Tag Archives: Smart

Yahoo Aviate gains new powers with ‘Smart Stream’

Yahoo’s Aviate home screen launcher gets even smarter this week with the introduction of a new Smart Stream feature. Not unlike what Google Now does for users, Smart Stream adjusts itself throughout the day to deliver timely and relevant information to the user. What’s more, it can also offer up details and tidbits based on location.

Aviate is designed to replace the stock app launcher for your Android phone. Owned by Yahoo, it’s a different approach to the stuff you might find preloaded on your handset. Aviate is a free download and works with devices running 4.1 Jelly Bean or higher.

Imagine you’re walking downtown in San Francisco on a Saturday around noon. We’ll surface nearby restaurants so that you can find a yummy place to eat. When the Giants game starts at 1pm, we’ll bring you live sports scores. If you plug in your headphones, we’ll pull your music apps up to the top of your Smart Stream. If there’s ever a specific card you’re looking for, you can always access it with the Focus menu, located in the search bar on your homescreen.

Yahoo

If you are looking for a different approach to launching apps and games, Aviate should be high on your list. It gets smarter with each update and the configuration options are quite user-friendly. We’re fond of this one and think you’d enjoy it.

Yahoo

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AndroidGuys » AndroidGuys | Yahoo Aviate gains new powers with ‘Smart Stream’

Android Wear review: not as smart as it needs to be

I’m more connected than ever before, and I have the smartwatch to thank for it.

To those who think we’re already too deeply mired in the muck of always-on communications, that might not sound appetizing – but smartwatches don’t exist merely to bring us more connectivity; the good ones connect us to the world in a smarter way. Skeptics of the new category focus mainly on its redundancy, which is a fair point (why wear a smartwatch when I can just pull my phone out instead?). But once you’ve worn one for a while, you realize just how useful it can be to have notifications and simple controls right on your wrist when you’re, say, washing the dishes, or cooking, or even kayaking with your phone buried in a waterproof bag. The wrist might not be the best place for a fully self-contained smartphone, but it’s the perfect spot for a connected accessory.

The above are conveniences we’ve come to know very well with the advent of the Pebble line and the Samsung Gear family, and now Google’s coming for a piece of the action with its own smartwatch platform, announced a few weeks ago at Google I/O. Android Wear incorporates all the notification features of previous wearables and takes the concept a step further, with deep Google Now integration and a voice-driven interface lending the two new watches an air of futuristic awareness. The nascent platform has caused quite the buzz in the tech community and there’s plenty to like about the sleek new hardware, but did Google take the software out of the oven a little too early? The answer below, in Pocketnow’s Android Wear review!

Hardware: LG G Watch

lg g watch 1

Half of Android Wear’s launch hardware comes from Google’s longtime partner LG. The company behind the minimal Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 smartphones brings a similarly slim aesthetic to its first Android wearable, crafting the G Watch from a combination of glossy and matte plastics forged into a plain-Jane rounded square. But while LG’s flagship offerings resound with aesthetic appeal, and even its Nexus devices manage to squeeze in a modicum of style, the G Watch comes across as little more than reference hardware.

That’s an impression bolstered by the G Watch’s display. At 1.65 inches, the 280×280 IPS LCD delivers an acceptable pixel density of 240ppi, but the in-person experience defies the numbers: while the G Watch is capable of rendering vibrant colors, it suffers from milky blacks and a jagged pixel matrix that seems lower-resolution than it really is. Combine that with a poor side-by-side showing against Samsung’s AMOLED offering, and the G Watch emerges as the clear loser in the battle of the Android Wear smartwatch displays.

lg g watch

Under the hood, things are much more impressive: a Snapdragon 400 (APQ8026) backed up by 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage gives the G Watch almost as much power as an entry-level smartphone, with connectivity and motion detection provided by Bluetooth 4.0 LE and a 9-axis Gyro/Accelerometer/Magnetometer sensor package, all ensconced in a moisture- and dust-resistant casing certified to IP67 so you can shower and swim with no worries of watery watch death.

On the power front, the G Watch is at once disappointing and superior. On the frowny side, its battery is larger than Samsung’s but still puny at 400 mAh, given all the Android Wear platform asks of it. You’ll be charging the G Watch every night (or every other night at best), but that’s where the better news comes in: LG’s square charging cradle is very well designed, with a tacky adhesion surface that sticks nicely to a table surface and a magnetic coupler that guides the watch the last few millimeters into its charging position.

android wear charger

LG charger on left, Samsung charger on right

Hardware: Samsung Gear Live

gear live 1

The same can’t be said of Samsung’s Gear Live, whose snap-on charging cradle has recently come under fire for fragility and a cumbersome design that’s a royal pain to deal with, no matter how much practice you get. Considering Samsung’s smaller (300 mAh) battery, the poor charging experience is an even bigger hit here, especially given how often you’ll need to top-up the device.

Fortunately, that’s our only real complaint with the Gear Live, which is superior to the LG offering in every other meaningful sense. At 1.63 inches with a pixel density of 277ppi, its display is similar to the G Watch’s by the numbers, but the crisp color of its S-AMOLED panel really “pops” compared to the LG offering, with true blacks that enable a very elegant, understated standby mode – and those extra 37 pixels per inch make a bigger difference than you might expect, the Gear Live’s screen appearing notably crisper than the G Watch’s.

The fit and finish of the Samsung watch is also superior, with the display blending seamlessly into a dark glass bezel set into a metal casing that’s just as water-resistant as LG’s, and which feels more substantial than its 59g would suggest. Like the G Watch, the Gear Live is available in multiple colors and carries standard 22mm mounts so you (or your jeweler) can swap out the watchband at will with relative ease. Some reviewers have lambasted the Gear Live for the unconventional fastener on its stock watchband, but –possibly due to our time spent with the Gear Fit– we don’t mind it.

