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The Samsung Gear Live made its debut at Google I/O last week alongside the LG G Watch and Motorola Moto 360 (which is not available yet). All smartwatches run Google’s operating system for wearables Android Wear and will pair with any mobile device running Android version 4.3 or above. So for the first time Samsung launched a smartwatch that will be compatible with all Android 4.3 smartphones and not just its Galaxy product line.

The Samsung Gear Live is available for pre-order at the Google Play Store for $199 in the US.

The Galaxy Gear Live was announced at Google I/O 2104 is the latest addition to Samsung’s wearable product lineup which includes the original Galaxy Gear (launched at IFA 2013), the Gear Fit, Gear 2, and Gear 2 Neo which all announced at Mobile World Congress 2014.

Specifications

Name G Watch Gear Live
Brand LG Samsung
Product Size 1.49 x 1.83 x 0.39″ 1.49 x 2.22 x 0.35″
Product Weight 2.22 Oz 2.08 Oz
Price (Street) $229.99 $199.99
Display Type IPS LCD, touchscreen Super AMOLED, touchscreen
Resolution 280×280 320×320
Diagonal 1.65″ 1.63″
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
2-core
1.2 MHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
2-core
1.2 MHz
OS Android Wear Android Wear
Internal Storage 4 GB 4 GB
RAM 0.5 GB 0.5 GB
Battery Capacity (mAh) 400 mAh 300 mAh

What’s new or different from the Samsung Gear 2?

The Gear Live looks pretty similar to the Gear 2 except that it has no camera, just like the Gear Neo, and it features slightly different materials (check out the pictures for comparison). The charging system is very similar, however not compatible because the 4 charging pins on the charger clip are in a different location and the Gear Live chassis is 1 millimeter larger than the Gear 2."THE MAIN DIFFERENCE IS ANDROID WEAR"  

The Gear Live runs a Snapdragon 400 1.2 GHz processor, an upgrade from the 1.0 GHz processor featured in the Gear 2. The Gear Live  an IR LED (infra-red emitter), a feature that allows the Gear 2 to act as a TV remote.

On the software side, the main difference is Android Wear which enables the Gear Live to be always on, one of our preferred feature so far, since we found that constantly pushing a button to read the time on the Gear 1 and Gear 2 was quite painful in the long run. The Samsung Galaxy gear 2 runs Samsung proprietary OS Tizen.

The Gear 2 offers the capability to answer calls directly on the watch, and read emails and reply to them from there, which is not possible on the Gear Live. The Voice commands are more elaborate on the Gear live since you can access all the main features by saying “OK Google” then saying the name of the sub-menu you would like to reach. On the Gear 2 Gear 2 is a little more limited, allowing only to trigger a call, a text or ask for the weather.

The dimensions and weight of both devices are a hair different, Gear 2 measures 36.9 x 58.4x 10.0 mm for 68g and Gear live: 37.9 x 56.4 x 8.9 mm for 59g.

Display (excellent)

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"THE SCREEN IS ALWAYS ON AND THAT’S A KEY ADVANTAGE OVER THE GEAR 2"   The 1.63” Super AMOLED with 320×320 resolution offers a fantastic luminosity, and it delivers a slightly better image quality than the LG G watch in terms of brightness, vividness and contrast. For this comparison, From the brief time I had with the Moto 360, it looked like that device offered a similar image quality.

Thanks to Android Wear requirements, the screen is always on and that’s a key advantage over the Gear 2, especially when you work out! The Gear Live has a better power management than the Gear 2, despite its always on feature the battery life is quite similar, the device roughly last for one day, with average usage.

It is important to note that, according to LG representatives, the LG G Watch display does not offer the same brightness quality because it consume less power. We have tested the LG G watch and it looks like it has a slightly better battery life of 2 days vs. one day / one day and a half.

Industrial Design & Hardware (very good)

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Since the first Samsung smart watch, the Galaxy Gear, I personally like the look and feel of the Gear lineup a lot. The Gear Live is pleasing to the eyes and the chassis is very well crafted with quality materials.

Is it comfortable to wear?

