can also set alarms that don't bother other people as they just vibrate on my wrist (I rarely keep my phone in my pocket when I'm sat down - It's normally out of the way).

      When I am on the mountains I can quickly see a current grid reference, waypoint direction or distance check without needing to get my phone out, unlock it, re-open the app, risk it getting wet etc (The 360 sport has a built in GPS). As I am in mountain rescue I find it a real benefit. In fact, just sending and receiving texts/whatsapp etc without having to get my phone out when the weather is dire and I have multiple layers on is far better. When skiing I don't need to take my gloves off to see messages from other people in our group who want to meet for lunch or to show locations of other people when we get separated.

      I use a range of apps that are far simpler to be able to quickly and regularly glance at on a watch than a phone and also using different watch faces for different occasions is useful. and also the fact that you can extend the features using new apps or create your own to do loads of different task (as long as the platform still exists) is great.

      However, I'm not someone who wishes to wear an expensive looking watch for fashion or jewellry, so I don't need to compare to wearing a more traditional timepiece, I just use it for the practicality.

  9. malfeasance

    Vector smartwatch

    Fitbit bought vector in Jan sadly. These guys would have been your new smartwatch provider. 30 day battery at least. Notifications. Music. Activity tracker of sorts.

    Nice looking timepiece; as in looks like a watch not some plastic tat.

    Even windows mobile compatible for the 10 people still with lumias.

  10. ma1010

    Mostly it's a matter of "What's the point?"

    Most of us carry smartphones these days. A smartwatch (except for possible pedometer-type and related "fitness" functions, a niche market) is pretty much redundant, it seems to me.

    Like many people, I don't even wear a wristwatch anymore (after wearing one for 25+ years). After all, my computers, my house, my office, my car and my motorcycle all have clocks, and if I'm somewhere else, I can take out my phone and look at it if I need to know the time. For most of us, I think it's a question of why spend good quid on a redundant bit of kit like a smartwatch?

    As has been said by others, it's pretty much a solution looking for a problem.

  11. Dwarf Silver badge

    Double take

    I skim read this as GoatWare.

    I suppose its only a matter of time before the marketing people will decide that there are new emerging markets where they have low coverage and they will try to get other animals to carry around their devices.

  12. Barry Page

    It seems highly likely that the market leader in Smartwatches is Garmin. Their watches have a specific purpose (fitness, activity) with only a nod to 'smart' features (notifications, calendar) and battery life of 2 weeks or more.

    Their value outweighs the attention you need to pay them (constant charging) even if you only use a few features.

    1. Darren Sandford

      I do love my Garmin watch. Notifications from my phone, heart rate and running/fitness tracking with a huge battery life. The display is basic colour LCD, but backlit transflective so you can see it in daylight without the backlight.

      Simple, only does what it needs. Being able to just wear it and charge it every couple of weeks is the thing that keeps me happy. Minimal maintenance. I can't imagine living with a watch I need to charge every day.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To every one who is slagging smart watches off as utterly useless, be careful about making such sweeping statements. For people with conditions that may affect their hearing and sense of touch a smart watch can be a convienent and discreet way to know you've received a message and what it was or if you should be scrambling to answer the phone or if it can wait. I don't need the fitness stuff. I just need something that can let me know who is calling and what the text message was. Template replies are good too.

  14. Peter 26

    Bloat v Usability

    I started with Pebble v1.0 when it first came out and moved to Huwaei Watch when Pebble went bust.

    The pebble was ugly but really useful for quickly reading a small message and deciding whether to get your phone out. Really good when speaking to someone or in a meeting, a quick look mid conversation without being rude.

    Android wear is absolutely appalling. It is designed to show off, not be usable day to day.

    With the pebble you received a message on your phone, the message immediately appeared on your watch to read, you had one button to press which scrolled down to read more, or the other button to cancel it. Most of the time I didn't even need to press a button, just twist my wrist and read what the notification was and make a mental note whether I could ignore it or not.

    With android wear your receive a message on your phone, your watch shows a small semi circle on the bottom that I have to swipe up, then I have to select the notification I want to read, then if I want to read more than 4 words of text I need to click on this which then does different things depending on the app. Sometimes you have to swipe left then up, other times just up. TBH I still haven't figured it out, I just fumble around trying to read the message, then just give up and get my phones out.

    How hard can you make it to read a bloody message!

    I'm going to give Android Wear 2.0 a go, but I am seriously considering selling it and buying a nicer pebble and hope it works long enough for someone to make a decent watch and software.

    The problem is I would really like the NFC with the new watches and integration with Android Pay, especially seeing as my house door opens with NFC, so I could use it for that...