This being a Samsung device, there’s a heart rate sensor around back which works reasonably well, and of course the company couldn’t help but include a physical button to toggle the screen on and off, tucked behind the bezel on the right-hand side. Given Android Wear’s multiple options for waking up the display, we came to regard the button as redundant soon after unboxing the Gear Live, but it is convenient for dimming the screen when it wakes up or stays awake for no reason (which, annoyingly, happens quite often). Also, its long-press functionality is handy for calling up the Settings menu if you’re not in the mood to summon it with your voice.

Software: Lots Of Potential

wear ui 2

android wear appsThat voice command functionality is almost certainly Android Wear’s biggest differentiator. Unlike previous smartwatches, which are essentially one-way notifiers with little or no transmit capability, Android Wear devices allow you to dictate replies. You can say “5 minutes” to a text asking for your ETA, for example, or reply “absolutely not” to a group email asking whether you’ll tolerate mushrooms on your pizza at next week’s house party.

And speaking of pizza: Android Wear’s third-party app support lets you order one from your wrist via an app called Eat24. While you’re waiting for it to arrive, you can review recipes for fancier dishes on Allthecooks, brush up on your German using Duolingo’s flash cards, reject a few dozen potential suitors on Tinder, and finally order a car from Lyft so you can go pick up that pizza when you get sick of waiting for it. All this without even pulling your smartphone out of your pocket.

It’s all encased in a vertically-scrolling stack of cards almost identical to the Google Now interface on your Android phone. The feed becomes available when the display turns on (which it does automatically uponwear ui 4 raising the watch to chest level) and can be hidden by putting the watch to sleep (accomplished by briefly covering its face with your palm). Everything, from text messages to weather reports to your next appointment to the step count from the pedometer, is displayed in the same list. It scrolls smoothly and looks great on both watches, with the background constantly adapting to reflect the contents of each card. More options, when available, are accessed by a swipe to the left, while cards can be dismissed by swiping them off the screen to the right.

The convenience of all this information on your wrist, immediately accessible with just a glance, is powerful in its simplicity: having your next appointment displayed right under the time, with the next available bus or train directly beneath that, and the travel time to your home on the next card down, is tremendously useful stuff. Google Now is a natural fit for the smaller screen of a smartwatch, and when it’s on point, it’s one of the most futuristic and functional pieces of technology we’ve encountered.

Software: A Long Way To Go

android wear lg g watch

wear_open on phoneThe problems come when Google Now is not on point, which is surprisingly often for a service the company is pushing so aggressively. In short: Google Now isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, and Android Wear’s user experience suffers significantly because of it. (Unless otherwise noted, the following observations apply to both the G Watch and the Gear Live, as the UI is essentially identical across devices.)

In terms of the interface, this is most evident in the card view. While we’re sure there’s some complicated algorithm governing where and when certain cards appear, it’s not intuitive enough to overcome its inherent inconsistency. The end result is that you have no idea what cards will end up where on the stream, so if you want to find the text message you got an hour ago, you need to scroll through the entire ribbon to see where Android Wear has decided to put Hangouts. And if you decide to dismiss that card, there’s no easy way to recover it unless you pull out your phone (or your contact texts you again).

And heaven help you if you try to hold a complete text message conversation using only the watch. While Google’s voice dictation works quite well on most Android smartphones, the company has failed to port that excellent experience to the wrist. The most glaring downside is the system’s total lack of patience: pause for even a second to collect your thoughts while dictating a message, and Wear will assume you’re done and attempt to send the incomplete message. Yes, you can cancel the send … but then you have to start all over again. And if you’re trying dictation within an email, you can forget about sending a letter of any length at all: anything longer than a couple sentences will get stuck on the watch, with the system thinking on it for a few seconds before declaring that it “didn’t catch that” and making you start over. And that’s assuming the watch hasn’t randomly disconnected for no discernible reason … which is something we encountered fairly often during our 12-day test period.

android wear ui 1

Launching apps from the watch is just as onerous. If you’re using voice commands to do it, you’ll need to rush out your command before the prompt cuts you off. And despite all the intelligence usually baked into Google’s software, we still run into some of the same problems we encountered using Google Now on the Moto X last summer. You can say “remind me to change the laundry in 10 minutes,” for example, but you can’t say “start a 5-minute countdown.” You also can’t say “start timer,” because you’ll just get dumped to your phone, where (in the case of the Moto X and the Gear Live, anyway) the Play Store will invite you to download a third-party app … one that doesn’t even work with the watch. And if you get frustrated with all this back-and-forth and opt simply to launch an app manually, get ready for a lot of scrolling: Android Wear makes you tap the screen and then swipe past all the available voice commands to a Start button at the very bottom of the list. Only by drilling this far down are you finally permitted to see a list of your installed titles.

A Typical Day

android wear vs

wear ui 6The strengths and weaknesses of the Android Wear platform give it an inconsistent day-to-day feel. On a recent business trip to New York with the Gear Live paired to a Moto X, we kicked our day off by surfing through notifications received overnight, which was a great experience: from huge apps like Gmail to more esoteric ones like Timehop, the watch displayed them all with smooth, colorful accuracy.

We then tried to find out when the next public-transit bus was arriving, but for some reason that card wasn’t available, so we asked the watch instead: “when’s the next bus?” We were given a search result card directing us to the NextBus website, but when we tapped it the watch unhelpfully opened that site on our phone, unable to display it on the small wrist screen.

Despite this, we eventually made it to the train station, where the watch was a big help on the rain-soaked platform, displaying notifications on behalf of the pocketed Moto X so we didn’t have to take the phone out and expose it to the weather. Android Wear continued reliably slinging notifications from phone to watch during the entire trip, though when we tried to reply by voice the results were predictably … less reliable.

