Finally we’ve got our hands on Samsung Gear Live – the fifth smartwatch by Samsung in just nine months. That means that on average Samsung has launched a smartwatch almost every fifty days. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if you look at their history of releasing smartphone models in quick succession.
So Samsung is no stranger to smartwatches, but this one is a new breed. Let’s so an in-depth review of the Samsung Gear Live and rate its individual features.
- OS : Android Wear
- Display : 1.63-inch Super AMOLED (320 x 320 pixels)
- Compatible with : Android 4.3 or higher
- Processor : 1.2 GHz
- RAM : 512MB
- Storage : 4GB
- Connectivity : Bluetooth® 4.0 LE
- Dimension/Weight : 37.9 x 56.4x 8.9 mm/59g
- Battery : Li-ion 300mAh
- Google Services : Google Now, Google Voice, Google Maps & Navigation, Gmail, Hangouts
- Color Options : Black and Wine Red
- Sensors : Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Heart Rate
- Other features : Heart Rate Monitor, IP67 Dust and Water Resistant
In-depth Samsung Gear Live Review
Let’s dig a little deeper and scrutinize all its features:
Since the watch is based on Android Wear, user interface is mostly dependent Google’s platform for wearable devices.
First, Android Wear is a work in progress, so we cannot give a final verdict already but we have to rather wait and see how it will really become. Navigating your way around the Wear interface is not very easy, or at least it feels a little less user-friendly after having used Android and Tizen-based smartwatches.
All notifications from your smartphone and from the watch itself are pushed onto the watch face in the form of cards, pretty much like you see in Google Now. Each card has the basic info about the alert, and you can tap to read more or swipe away to discard the notification as well as occasionally swipe to reply, for example in case of a text message or email.
The home screen shows only date and time, and from there you have two options: swipe down and you get to view the battery life plus option to mute or unmute the watch, while tapping anywhere on the screen will pop up the main menu which is actually a vertical list of commands.
The biggest hassle with the interface is that there is no back button, the only way to go back is by swiping away a card, but then you will end up on the home screen. So in case you want to go back to the previous menu, you’ll have to start from the home screen once again and make your way to that particular menu. On top of that, most menus are buried under several layers, so be ready to do a lot of swiping.
This might make you feel that the Android Wear is complex and tedious, however, you won’t have to do endless tapping and swiping as long as you don’t mind talking to your watch. You can say “okay Google” to access the main menu, and then give commands to your watch and it will obey. Though Google voice recognition is pretty accurate and much better than the voice recognition system of Tizen-powered Samsung Gear watches, but it can’t hold a candle to Siri.
There are three different screen modes on Gear Live: off, on and dim; and the sole button on the side lets you switch between these modes. You can set the screen to turn off when not in use, but I personally prefer it to go dim because the purpose of watch is to display the time… at all times. A long press of the button, when the screen is on, brings up the Settings menu. The button can also act as power button.
The 1.6 inch super AMOLED display with 320x 320 pixels is exactly the same as we have seen in the Gear 2. After doing the math, you get about 278 pixels per inch which is a fairly sharp image and you won’t notice any distorted pixels.
The biggest issue with the display is awful visibility in the sun. On top of that, there is no auto brightness feature in the settings. Even if you set the brightness to maximum, reading the text in sunlight is very tough while full brightness destroys the battery in no time. To adjust the brightness, you have to swipe all the way to the settings menu, which is a hassle if you have to do it several times.
The Gear Live measures 1.49X2.22×0.35 inches and weighs almost 1.97 ounces. So it is lighter than the Gear 2 but it looks big and chunky.
As for the overall design, it is a hybrid of the previous Gear smartwatches. It has a metal body just like the Gear 2, but it does not have a camera like the Gear 2 Neo and has a simple replaceable wristband like the Gear fit. The watch looks cool and the build quality is fantastic considering the brushed stainless body.
The replaceable strap gives you the freedom to customize the watch as per your personal likings. However, the original wristband fits perfectly on the watch while most other wristbands will reveal the parts of the watch not meant to be visible, and thus might make it look a little less pretty.
There is no camera or speaker, but there is a mic on the right side which is perfectly positioned if you wear the watch on your left wrist. The mic is pretty sensitive, almost as sensitive as the microphone in your smartphone.
Looks like Samsung has learned from making several smartwatches and has incorporated the best things from all the previous models into this one.
