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6/26/2014
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Google Wear Smartwatches Compared

LG and Samsung announce first devices with Android Wear, Google's platform for wearables. Understand the differences.

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Google dropped a lot of hard-hitting news during the opening keynote of its I/O developer conference on Wednesday. While most of the topics pertained to the company's various platforms, apps, and services, Google's hardware partners launched some wearables that are worth discussing. The Samsung Gear Live and the LG G Watch are already available for preorder via the Google Play Store and ship next month. They share most features but do differ in some important ways.

The Android Wear platform supports two watch faces, square and round. Samsung and LG both opted for the square shape for their watches. Motorola is working on a smartwatch with a round face, but it won't arrive until later this summer. The Gear Live's AMOLED screen measures 1.63 inches and has 320 x 320 pixels. The G Watch's LCD screen measures 1.65 inches and has 280 x 280 pixels. Both offer an "always-on" face so users won't have to press any buttons to check the time. Many of today's smartwatches turn the face off in order to conserve battery power.

Android Wear must require some serious horsepower. The Gear Live and G Watch both use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. The processor is mated to 512 MB of RAM, and the devices each include 4 GB of internal storage. The Snapdragon 400 is powerful enough to run today's mid-range smartphones with high-resolution displays. Qualcomm makes less powerful processors for entry-level smartphones.

LG G Watch
LG G Watch

The Gear Live and G Watch are resistant to dust and moisture thanks to their IP67 rating. That means they can handle some sweat and even some rain, but don't go jumping into the pool with them on. Sensors abound in each device, such as gyroscopes, accelerometers, and compasses. The Gear Live adds a heart rate monitor, in keeping with Samsung's new push for health and fitness. They use Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to connect to nearby smartphones, which must be running Android 4.3 and up. The Gear Live's battery rates 300mAh and the G Watch's battery rates 400mAh. Since the G Watch's screen has fewer pixels than the Gear Live's and the battery is 33% larger, it is fair to suggest the G Watch will offer much better battery life than the Gear Live.

[What are other vendors doing with Android? Read Microsoft's 'First' Android Phone Aims Low.]

Android Wear relies heavily on voice interactions and supports Google Now. This means wearers can talk to their watch and tell it what to do. For example, consumers will be able to initiate, dictate, and send a text message all without touching either the watch or their smartphone. Consumers can ask their watch about an upcoming flight, sports scores, and calendar events, as well as to set alarms, make restaurant reservations, and make phone calls. The user interface is based on the same cards found in Google Now, and they slide off the screen when users swipe back-and-forth and up-and-down. There are no buttons.

The Gear Live is being offered in Black and Wine Red, while the G Watch is being offered in Black Titan and White Gold. Both use the standard 22mm watch strap and can be paired with new straps if the owner so chooses. Samsung's smartwatch costs $199 and ships by July 7. LG's costs $229 and ships by July 3.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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tekedge
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tekedge,
User Rank: Moderator
6/27/2014 | 4:55:47 PM
Google Wear smart watches
I think watch wearing will come bac soon but will feel weird when people will be talking to it
tekedge
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tekedge,
User Rank: Moderator
6/27/2014 | 4:55:37 PM
Google Wear smart watches
I think watch wearing will come bac soon but will feel weird when people will be talking to it
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
6/27/2014 | 2:32:25 PM
Re: I don't get it
Instant gratification takes too long. :) 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2014 | 2:25:46 PM
Re: I don't get it
@Shane- Wow, OK. I guess i never thought of it as slow because compared to programming a Garmin or walking over to my desktop it seemed really fast. Maybe I'm finally getting old and set in my ways. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2014 | 2:24:26 PM
Re: I don't get it
@Susan- Well, I do feel a need to have them all. :)

But seriously, as Charles points out, I believe the watches are made as an extension of the phone as opposed to a stand alone device. Maybe I am not the type of user it is aimed for, but i just feel like my phone is portable enough. 

That said, I cannot get my wife to answer her phone to save my life because she keeps her phone in her bag. Maybe if she had a watch on that told her phone was ringing I'd be happy. So I guess I get it, but not at the price.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2014 | 2:21:29 PM
Re: I don't get it
@mak63- Yes, sorry. Will go back and change it. I meant phone. 

We'll see. I think the problem with the watch replacing the phone is screen size. Phone sizes keep getting bigger, not smaller. I'd be happy to find some sort of displlay that fit on a watch but looked ot my eyes like a phone, but that's quite an opticla illusion.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
6/27/2014 | 9:02:37 AM
Re: I don't get it
The appeal is that a smartwatch is always on and accessible in a second for voice commands for directions, texting, a check off list, etc. A smartphone is glacially slow in comparison. You have to pull it out of your pocket or bag, passcode in, find the app you need, tap, tap, tap. Are we an impatient society? Yes. But quick tasks on a smartwatch take one-tenth the time they take using a smartphone, and that is appealing. I think smartwatches will be huge, but as an extension of the smartphone not a replacement.  
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2014 | 2:37:42 AM
Re: I don't get it
Dave,

I am not sure if I can explain to you why you need a smartwatch when your phone is almost sitting on your wrist. But if you want, I can explain to you why I might need a smartwatch. :P

As you notice, some watches are very pretty and most likely they will become prittier as designers get more of what people want. For several reasons I have come to the point when I never know where my phone is; when I finally find it it's run out of battery because I forgot about it for days and days. When I want to just carry a small purse to let my back rest from constantly carry my laptop, and all other necessary things the silly smartphone never fits in the small purse if I want to carry other stuff. :/ You see, it's become a problem.

Now, if I have a smartwatch sitting on my wrist it would be a practical thing instead of an increasingly annoying object around me. :D

Finally, the fact that manufacturers are creating more devices doesn't mean you need to have them all. :)   

-Susan 
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2014 | 1:02:46 AM
Re: I don't get it
The watches are very pretty, but until they replace my watch, i don't get it.

You meant replace your phone, right? Well, I guess that's the idea. To replace smartphones?
They'll get there. They specs are amazing already. And yes, they're pretty.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/26/2014 | 7:56:44 PM
Will wrist computers be the next big thing?
The little Samsung Live and LG G wearable computers are only incidentally watches. Their real purpose is to serve as an outlying display for a smartphone, tablet and other Android devices. It's also a microphone to pick up spoken commands, via Google Now. An interesting extension of how smart phones can be used. There was incredible developer interest in their potential at Google I/O.
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