Pictured: doing it wrong

Pictured: doing it wrong

Arriving in New York City with no idea how to get to our lodgings, we leveraged one of Android Wear’s coolest features and asked the Gear Live to “navigate to the Hotel Hugo.” And with simple arrows, a bare-bones map, and the occasional buzz of the wrist to warn us of approaching turns, our watch guided us to the hotel while our phone stayed securely nestled in our holster. It was the most futuristic part of the entire day, and it was awesome.

We capitalized on this trend by impressing colleagues at a gathering that night, asking the watch “what’s ‘cheese bread’ in German?” (Käsebrot) and “distance to Norfolk, Virginia” (a bit over 350 miles). But when we tried another set of commands later on, results were less praiseworthy. We wanted to send a text, but there weren’t any recent Hangouts open on the watch, so we talked to it:

screenshot30Pocketnow: “Ok Google. I want to send a text.”

Android Wear: “To whom?”

P: “Jaime Rivera.”

AW: “pioneer Rivera.”

We canceled, and decided to give it another try.

screenshot73P: “I want to send a text.”

AW: “To whom?”

P: “Lili.”

AW: “What’s your message?”

P: “Hey you. On your way yet?”

The Gear Live stopped after “hey you” and tried sending the incomplete message. We canceled and started from scratch again. This time, the watch transcribed the message perfectly … but then errored out for no reason: “Sorry. Didn’t catch that.”

There were several more screw-ups, but you get the point: when it comes to carrying on a two-way conversation, it’s worlds more convenient just to pull out your phone than it is to use Android Wear.

BlockQuote1The remainder of the night brought a mostly positive experience. In a loud bar, the Gear Live informed us of every incoming call and text message that otherwise would have been drowned out by the chest-thumping bass of the sound system and the roar of the crowd. In low-power mode, its display kept us abreast of the time without calling too much attention to itself (except when it woke itself up because it thought we were looking at it – something that happens with irritating regularity on both watches). On the walk back to the hotel, its music controls let us skip between podcast episodes streaming to our earbuds. And when we got back to our room, the voice interface obeyed us when we asked it to “set an alarm for 8am.” All this, without once pulling out the phone. Then, we put it on the charger with about 20% power remaining, where it suckled power for the rest of the night, taking about two hours to reach a full charge.

On balance, it was a day peppered with equal parts giddy excitement and fist-shaking frustration – par for the course with Android Wear in its current form.

Pricing & Availability

Google’s not making any breakthroughs with Android Wear’s pricing, but neither is it offending our sensibilities: the Gear Live sells for $ 199 at the Google Play Store, while the less-impressive G Watch retails for $ 30 more. That’s roughly in line with what the competition is charging for smartwatches of varying capability but roughly equal caliber.

 

More on Android Wear

Comparisons

 

Sixty-Second Reviews

 

Android Wear Podcast

 

Editorials

4 awesome things you can do with Android Wear right now

How and why to root your LG G Watch

Conclusion

smartwatch lineup android wear pebble gear fit

(L to R) Pebble, LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live, Samsung Gear Fit

With Android Wear, Google is stuck in an unenviable position. It tries to elevate the basics of the smartwatch experience, while adding more powerful features at the same time. In the former sense it succeeds: when it comes to delivering notifications and pared-down app functionality on a wrist, Android Wear is an excellent product. But insofar as new features like the transposed Google Now experience, with its shifting cards and bad voice interface, Wear is strangely disappointing.

Would our opinion change if Google had launched its new platform on the bold Moto 360, instead of these two generic-looking smartwatches? Very possibly, and the platform would have benefited greatly had Google opted to wait for that hardware to become available. Indeed, when the Motorola device finally sees the light of day later this summer, we expect Android Wear to have grown up significantly: Google is no stranger to rapid evolution.

But this, as they say, is now. This is no beta platform; people are spending money on Android Wear today. And, frankly, we think they’re getting a rushed product that’s equal parts smart and dumb, precariously balanced between convenient and infuriating. Considering this is Google we’re talking about, it’s disappointing to have to end a review by saying “wait for the After The Buzz,” but sadly, that’s exactly what we’re forced to conclude about Android Wear. It needs a bit more time in the oven before we can recommend it without reservation.


Pocketnow

Android Wear review: not as smart as it needs to be

I’m more connected than ever before, and I have the smartwatch to thank for it.

To those who think we’re already too deeply mired in the muck of always-on communications, that might not sound appetizing – but smartwatches don’t exist merely to bring us more connectivity; the good ones connect us to the world in a smarter way. Skeptics of the new category focus mainly on its redundancy, which is a fair point (why wear a smartwatch when I can just pull my phone out instead?). But once you’ve worn one for a while, you realize just how useful it can be to have notifications and simple controls right on your wrist when you’re, say, washing the dishes, or cooking, or even kayaking with your phone buried in a waterproof bag. The wrist might not be the best place for a fully self-contained smartphone, but it’s the perfect spot for a connected accessory.

The above are conveniences we’ve come to know very well with the advent of the Pebble line and the Samsung Gear family, and now Google’s coming for a piece of the action with its own smartwatch platform, announced a few weeks ago at Google I/O. Android Wear incorporates all the notification features of previous wearables and takes the concept a step further, with deep Google Now integration and a voice-driven interface lending the two new watches an air of futuristic awareness. The nascent platform has caused quite the buzz in the tech community and there’s plenty to like about the sleek new hardware, but did Google take the software out of the oven a little too early? The answer below, in Pocketnow’s Android Wear review!

Hardware: LG G Watch

lg g watch 1

Half of Android Wear’s launch hardware comes from Google’s longtime partner LG. The company behind the minimal Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 smartphones brings a similarly slim aesthetic to its first Android wearable, crafting the G Watch from a combination of glossy and matte plastics forged into a plain-Jane rounded square. But while LG’s flagship offerings resound with aesthetic appeal, and even its Nexus devices manage to squeeze in a modicum of style, the G Watch comes across as little more than reference hardware.