Probably the biggest hassle with most smartwatches, especially with Samsung’s smartwatches, is the short battery life. Unfortunately, the Gear Live is the worst in terms of battery life. You will have to charge it every single day, and you must use the proprietary charging dock which is another annoyance. The only good thing is that the watch charges fairly fast, it goes from about 20% to 100% in less than 90 minutes.
To stretch things beyond 24 hours, you have to set the brightness down all the way and throttle down the amount of notifications pushed to your watch, but that is far from an ideal solution as it nearly kills the purpose of a smartwatch.
Compatibility and connectivity
The Gear Live connects to your smartphone through Bluetooth 4.0 LE technology, which puts less burden on the battery of the two devices.
Another good thing about the Gear Live is that it connects to all Android 4.3 devices or higher. While the iPhone users are out of luck, the Gear Live still connects to a wider pool of phones as compared to other Samsung smartwatches which are compatible with just a few Samsung phones.
Dust and water resistance
You can get your Gear Live wet because it is IP 67 – just like the Gear two – which means that under normal circumstances dust won’t enter the case and you can submerge it under 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Features and apps
If you look at the features, it looks like a Gear Neo Lite. Unfortunately, right now it is even more limited than Samsung’s last round of watches released in the spring.
Though the main function of the watch is to show notifications pushed by your smartphone, it can access some functions, such as stopwatch, pedometer, and heart rate monitor, even when not paired with a phone. The heart rate sensor looks and works pretty much like the one you find on the Gear 2 family, and using the thumb on the wrist method it seems fairly accurate most of the time but once in a while it throws out a number that can’t be right.
Other notable features of the watch are the context stream – a vertical list of cards that appears on the watch, one at a time displaying notifications like weather, texts, emails, directions and other actions. But the feature we liked the most is the voice recognition system.
As we’ve already talked about Android Wear apps, some of them show extra promise. Tinder’s app lets you swipe pictures just like you can do on your smartphone. DuoLingo lets you learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and English from your wrist. Eat24 lets you order food from over 25,000 restaurants in 1000+ cities. Lyft can arrange car service for you. Fantastic starts and tracks your run. Thompson Reuters Eikon gets latest business headlines and stock prices and displays them on your wrist.
Gear Live vs other smartwatches
As we’ve already talked about how Gear Live resembles and differs from other Samsung Gear watches throughout the review, let us compare it with the two other most potent smartwatches.
Gear Live vs LG G
The most notable difference between the two watches is that the Live has 1.63 inch 320 x 220 pixel super AMOLED display as opposed to the 1.65 inch 280 x 280 pixel LCD display on the G watch. Both the watches offer poor visibility in the sunlight; but the Live is a clear winner because of higher pixel density.
In addition to a sharper screen, the Gear Live also has a heart rate monitor and is $30 less expensive. So, considering that both the watches are based on the same platform, and look almost equally attractive, the Gear Live is the better of the two.
Gear Live vs the Pebble
The Android Wear-based watch might look like a better choice because of a better display, touch screen interface, allegedly robust operating system and powerful features, however, the Pebble still offers some unique benefits.
Simplicity has its place, while some people might prefer the flashy new Android Wear watches, many would still prefer the simplicity and elegance of the Pebble. But the biggest benefit the Pebble offers over all its rivals is the better display outdoors, even though it is simple, plain and black and white.
What’s more, the Pebble has a much longer battery life, is cross platform compatible, offers better navigation and is currently more readily available online as well as in stores. Yes, we’ve talked about the apps already available for the Wear watches, but at the time of writing this review there are only 30 apps in the store while there are over 250 apps in the Pebble store.
In the coming days the Android Wear will evolve and might trump the Pebble, however, currently we think the Pebble has a slight edge over the new arrivals.
So is the Gear Live worth your money? That’s a tough question with an easy answer: if you’re not ready to tinker with a generation one device based on a platform with plenty of growing pains in the store, pass it on. But as I said earlier it’s one of the best options available right now and I personally love using my Gear Live and consider it an amazing addition to my smartwatch collection.
Samsung Gear Live
Design & display7/10
Compatibility and connectivity6/10
Features and apps8/10
- Google Now functionality
- Heart rate monitor
- Metal body
- Replaceable strap
- More features at a reasonable price
- Poor battery life
- No back button
- Poor visibility in sunlight
- Annoying proprietary charger