    1. James 51

      Re: Bloat v Usability

      I have a pebble steel. Looks good, performs well. Only compaint is after 18 months the battery is down to three days but looking to get that replaced. Am tempted by a pebble time steel. Red and gold looks good although perhaps a little gaudy.

    2. Richard Cranium

      Re: Bloat v Usability

      @peter 26

      Maybe your Android Wear needs some configuration, mine works almost exactly the way you liked with Pebble. Maybe it's the watch face I've chosen: HuskyDev Classic watch face

      1. Peter 26

        Re: Bloat v Usability

        Thanks, I will check it out.

  15. Richard Cranium

    To every one who is slagging smart watches off as utterly useless...

    Don't slag it off on the basis of assumptions and preconceptions. Give one a fair trial then you can make rational experience based comment that might actually contribute some value to the discussion. "Never tried it but it's crap" says more about you than the device.

    I was a smart-watch cynic. Then I saw the Sony Smartwatch 3 on sale for just over £100, comparable with less versatile fitness bands, worth a try, if it's a fail, for £100 who cares.

    I resolved to live with it for a week to give it a fair trial. Now I'd not be parted from it and would gladly replace it with the next generation when it finally expires. The problem is that there's no "killer app", I can't say "Buy it because...". However the combination of seemingly insignificant factors adds up to "indispensable". If I were to tell you about one or even 10 of those you'd dismiss them as trivial and individually they are so I'll resist the urge. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts and I'd strongly recommend anyone give it a try.

    Keep the packaging so if you don't like it - well it was only about £100 and makes a nice gift for your geeky nephew. Of course if you're in the Apple ecosystem the deal changes - £400 (minimum) is too much but I expect the functionality is nearly as good.

    But let me just nail one common criticism "short battery life" - why don't smartphones get the same negativity when a smartphone battery might not even last the working day but my Sony3 lasts - well I don't know because I usually have it charging on the bedside at night but it's specified at 2 days and I've seldom seen it below 75% charged at end of day.

    Maybe the gripe about battery life is because our expectation of digital watches like Casio had become a battery life measured in years - but why doesn't the same apply to Mobiles, I remember battery life on those old Nokia's extending into weeks, now you struggle to get a working day.

    As for fitness and health monitoring - why do you need a device to tell you you've just run ten miles? you were there, where else do you think that hour went? Blood pressure and pulse - if you need that monitoring constantly you must be in a bad way, why aren't you in hospital? Mine does tell me how far I've walked today but for me it's a "so what" feature.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: To every one who is slagging smart watches off as utterly useless...

      Sony also make a little device about the size of a finger. It can clip to a shirt pocket.

      It displays phone notifications, and can be used a make telephone calls over Bluetooth (held to your ear like a teeny-weeny telephone!) It is also a discrete MP3 player and FM radio (with 3.5 mm socket).

      I've been tempted by one, but knowing me I'd lose it unless it was strapped to my wrist (which would make the headphone cable tricky to manage!)

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

      Re: To every one who is slagging smart watches off as utterly useless...

      It's a pain to work out how far you've actually run, and what the ascent is, especially when you decide to take a different route on the spur of the moment.

      Get back home, load up a decent (not google maps) mapping program, plot where you think you went, fiddle with the waypoints as the route shifts a bit.

      That won't tell you of your speed on different parts of the route, and if your speed is increasing on certain types of terrain if the route is run regularly.

  16. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

    Too expensive for anyone other than commited runners

    A fitness smartwatch is a great idea, but the form factor will always be less stylish due to the necessity to be shock resistant and waterproof.

    The LG Sport might do ok, it has a GPS and a barometric altimeter which puts it at the high end of running watches. *If* the software is decent and the price isn't higher than a few hundred quid, it might succeed in the UK.

    However, I question if it's going to be more integrated than offerings by Garmin and Suunto. If they end up competing, the fitness watch manufacturers will probably just drop the price and make it uneconomic for LG to continue.

  17. Jon Kinsey

    I like mine...

    I'm a runner, so a garmin could easily set me back the cost of my apple watch, so the cost isn't a factor for me. I'm also someone who doesn't have their phone in their hand all the time so the notifications are useful for me.

    As for the need to charge it everyday, I don't wear watches in bed so it doesn't effect me at all.

  18. Dabooka Silver badge

    Those Withings look interesting

    Apart from the fact it's Nokia, which I still see as a plus, it reminds me a great deal of my first ever smart watch from twenty odd years ago. Same idea really apart from the notifications coming direct from radio rather than via a handset

    I know it wouldn't work but I wish I still had it.

  19. thomas k

    I love my LG G Watch

    I only use it *as* a watch, though (and only at night, as you can't read it in daylight). It looks great - black and mysterious, like the monolith from 2001 - and the ability to change the face is the main reason I bought it. It's also much easier to use it as a timer than fiddling with the buttons on a digital watch.

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