That’s an impression bolstered by the G Watch’s display. At 1.65 inches, the 280×280 IPS LCD delivers an acceptable pixel density of 240ppi, but the in-person experience defies the numbers: while the G Watch is capable of rendering vibrant colors, it suffers from milky blacks and a jagged pixel matrix that seems lower-resolution than it really is. Combine that with a poor side-by-side showing against Samsung’s AMOLED offering, and the G Watch emerges as the clear loser in the battle of the Android Wear smartwatch displays.

lg g watch

Under the hood, things are much more impressive: a Snapdragon 400 (APQ8026) backed up by 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage gives the G Watch almost as much power as an entry-level smartphone, with connectivity and motion detection provided by Bluetooth 4.0 LE and a 9-axis Gyro/Accelerometer/Magnetometer sensor package, all ensconced in a moisture- and dust-resistant casing certified to IP67 so you can shower and swim with no worries of watery watch death.

On the power front, the G Watch is at once disappointing and superior. On the frowny side, its battery is larger than Samsung’s but still puny at 400 mAh, given all the Android Wear platform asks of it. You’ll be charging the G Watch every night (or every other night at best), but that’s where the better news comes in: LG’s square charging cradle is very well designed, with a tacky adhesion surface that sticks nicely to a table surface and a magnetic coupler that guides the watch the last few millimeters into its charging position.

android wear charger

LG charger on left, Samsung charger on right

Hardware: Samsung Gear Live

gear live 1

The same can’t be said of Samsung’s Gear Live, whose snap-on charging cradle has recently come under fire for fragility and a cumbersome design that’s a royal pain to deal with, no matter how much practice you get. Considering Samsung’s smaller (300 mAh) battery, the poor charging experience is an even bigger hit here, especially given how often you’ll need to top-up the device.

Fortunately, that’s our only real complaint with the Gear Live, which is superior to the LG offering in every other meaningful sense. At 1.63 inches with a pixel density of 277ppi, its display is similar to the G Watch’s by the numbers, but the crisp color of its S-AMOLED panel really “pops” compared to the LG offering, with true blacks that enable a very elegant, understated standby mode – and those extra 37 pixels per inch make a bigger difference than you might expect, the Gear Live’s screen appearing notably crisper than the G Watch’s.

The fit and finish of the Samsung watch is also superior, with the display blending seamlessly into a dark glass bezel set into a metal casing that’s just as water-resistant as LG’s, and which feels more substantial than its 59g would suggest. Like the G Watch, the Gear Live is available in multiple colors and carries standard 22mm mounts so you (or your jeweler) can swap out the watchband at will with relative ease. Some reviewers have lambasted the Gear Live for the unconventional fastener on its stock watchband, but –possibly due to our time spent with the Gear Fit– we don’t mind it.

This being a Samsung device, there’s a heart rate sensor around back which works reasonably well, and of course the company couldn’t help but include a physical button to toggle the screen on and off, tucked behind the bezel on the right-hand side. Given Android Wear’s multiple options for waking up the display, we came to regard the button as redundant soon after unboxing the Gear Live, but it is convenient for dimming the screen when it wakes up or stays awake for no reason (which, annoyingly, happens quite often). Also, its long-press functionality is handy for calling up the Settings menu if you’re not in the mood to summon it with your voice.

Software: Lots Of Potential

wear ui 2

android wear appsThat voice command functionality is almost certainly Android Wear’s biggest differentiator. Unlike previous smartwatches, which are essentially one-way notifiers with little or no transmit capability, Android Wear devices allow you to dictate replies. You can say “5 minutes” to a text asking for your ETA, for example, or reply “absolutely not” to a group email asking whether you’ll tolerate mushrooms on your pizza at next week’s house party.

And speaking of pizza: Android Wear’s third-party app support lets you order one from your wrist via an app called Eat24. While you’re waiting for it to arrive, you can review recipes for fancier dishes on Allthecooks, brush up on your German using Duolingo’s flash cards, reject a few dozen potential suitors on Tinder, and finally order a car from Lyft so you can go pick up that pizza when you get sick of waiting for it. All this without even pulling your smartphone out of your pocket.

It’s all encased in a vertically-scrolling stack of cards almost identical to the Google Now interface on your Android phone. The feed becomes available when the display turns on (which it does automatically uponwear ui 4 raising the watch to chest level) and can be hidden by putting the watch to sleep (accomplished by briefly covering its face with your palm). Everything, from text messages to weather reports to your next appointment to the step count from the pedometer, is displayed in the same list. It scrolls smoothly and looks great on both watches, with the background constantly adapting to reflect the contents of each card. More options, when available, are accessed by a swipe to the left, while cards can be dismissed by swiping them off the screen to the right.

The convenience of all this information on your wrist, immediately accessible with just a glance, is powerful in its simplicity: having your next appointment displayed right under the time, with the next available bus or train directly beneath that, and the travel time to your home on the next card down, is tremendously useful stuff. Google Now is a natural fit for the smaller screen of a smartwatch, and when it’s on point, it’s one of the most futuristic and functional pieces of technology we’ve encountered.

Software: A Long Way To Go

android wear lg g watch

wear_open on phoneThe problems come when Google Now is not on point, which is surprisingly often for a service the company is pushing so aggressively. In short: Google Now isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, and Android Wear’s user experience suffers significantly because of it. (Unless otherwise noted, the following observations apply to both the G Watch and the Gear Live, as the UI is essentially identical across devices.)

In terms of the interface, this is most evident in the card view. While we’re sure there’s some complicated algorithm governing where and when certain cards appear, it’s not intuitive enough to overcome its inherent inconsistency. The end result is that you have no idea what cards will end up where on the stream, so if you want to find the text message you got an hour ago, you need to scroll through the entire ribbon to see where Android Wear has decided to put Hangouts. And if you decide to dismiss that card, there’s no easy way to recover it unless you pull out your phone (or your contact texts you again).