However, compared to competitive products such as the Pebble Steel, the Sony Smartwatch 2 and the LG G Watch, the Gear Live, just like the Gear 2, is the least comfortable to wear and to put on. The band feels less smooth and less flexible than the others and it is sometimes a little challenging to put it on, especially when you need, like I do, to reach the last hole on the band.
Similarly to the Gear 2, the Gear Live features removable plastic bands that are available in several colors (colors)

Hardware

The chassis is sleeker than the gear 2 due to the absence of the camera and the IR LED (infra-red emitter), the home button is much more discreet and located on the right side while it is placed at the bottom of the display on the Gear 2. Close to the home button you will find a microphone and one of the two tiny speakers, the other one is on the opposite side. The charging pins are located on the back, where you place the charging clip. The heart rate sensor is just below the pin.

Software – Android Wear & Usage (very good)

What really sets the Gear live apart from its predecessor is the Operating System, Android Wear offers a different experience than Tizen in the Gear 2.

Display Always ON (excellent)

In my opinion, one of the best benefits of Android Wear is the always on display, which allows to get the time with a glance without having to constantly push the button. This is very practical during the workout when you need to interact with a stopwatch while sprinting on a treadmill or an indoor bike – I can say that since I tested both devices side by side during my workout. Despite the display being always on, the Gear Live offers a better power management than the previous model, I had them charged 100% and 24h later the Gear 2 was out of battery while the Gear Live still had 30% left.

Android Notifications (very good)

The second key advantage is the fact that you get all the Android notifications directly on the watch without the need to configure the notification settings in the Android Wear app on the phone, something you have to do with the gear Manager for the Gear 2 for example.

Email notifications (less capabilities than the Gear 2 and Pebble)

The design of the notification screens is more appealing than on the Gear 2, however, I was not able to read the beginning of my emails from the Gear Live, something you can do with the Gear 2 and the Pebble. With the Gear 2 it is also possible to reply with pre-saved short messages or even call the sender if his/her phone number is saved in the contact app on the phone.
As you can see on the device display, the email notification displays a bunch of my emails in one screen and not one by one. You have to open the app from the watch on the smartphone to read the messages

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LEFT: email content can be read on the Gear 2 RIGHT: on Gear Live you have to open it to read it on the phone


Text notifications: 
The text notifications display the whole message, unlike the email notification.

Call notifications

The call notification displays the caller identity and allows to take the call on the watch, but you need to get to your phone to have the conversation. On the contrary, you can answer a call from the Samsung Gear 2. Some people like that feature, notably when they are busy carrying stuff in their hands and the only device they can reach easily is the watch.

Other application notifications

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Other notifications included Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare (friend request or comment). When you receive a notification all you can do is either open the app from the watch to read a comment or accept a friend directly by tapping an icon on the watch. (see photo gallery above)

Top functions in the main menu – access by saying “OK Google” (good)

Following the experiment Google did with Glass, Android Wear is making voice commands the main way to interact with the Gear Live, . Once on the home screen you just have to say “Ok Google” (or tap once on the display) to access the main menu, then you can say the name one of the 14 functions available in the main menu or scroll down and tap on it. To call someone, you just have to say “Call<someone name>” and it will trigger a call on your phone, that function

Once you are in that menu and you start scrolling the functions, the voice command does not work any more, you have to go back to the Voice Search screen by tapping the top of the home screen to start to activate one of the sub-menu by voice. I tried to say Ok Google to avoid tapping the screen to go to the voice command screen but it did not work. You will have to go back to the home screen simply by covering the display with you hand of pressing the hoem button on the side.

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See below the whole list of the 14 sub-menus you can access from the Voice Search screen by saying the words written in bold, I tested all of them and I was able to access using commands in English with my foreign accent (see photo) :

Take a note, you can dictate a note, it will be automatically be sent with the default gmail account on your smartphone. When you install Evernote on your smartphone and Evernote for Android Wear, this function will automatically save your notes to Evernote.

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The reminder shows up on the Gear Live and can be sen i Google Now on the phone

Remind me allows to save reminders, the voice recognition works well, the few times I tried it, it understood the action and the time perfectly, despite my foreign accent in English. You have to speak clearly. The reminders were stored in the Google Now app on my phone, and it was not saved in my Microsoft Exchange Calendar.

Show my steps displays the number of steps performed while wearing the Gear Live.

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Heart Rate

Show my heart rate measures the heart rate, a unique feature to the Samsung Gear Live that only the Basis smartwatch offers (acquired this year by Intel). This feature does not work very well, I had to position the chassis on the other side of my wrist or press on it to make it work. When I was working out, even when I pressed the Gear Live it did not work, I guess because my sweat was blocking the sensor.

