Editor’s note: Bryan Collom is an expert in all things Android. He writes in-depth reviews over at Medium where he also edits the Adventures With Android publication. You can read more about Bryan and his work in his interview here with Noted and find him on Twitter and Google+.
Android Wear has been on the market for roughly a year. In that time, it has grown, matured, and changed in both wonderful and confusing ways. With the Apple Watch out on the market and Pebble’s second generation competitor on the horizon, you might be asking yourself why Android Wear is worth your hard earned dollars. Android Wear has great diversity with multiple devices for a broad spectrum of use cases and styles. The wonderful and ever evolving Google Now being placed on the wrist is truly a pleasure. Adding those to the basic smartwatch features such as phone controls and notifications makes Android Wear the most appealing platform to me.
One of Android’s greatest strengths is the broad spectrum of devices you can choose from. And this translates over into Android Wear. There are round and square devices, sporty and classy, expensive and budget conscious; all under the Android Wear umbrella. The choices are plentiful. The LG G Watch R, Moto 360, Huawei Watch, LG G Watch Urbane and Asus Zenwatch are all classy and attractive (to most). while the LG G Watch and Sony Smartwatch 3 look more like out-and-out tech products. The Sony Smartwatch 3 is also completely waterproof and has GPS built in, making it a great choice for the fitness conscious.
Android Wear isn’t just diverse in the hardware, though. Android Wear has the ability to utilize third party watch faces — something severely lacking in the Apple Watch, so far — giving app developers and designers a chance to publish watch faces to the Play Store. In the Play Store, there are also watch face apps such as Facer and Pujie Black. This level of customization allows me to truly make my Wear watch my own.
I also find Android Wear to be immensely simple to use. It utilizes a card-like UI, much like Google Now, to show you pertinent information. Android Wear can intelligently categorize your notifications based on predicted relevance as well. I love that Wear places the most crucial notification cards at the top, while swiping down through the Wear notification cards will reveal less pertinent ones. Being given my estimated travel time right around the time I should leave for work, quick access to my music controls if music is playing, and my most recent text message if I forgot to check when it came in, is delightful.
Google Now on Android Wear also gives you basic search and phone control right from your wrist, all with your voice or basic swiping commands. With its intelligent search that pushes information to you when you need it, Google Now is perfectly suited to the wrist. Travel times, sports scores, and weather are my most often utilized of Google Now’s cards. I can also play Google Play Music, start a run, and initiate a text message all from my wrist, just like Google Now allows me to do on my Android phone.
And, of course, seeing as Android Wear is a smartwatch operating system, you also have all the basic smartwatch features we’ve already come to expect on the wrist. Control your music, track your steps, check notifications, and so on. All from your wrist. If you do not yet own a smartwatch, you won’t realize how truly convenient this easy access to information is.
While Android Wear perhaps hasn’t revolutionized my entire world, it has most certainly revolutionized the way I use my phone. Having owned a smartwatch for the past two years, it has become an incredibly useful utility in my life. With Android Wear, I don’t have to have my phone near me at all times in order to see who is sending me what. Having notifications available at a glance while I go about my day truly allows me to keep my phone in my pocket more. When an unimportant notification comes in, I can keep my phone where it is. But if something important pushes to my wrist, then I can take my phone out and address it if I so choose. The ability to see what’s blowing up your phone then choosing when to address it is a luxury that is slowly becoming a necessity for smartwatch users. It allows me to prioritize the times I do need to take my phone out.
I have no doubt smartwatches are here to stay and Apple entering into the market only affirms this. While some of the features outlined above are available across smartwatch platforms, I think Android Wear has an array of features that put it ahead of the competition right now and could potentially pull you toward a Wear device. Android Wear isn’t perfect — no OS ever is — but as of now, it is the best smartwatch platform available based on its feature set. Android Wear is great for a lot of reasons but the broad hardware and software choices you have, the power of Google Now, as well as your normal smartwatch features make it the stand out platform.