And heaven help you if you try to hold a complete text message conversation using only the watch. While Google’s voice dictation works quite well on most Android smartphones, the company has failed to port that excellent experience to the wrist. The most glaring downside is the system’s total lack of patience: pause for even a second to collect your thoughts while dictating a message, and Wear will assume you’re done and attempt to send the incomplete message. Yes, you can cancel the send … but then you have to start all over again. And if you’re trying dictation within an email, you can forget about sending a letter of any length at all: anything longer than a couple sentences will get stuck on the watch, with the system thinking on it for a few seconds before declaring that it “didn’t catch that” and making you start over. And that’s assuming the watch hasn’t randomly disconnected for no discernible reason … which is something we encountered fairly often during our 12-day test period.

android wear ui 1

Launching apps from the watch is just as onerous. If you’re using voice commands to do it, you’ll need to rush out your command before the prompt cuts you off. And despite all the intelligence usually baked into Google’s software, we still run into some of the same problems we encountered using Google Now on the Moto X last summer. You can say “remind me to change the laundry in 10 minutes,” for example, but you can’t say “start a 5-minute countdown.” You also can’t say “start timer,” because you’ll just get dumped to your phone, where (in the case of the Moto X and the Gear Live, anyway) the Play Store will invite you to download a third-party app … one that doesn’t even work with the watch. And if you get frustrated with all this back-and-forth and opt simply to launch an app manually, get ready for a lot of scrolling: Android Wear makes you tap the screen and then swipe past all the available voice commands to a Start button at the very bottom of the list. Only by drilling this far down are you finally permitted to see a list of your installed titles.

A Typical Day

android wear vs

wear ui 6The strengths and weaknesses of the Android Wear platform give it an inconsistent day-to-day feel. On a recent business trip to New York with the Gear Live paired to a Moto X, we kicked our day off by surfing through notifications received overnight, which was a great experience: from huge apps like Gmail to more esoteric ones like Timehop, the watch displayed them all with smooth, colorful accuracy.

We then tried to find out when the next public-transit bus was arriving, but for some reason that card wasn’t available, so we asked the watch instead: “when’s the next bus?” We were given a search result card directing us to the NextBus website, but when we tapped it the watch unhelpfully opened that site on our phone, unable to display it on the small wrist screen.

Despite this, we eventually made it to the train station, where the watch was a big help on the rain-soaked platform, displaying notifications on behalf of the pocketed Moto X so we didn’t have to take the phone out and expose it to the weather. Android Wear continued reliably slinging notifications from phone to watch during the entire trip, though when we tried to reply by voice the results were predictably … less reliable.

Pictured: doing it wrong

Pictured: doing it wrong

Arriving in New York City with no idea how to get to our lodgings, we leveraged one of Android Wear’s coolest features and asked the Gear Live to “navigate to the Hotel Hugo.” And with simple arrows, a bare-bones map, and the occasional buzz of the wrist to warn us of approaching turns, our watch guided us to the hotel while our phone stayed securely nestled in our holster. It was the most futuristic part of the entire day, and it was awesome.

We capitalized on this trend by impressing colleagues at a gathering that night, asking the watch “what’s ‘cheese bread’ in German?” (Käsebrot) and “distance to Norfolk, Virginia” (a bit over 350 miles). But when we tried another set of commands later on, results were less praiseworthy. We wanted to send a text, but there weren’t any recent Hangouts open on the watch, so we talked to it:

screenshot30Pocketnow: “Ok Google. I want to send a text.”

Android Wear: “To whom?”

P: “Jaime Rivera.”

AW: “pioneer Rivera.”

We canceled, and decided to give it another try.

screenshot73P: “I want to send a text.”

AW: “To whom?”

P: “Lili.”

AW: “What’s your message?”

P: “Hey you. On your way yet?”

The Gear Live stopped after “hey you” and tried sending the incomplete message. We canceled and started from scratch again. This time, the watch transcribed the message perfectly … but then errored out for no reason: “Sorry. Didn’t catch that.”

There were several more screw-ups, but you get the point: when it comes to carrying on a two-way conversation, it’s worlds more convenient just to pull out your phone than it is to use Android Wear.

BlockQuote1The remainder of the night brought a mostly positive experience. In a loud bar, the Gear Live informed us of every incoming call and text message that otherwise would have been drowned out by the chest-thumping bass of the sound system and the roar of the crowd. In low-power mode, its display kept us abreast of the time without calling too much attention to itself (except when it woke itself up because it thought we were looking at it – something that happens with irritating regularity on both watches). On the walk back to the hotel, its music controls let us skip between podcast episodes streaming to our earbuds. And when we got back to our room, the voice interface obeyed us when we asked it to “set an alarm for 8am.” All this, without once pulling out the phone. Then, we put it on the charger with about 20% power remaining, where it suckled power for the rest of the night, taking about two hours to reach a full charge.

On balance, it was a day peppered with equal parts giddy excitement and fist-shaking frustration – par for the course with Android Wear in its current form.

Pricing & Availability

Google’s not making any breakthroughs with Android Wear’s pricing, but neither is it offending our sensibilities: the Gear Live sells for $ 199 at the Google Play Store, while the less-impressive G Watch retails for $ 30 more. That’s roughly in line with what the competition is charging for smartwatches of varying capability but roughly equal caliber.

 

More on Android Wear

Comparisons

 

Sixty-Second Reviews

 

Android Wear Podcast

 

Editorials

4 awesome things you can do with Android Wear right now

How and why to root your LG G Watch

Conclusion

smartwatch lineup android wear pebble gear fit

(L to R) Pebble, LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live, Samsung Gear Fit

With Android Wear, Google is stuck in an unenviable position. It tries to elevate the basics of the smartwatch experience, while adding more powerful features at the same time. In the former sense it succeeds: when it comes to delivering notifications and pared-down app functionality on a wrist, Android Wear is an excellent product. But insofar as new features like the transposed Google Now experience, with its shifting cards and bad voice interface, Wear is strangely disappointing.