Overall the heart rate monitor was working the best when I used it with the tip of my index finger, but obviously you have to take off the watch to do this.

The Gear Live could use a little help message to explain why this does not work. The Gear 2 features explanation messages.

Send a text: you can dictate a text message as well as the name of the recipient. I had no problem making it work, I had to speak clearly with a proper English pronunciation, specifically for the name “Hubert”. Since we operate a global publication in multiple languages, a lot of my contacts have non-English names and for those people sometimes, it is impossible to get the system to recognize their names. When I tried English names, it worked fine.

Email: the email function work exactly like the text message. The trick is when one of your contacts has multiple email addresses, the system could not recognize it when I said it, I had to select the one I wanted by tapping on it.

Agenda for today: when you say that, it displays your next appointment and you can access all the appointments of the day. If you saved a long description note with the event in the calendar, you can read it entirely on the watch display, which is neat.
When you get the reminder to go to the meeting, you can trigger the navigation from there by tapping on the address, which is very practical.

Navigate to (address or place): Controlling the navigation form the Gear Live is a little more tricky than dictating notes or messages. The system did not recognize all the addresses I said and sometimes even when the address was recognized, such as 50 Third Street in San Francisco, it opened the browser with the website of the Hotel located at this address. Overall it is pretty practical to dictate an address using the watch and start navigating without having to touch the phone.

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Set a timer for x seconds / minutes: sets the timer for the amount of seconds or minutes you said. This feature has been very practical for my workouts, since I have to time my jump rope and running sessions. Once the time is over, the watch vibrates, so you do not need to look at the screen to know you have to stop.

Set an alarm at x am / pm: sets the alarm for the next day at the time requested

 

Show alarms: shows the alarms you have set.

Start stopwatch: the voice command worked well, however, it sent me to the stopwatch but did not start it. When I used it during workouts I wish the screen could stay on the stopwatch until I close it, because after 4 minutes or so, the display dimmed and went back to the home screen. It was somewhat annoying to have to operate the watch while moving just to go back to the stopwatch.

Settings: there you can access the settings such as the display brightness, the always-on display feature on or off, airplane mode, restart (which can be done by long pressing the physical home button as well), power off, reset device, change watch face (where you select different faces among thirteen different), restart. I tried to combine the words “settings” and “brightness” to access directly that section, but the system is not programmed for that, it understood the 2 words but directed me to a Google search result page on the watch.

Start: this is the menu where you can access the third-party compatible applications, my watch had trouble understand me saying “start”, many times it understood “stop” instead, I am assuming that, for this word, my accent might get in the way. I could access the Evernote menu by saying “Start Evernote” but it did not work in other applications such as Allthecooks or Eat24 or Fit. Google may not have saved the apps audio names in the system.

Applications (confusing at first – could offer better features)

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Since I am used to get the app menu right from the second screen with the naming convention “app”, it was not obvious to find the applications menu. The Start menu is available at the bottom of the main menu, and accessible by saying “Start” right after you have accessed Voice Search. Personally, I find it a little painful to have to scroll down at the bottom of the main menu to reach the applications zone, it would be nice to have the option to flick on the right or the left of the screen to browse the apps or customize a different voice command to reach it.

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From Android Wear on your smartphone, you can check which application are compatible with the wearable operating system from the “Browse compatible apps” menu. For now there are only 33 applications listed there. I tried briefly Allthecooks, a recipe application, EAT24, a food order app, Runtastic, a running app, Lyft, a car service app and Evernote.

I was able to order a preset menu from a local restaurant using EAT24 directly from my watch without even having a credit card registered to my account, I canceled the order because this has been just for testing purpose and frankly I did not expect the order to be placed without any double check.

Runtastic is a bit slow to open on the watch, and as the response is no immediate it can be mistaken as a bug. Using Runtastic on the treadmill is not ideal since you can only track the timing and not the distance (GPS enabled) and your path on the map. Actually, you can visualize the Runtastic map on the watch, I have to go for a run in the city to see how it goes.

Pinterest does not offer specific functions, the icon is not present in the Start menu after installing it on the phone. I got the notifications like the other regular apps
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Battery (average – better than previous Gears)

Battery Life (1 day)

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According to Samsung the battery life has been improved from the Gear 2. As I wrote earlier in this review, I tested the Gear 2 and the Gear Live side by side and the Gear 2 lasted for 24h with moderate activity while the Gear Live still had 30% left at that time.