Would our opinion change if Google had launched its new platform on the bold Moto 360, instead of these two generic-looking smartwatches? Very possibly, and the platform would have benefited greatly had Google opted to wait for that hardware to become available. Indeed, when the Motorola device finally sees the light of day later this summer, we expect Android Wear to have grown up significantly: Google is no stranger to rapid evolution.

But this, as they say, is now. This is no beta platform; people are spending money on Android Wear today. And, frankly, we think they’re getting a rushed product that’s equal parts smart and dumb, precariously balanced between convenient and infuriating. Considering this is Google we’re talking about, it’s disappointing to have to end a review by saying “wait for the After The Buzz,” but sadly, that’s exactly what we’re forced to conclude about Android Wear. It needs a bit more time in the oven before we can recommend it without reservation.


Pocketnow

You won’t need a phone to send simple texts if you wear this Smart Hoodie

smart hoodie

Smart Hoodie is a smart concept: a hoodie that automatically sends pre-written texts  depending on your physical interactions. According to the video, you can tell your Mom you are in class simply by pulling up your sleeve: “Mom, I’m elbow deep in education!”

Have you ever wondered what the future of a mobile interfaces could be? What will replace the smart phone, which replaced the dumb phone and the pager and the PDA before it. A cell phone or mobile phone is a device that can make and receive telephone calls over a cellular network. Modern phones have a variety of services such as text messaging, multimedia messages, email, internet, applications, photography and bluetooth.  Yet over the years we’ve yet to offer an alternative interface that wasn’t a handheld device. Improvements to the technology in the form of smart watches and google glass are enhancing the possibilities what if we pushed the envelope just a little more?

Created by graduate students, Rucha Patwardhan and Alina Balean created this demo hoddie to demonstrate how easy it could be to communicate with geeky clothing. The two students from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) set out to demonstrate the possibilities as DIY cell phone technology with an Arduino and an Arduino GSM shield.

The best part about the technology is discreet communication. For example, sending an emergency signal when you’re being attacked or letting someone you’re running late because you’re at an event. The possibilities are physical!


Inside Mobile Apps

Inky Mail offers smart email organization on iOS

inky-mail-650

Inky’s popular email client for Mac and Windows has extended to iOS devices, giving iPhone and iPad users a new option for organizing multiple email accounts into a single inbox. The platform offers a mix of standard email features, like sorting by author or message size, and Inky-specific tools, like the platform’s ability to measure an email based on relevance.

Inky supports Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, IMAP and POP mail servers. When users sign in, Inky connects directly to those mail servers to download email using the strongest available encryption, without going through any other servers. This keeps email safe and private.

After logging in, Inky’s algorithms go to work, ranking messages by importance and separating them into categories. Users can then browse messages in the order they see fit, starting from the most important, for instance, and going from there.

The platform supports folders and flags, address mapping, one-click replies with template responses, cloud storage support with Dropbox and more. The platform’s hefty search functionality allows users to search using hashtags and other keywords (including “From:” or “Subject:”), and promises instant updates, as users type, even on more-than-100,000-message inboxes.

“Inky represents a fresh take on email,” said Dave Baggett, CEO, of the Inky team. “From one-click unsubscribe to package tracking, it’s a refreshingly simple interface that helps you check all of your email efficiently.  Inky’s smart tools, which can help you get things done faster, eliminate all of the typical clutter often seen in traditional email clients.

“Inky Mail is the most powerful mobile email app on the market today, and it’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Users can read through their automatically categorized messages in a unified approach across all of their devices in an effortless manner. We have worked hard to keep the process as simple as possible, so anyone can take advantage of it.”

Inky’s iOS app is available to download for free for a limited time. An Android version will release later this summer. Check back soon to follow Inky on AppData, our tracking platform for mobile and social apps and developers.


Inside Mobile Apps

Inky Mail offers smart email organization on iOS

inky-mail-650

Inky’s popular email client for Mac and Windows has extended to iOS devices, giving iPhone and iPad users a new option for organizing multiple email accounts into a single inbox. The platform offers a mix of standard email features, like sorting by author or message size, and Inky-specific tools, like the platform’s ability to measure an email based on relevance.

Inky supports Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, IMAP and POP mail servers. When users sign in, Inky connects directly to those mail servers to download email using the strongest available encryption, without going through any other servers. This keeps email safe and private.

After logging in, Inky’s algorithms go to work, ranking messages by importance and separating them into categories. Users can then browse messages in the order they see fit, starting from the most important, for instance, and going from there.

The platform supports folders and flags, address mapping, one-click replies with template responses, cloud storage support with Dropbox and more. The platform’s hefty search functionality allows users to search using hashtags and other keywords (including “From:” or “Subject:”), and promises instant updates, as users type, even on more-than-100,000-message inboxes.

“Inky represents a fresh take on email,” said Dave Baggett, CEO, of the Inky team. “From one-click unsubscribe to package tracking, it’s a refreshingly simple interface that helps you check all of your email efficiently.  Inky’s smart tools, which can help you get things done faster, eliminate all of the typical clutter often seen in traditional email clients.

“Inky Mail is the most powerful mobile email app on the market today, and it’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Users can read through their automatically categorized messages in a unified approach across all of their devices in an effortless manner. We have worked hard to keep the process as simple as possible, so anyone can take advantage of it.”

Inky’s iOS app is available to download for free for a limited time. An Android version will release later this summer. Check back soon to follow Inky on AppData, our tracking platform for mobile and social apps and developers.


Inside Mobile Apps

Is the Gear Fit the cure for the common smart watch?

Forty-four videos and untold news stories later, MWC 2014 is finally on the cusp of winding down – but there’s still more to “unpack” from Monday’s Samsung event. After yesterday’s editorials on the ups and downs of the company’s recent moves with its flagship smartphone, today’s agenda starts with something much smaller: the Gear Fit, and how it might save Samsung from smart watch mediocrity.

First some background: I was standing outside the entrance to Samsung’s Galaxy Studio in New York City on Monday, waiting to be let in for the Unpacked press event, when a familiar person sighted me on his way into the building. He was a representative from Samsung’s marketing firm, and he said “there’s something in there you’re really gonna like.”

“Just one?” I asked.

“Well, one thing in particular,” he replied before disappearing, leaving me to ponder the possibilities as I waited for the doors to open.

After the announcement concluded and most of our video was in the can, I found my contact in the crowd and asked him if he’d meant the Gear Fit, which of course he had. And it turns out he was right on the money.

Many people took my tweet as a thinly-veiled cheap shot at the Galaxy S 5, but it wasn’t at all. The Gear Fit really was the most exciting thing I saw at Unpacked 5 – and that excitement went well beyond my personal infatuation with a new, shiny piece of tech. Like the Galaxy S 5 itself, the Gear Fit was evidence that Samsung’s priorities were changing – this time for the better.

That change wasn’t immediately evident from the other wearables on display. Samsung seemed to introduce as many negatives as positives in the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the supposed successors to the under-appreciated Galaxy Gear. While the switchable bands and slimmed dimensions of the new watches are nice, the new screw-less casings are surprisingly devoid of personality, and the addition of a clunky home button hasn’t brought much added utility. The heart-rate monitor is a neat trick, but like its counterpart on the S 5, it will only be appreciated by the health-conscious. Overall, these watches seem to be mild iterations on a device that wasn’t well-received in the first place, which makes us wonder why Samsung was in such a hurry to announce them.

Contrast that with the Gear Fit. The room at the Galaxy Studio visibly perked up when Samsung’s JK Shin held his Fit aloft for the world to see for the first time, and the excitement only grew when he ran down the specs:

  • 27g mass
  • IP67 dust and water resistant
  • curved 1.84″ S-AMOLED screen
  • detachable band
  • accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate sensor
  • typical battery life of 3-4 days

Holding the Fit in my own hand only amplified my excitement. The curved display is beautiful, its tiny size masking whatever compromises were involved in its manufacture. The curve is not just ornamental; it’s also functional, letting the device fit the wrist much more snugly than a flat-faced watch. The device is impossibly light. The software seems more responsive than on the new Gears, and it fits surprisingly well to the stretched aspect ratio of the display. For a company not often celebrated for its beautiful devices, the Gear Fit is just that: beautiful.

Yes, on some level this is a fitness band – and if you look at it that way it’s far less exciting. Nike has done one. Huawei is doing one. Fitbit basically invented the category (and no doubt served as a jumping-off point for the folks who conjured up the Gear Fit’s horribly awkward name). Viewed through that lens, the Samsung contender might appear like something of a me-too product – fancy heart rate sensor or no.

The key to understanding the excitement behind the Gear Fit lies in seeing it as a smart watch – one with a very different form factor, yes, but a watch all the same. After all, the Fit still displays the time, still runs apps, and still delivers notifications via a Bluetooth 4.0 link to a compatible Galaxy-branded smartphone. On paper, its battery life is comparable, as is its imperviousness to the elements. Going from the Gear 2 to the Gear Fit, about the only things you’re sacrificing are the voice calling capability and the camera – hardly insurmountable losses for all but the most diehard of smart watch wearers.

galaxy fit pileup

The Gear Fit isn’t without its shortcomings. I have real concerns about its display orientation (wearing its screen on the inside wrist would seem to be key); I worry about how well its 210mAh battery will fare in the real world; and I continue to chafe at Samsung’s sensible but frustrating policy to limit the Fit’s compatibility to Galaxy devices. As I keep saying with regard to Samsung’s new hardware, we won’t know how good it really is or isn’t until we’ve put it through the full review process.

But the Gear Fit is an important confirmation that Samsung is capable of -and willing to- step outside its comfort zone when it comes to new categories. Even as the company devotes resources to iterating on an unpopular design with the Gear 2 series, it shows it’s willing to keep experimenting with this little gem. And judging from the early reactions, that experiment is paying off: taking a quick look around, it’s tough to find initial impressions of the Gear Fit that aren’t glowing.

For Samsung, the key lies not just in seizing upon this opportunity to demonstrate that it’s capable of the “surprise and delight” it so often attempts, but also to position the Gear Fit as more than a fitness device. It’s products like this which must become the core of Samsung’s smart watch strategy. Only then can the company fully leave behind the echoes of its embarrassing opening-salvo misfire just six months ago.


Pocketnow

How exactly could Apple re-invent the smart watch?

Wearable technology is nothing new. Today we have Google Glass, Pebble and several other smart watches, medical devices like insulin pumps, Bluetooth headsets, and more. Taking a step back, we’ve had watches that tell us the time, the date, and the day of the week. Some even had built-in calculators, calendars, altimeters, and barometers. Historically, we’ve generally placed our technology in our pockets (smartphones and pocket watches, for example), or we’ve worn them on our wrists. It’s only recently that tech has started to make its way to our faces.

It stands to reason that the wrist has been a universally accepted place for this technology because it offers both utility and flexibility, along with ergonomics. As such, using history as our guide, it’s just as likely that the wrist will continue to be the hub of wearable technology as we head into the future.

Google, Pebble, Samsung, LG, Qualcomm, Sony, and others have all gotten into the “wearables” game, but one company is conspicuously absent. What exactly could we expect from an Apple smart watch?

An Apple Smart Watch

iwatch-render

Recent rumors tell us that Apple is working on a smart watch. We’ve seen conceptualizations of what an iWatch might look like, but we don’t know exactly what it will look like, or what it will do to set itself apart from the other smart watches on the market today.