Another time, I tested again the Gear Live and that day included more intense activity, since I was working out and trying multiple features in addition to the regular notifications: the timer, stopwatch, heart rate… After 7 hours, the battery was at 60%, so basically it last roughly 21h to 30h depending on the activity level. Samsung representative told me at Google I/O that the company estimate is one day, which is pretty accurate

Charging time (too long for a 300 mAh battery)

Surprisingly, the battery requires 2 hours to be fully charged, both on the Gear 2 and the Gear Live, which is way too long for a small battery (300 mAh). In comparison the Pebble Steel is charged in half an hour. Additionally, we would like to get wireless charging like we have seen in the Qualcomm Toq.

Conclusion (very good)

The Good

UI and product design with gorgeous display: except for the band which is a bit difficult to put on, the product design is great and the display is amazing. The Android Wear user interface is well done and pleasing to look at.

The Android Wear always on feature allows the device to behave like a real watch, a feature that was lacking on most smart watches.

The easy setup is also a key advantage, as you can see all your Android notifications right away with no installation required. You also have access to specific compatible applications that can be used on the watch, such as recipe apps, food ordering and fitness apps.

The battery life has been improved, the Gear Live last for 24 hours, which is on par with most smartphones featuring a regular battery (some last 2 days). Knowing that Pebble Steel  (black and white display) and the Qualcomm Toq (color Mirasol display) can last for 5 days , we would expect more from the Gear Live, but for now, it seems difficult to benefit from an always on gorgeous SuperAMOLED display without sacrificing the battery longevity.

The voice commands work very well and are easily accessible by saying OK Google, a capability that is not included in the Gear 2. The feature could be improved and extended to more sub-menus, I tried to say “Settings, Display” or “Settings, Change Watch Face” for example, and although the system understood perfectly all the words, it did not open the corresponding feature, instead it started a Google search on the web.

Heart rate monitor, this features sets the Gear Live apart from most of its competitors, including the LG G Watch and excluding the Basis. Although it is sometimes hard to make it to work consitantly, it is a great feature to have when you use all the fitness capabilities of Android Wear.

The bad

Long Charging time: it takes two hours to charge the watch which should not be that long for a small battery like this.

There is no access to email content from the watch, unlike the Pebble or the Gear 2, which is a little disappointing. Sometimes when I am on the go with my smartphone buried in my purse, it is easier to rapidly glance at the content of an email on my wrist.

The heart rate monitor does not work well, however, it is not a vital feature and you can always use your finger to make it work.

What could be improved – Wish List

Better band: in fact the Gear 2 provides a better arm band because its closing system is easier to lock. The most comfortable bands we have tried are the ones featured in the LG G watch, the Sony Smartwatch 2 and the Pebble Steel, they all have a traditional buckle system and use a very smooth material for the band itself (plastic-based or leather).

More voice commands: it would be great to have more voice commands available, specifically to reach sub-sub menus and features. In fact, being able to customize our own voice comands to call specific apps or functions would be great! This should be technically possible, companies like Sensory or Nuance do a great job with voice recognition for wearables now.

Easier navigation: even if it is super paractical to just mask the watch with your palm to get back to the home screen from anywhare, specifically in the case of browsing to one application to the other I wish there will be a faster way to do it. I expect the Android Wear tema to come up with the equivalent of the recent apps virtual button or allow to say the app name from any screen of the watch.

Better hearth rate monitor: for people who love to work out, being able to frequently measure hearth rate is a key benefit, however it should work every time. This is not a “vital” feature and it is nice to have the option to make the measurement even with the index finger on the sensor though.

Better battery: as consumers, we always want more battery life, and please try to get this device to be charged in half an hour, at least no more than one hour (it takes two hours). We would like to be able to charge the Gear Live directly with a USB charger without the need to use a clipping craddle, because we always fear to lose it since it is so tiny.

More compelling applications: sometimes the existing applications are a bit limited in terms of features they offer on the watch, I am thinking about Evernote here, it was not really possible to browse my existing note on the watch. Some of the menus did not work.

Bottom-line

The Samsung Gear Live is to date, the best smartwatch I have tried, with an easy to use and good looking interface. Thanks to the always-on feature alongside the gorgeous display, the Gear Live is a true beautiful watch that happens to offer practical smart features.

Filed in Featured >Gadgets >Reviews . Tags: smartwatch and Wearable Tech.
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