Other rumors indicate that Apple may build a solar panel into the face of the watch and supplement that with kinetic charging as well. Every time your iWatch is exposed to light it would charge. For every step you take and every swing of your arm, it would charge. If these rumors are true, either Apple plans on installing a ridiculously small battery in the device, or it’s going to need some serious juice to power it. Pebble is a fairly full-functioned smart watch, and its battery lasts an entire week between charges. Why then would Apple’s need so much supplemental power?

Health and Fitness

Nike-Fuel-Featured

A watch has to tell the time. It should also know what day it is, as well as the day of the week. A “smart” watch has to do more. It’s got to talk to your phone or tablet and bring notifications to your wrist. It’s got to be able to control your music or video player, too. And, lest we forget, you’ve got to be able to customize its face. But all of those are pretty much universally available in smart watches that you can buy today. Apple can’t just do those things, they’ve got to innovate, and do something that other smart watches don’t.

The answer? Health and fitness!

Biometrics and sensors and likely going to play a key role in Apple’s smart watch — once it finally lands. Over the last several months, Apple has hired numerous health-related professionals to its staff. There aren’t that many health peripherals on the market today, and the few that are typically require you to wear them around your chest, under your clothing — not very comfortable or very stylish!

Some rumors are pointing out that the iWatch will be able to monitor your heart rate, sleep quality, steps taken, and even measure your glucose — perhaps even read your blood/oxygen levels. Add to that the ability to control your music, and you’ve got the perfect workout companion!

iOS Integration

iphone-5s-fingerprint

Other than being able to control your media, the iWatch will need to integrate with other iOS features and functionality.  Displaying an incoming caller’s name and photo, displaying alerts of new mail, upcoming calendar events, and more are obviously a no-brainer.

What else should it do? How about helping you get from point A to point B by on-wrist mapping? Potential FaceTime integration — with your phone in your pocket — to see who you’re talking to, and carry on a conversation with them face to face, via your wrist would certainly push the iWatch over the top.

Ultimately though, the iWatch is going to be more about convenience and integration. It’s going to re-invent the entire smart watch category, and bring fitness and health tracking to the forefront of your iOS experience.

What about you?

What do you think Apple has in store for its rumored iWatch? What features do you want to see? What do you think is “too much” to cram into a 1.5-inch square on your wrist? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

Image credits: LunaTik, Nike


Pocketnow

Android and the Smart Home

android_stock2_720w

Home security is no longer just for at home. The past 5 years have seen cell phone technology transform the way we interact with the things we own, putting their management into the palm of your hand. You can now control everything from baby monitors to refrigerators with your smartphone, and Android is emerging as the dominant software in smart home technology.

android_open_auto_allianceAt times, their dominance is a result of their direct integration into a system. Google recently announced Open Automotive Alliance is high profile example of this strategy. By building Android into cars and
other consumer centered platforms Google can seamlessly integrate with a host of their other products and services. This is certainly the strategy behind the $ 3.2 billion acquisition of Nest.

But another part of their dominance has come from getting companies to integrate their own systems into Android. Companies like ADT, who were once at the forefront of smart home technology with their home monitoring system, have been forced to adapt to the new environment the smart phone has created. They released ADT Pulse on both iPhone and Android to adapt their offerings to the ever expanding Internet of Things. ADT has also expanded the traditional security features to encompass home automation in general, linking your lighting, climate control and more to any web-enabled device. Android is a key technology ADT has been forced to integrate with in their efforts to survive.

If you take a look at ADT Pulse’s features, it is clear the Internet and mobile phones have played a significant role in the product’s design. Just look at the features available:

  • Arm and disarm your security system
  • Lock and unlock doors
  • Control climate and lighting
  • Receive text and/or email alerts
  • Check on video surveillance

Mobility and ease of use are driving the product offerings of ADT Pulse. They are also the same drivers behind Android’s integration into the automobile and home services landscape. Companies that once relied on Android for serving their customers could soon become overshadowed by Google itself as it flexes its software muscles to enter spaces traditionally occupied by its partners.

Remote access to your home, whether it’s turning your security system on and off, locking or unlocking your doors, managing your lights, optimizing your heating and cooling system, or generating customized alerts about the on-goings in your home, is the future of how we experience and manage our homes. Google is preparing to be a big part of how consumers will interact with their homes and Android is their big bet on how to win the market.

GUEST BLOG CONTRIBUTOR: Anna Stephens

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AndroidGuys

Google working on smart contact lens to aide diabetics

Hand holding - zoomed in

At Google X, the Internet giant’s secret facility, Googlers are working on projects out of the norm, like Google Glass, to make the world a better place.

Today Google introduced one of its projects that aims to help people with diabetes, smart contact lenses.

Before you start imagining tiny devices able to place notifications literally in your eye or to be able to watch YouTube videos, these are strictly to help manage diabetes, which Google says is “affecting one in 19 people on the planet.”

You may have heard about diabetes, but if you’re not completely sure what it is, someone that has diabetes is not able to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

Since diabetics usually need to usually wear some sort of sensor or need to prick their finger and test drops of blood throughout the day to manage their glucose levels, Google X set out to make it less painful though computer ”chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair”.

What the smart contact lenses will do is check the glucose in tears thanks to a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material.

The prototypes are able to generate one reading per second and Google may eventually integrate tiny LEDs into the lenses as an indicator for dramatic changes in glucose levels.

Google X’s smart lenses are still in the very early stages, but there have ready been multiple clinical research studies and discussions with the FDA. Google is also currently looking for partners to help develop apps to make the measurements available to the wearer and their doctor. So depending on how long these take to come to market. you may be able to get this information on your smartphone, smartwatch, Google, Glass, smart glasses, etc.?

With projects like this, it seems anything is possible thanks to tech. So, what are your thoughts on the smart contact lenses? Do you think they will catch on or are they too strange?

via Official Google Blog

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