How are you liking the Android Wear 2 update?

It's been about 6 months since Android Wear was updated to version 2.0. Along with the ever present promises of better battery life and performance enhancements, we got new features that included goodies like being able to install apps on the phone and use it in standalone mode with its own LTE connection. As far as updates go, it was a pretty darn good one.

Of course, two new watches appeared to kick things off. Both were from LG, but they are distinctly separate models for different kinds of users. The LG Watch Style is smaller and lacks an LTE connection and NFC. This helps keep it slimmer, and a slimmer and smaller smartwatch is something a lot of people want. The flip side is the LG Watch sport, which is not ashamed of its girth because all the bells and whistles are on board.

I've been using the LG Watch Sport for a while and here's my quick take.

The Watch

This isn't a review of the LG Watch Sport. You can read that here if you want a longer take on the watch and the features of the software. But one thing needs mentioning because it is a result of being able to support Android Wear 2's new features.

This watch is thick.

Baby's Got Back.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Just like some want a smaller and slimmer watch, there are plenty of people who love big chunky watches. And it has to be thick to fit all the new parts to include NFC and LTE in the watch body. It will take a redesign of how LG builds the familiar round diver-style watch to make it slimmer, and that is surely coming. But for LG in 2017, it had to be thick. In any case, it's not something to ignore but it's hard to complain too much because the new hardware does work well and fully supports Android Wear 2.

I thought this would bother me more than it did, even though I don't necessarily mind a big watch. But I found it wasn't as bad as I feared and after a week or so I didn't notice it at all. Whether that's a credit to LG's design team or me convincing myself to just deal with it I don't know. But I've been wearing it 20 hours a day for the past six weeks and have no problems with it.

I do like the crown and buttons on the Sport, and they make navigating the new UI changes easy. Being able to feel all three buttons is almost necessary to use the new software, especially in the dark with your watch lit up brightly.

Connectivity

I've been using my Sport on Project Fi with a data-only SIM card or with a standard T-Mobile SIM card on a legacy unlimited plan. It's worth mentioning that a Project Fi SIM gives you a great data connection and there are no restrictions on how you use that data, but you can't natively send text messages or make calls. Some have been able to use various workarounds, but don't expect it to work. Likewise, your T-Mobile plan might not apply for use with a wearable, so check with them if you have any questions.

The LTE connection can be very useful if you need to leave your phone at home but it's not a necessary feature for me.

Having said that, I don't have a need for a standalone LTE connection. I see why some folks do, but if you have your phone in your pocket all the time, it's just not something you'll be using very often. It does work well. You can look at your email or messages of social media, stream music, download apps from Google Play, or surf the web even. But if you have your phone on you and they're connected, you can do the same without an LTE connection.

Calling someone using your watch only feels like a really cool James Bond thing the first time. It's convenient but it's also very public. Rather than step away for a bit or privacy, I would reach for my phone; at least that way only one side of the conversation was loud enough to hear. If Google Assistant worked a little better, it would be great while I was driving. I'm sure Google sees the need for some improvement there.

In any case, having a data connection or making calls from a watch isn't exactly new, nor is it new to LG. It is new for Android Wear, though. And while I don't find either particularly useful, things work better than I expected for a first try. People who do find the new connectivity options a useful addition are probably more happy about that than those of us who don't, but as a tech writer, it's nice to see Google get it right the first time.

Standalone apps

I like the idea of standalone apps on the watch. I also think it was smart to forgo them in version one and wait for some more specialized internal hardware that wouldn't choke on them. If I have to worry about managing apps on my watch to keep it from lagging, I'm just not interested.

Standalone apps and the Play Store are something Google got right on the first try.

I haven't seen any serious issues with apps installed and running on the watch. Battery life takes a hit because you're doing more, but it's comparable to using apps that ran on your phone in version one of the software. If you do it a lot, that means the screen is on a lot and you put it on the charger a lot.

When you install an app on your phone that has a counterpart for your watch, you get notified that you can download and install it. You can also browse a curated and mostly text-based version of the Play Store through your watch and install apps that way. It's very simple and easy to understand, which is always a plus.

The selection isn't as robust as anyone would have hoped six months later, but there's not much you aren't able to do with your watch even if you can't use the same app you're used to using.

NFC and Android Pay

Paying for something with your phone is easy, and using your watch is even easier. Except, not really.

That's mostly because of security needs. I know the idea of walking by with a six-pack of socks or whatever you needed that day and holding up your wrist as you pass by a payment terminal sounds cool, but in reality, you don't want things to automatically pay for themselves when they are using your money. It's not difficult to use Android Pay, but it's certainly not automagic. That's a good thing.

Android Pay isn't automatic. You need to manually open the app, and that's how it should be.

For starters, you'll need to set up a PIN and unlock your watch anytime you have taken it off. It stays unlocked as long as it stays on your wrist, though. When you want to use Android Pay you'll need to open the app, let it load and hold the top of the watch near the payment terminal to pay with your default card. If you want to use a different card, you'll need to choose which one from the Android Pay app. The rest is what you're already used to if you use Android Pay, as is the hit-or-miss availability at the places you shop.

Again, Google did a good job with things and the times I've used Android Pay through my watch have all went off with nary a hitch. It is worth noting that while you can use Android Pay without having a connection to your phone, the initial setup only works when connected to a phone that supports Android Pay itself. Since this is also a security feature it's not something I'm complaining about, but some people surely feel differently.

Odds and ends

  • The "app drawer" puts recently used apps at the top of the list, which is awesome. Scrolling through the list isn't hard but seeing the handful of apps you use most on the screen together is a great touch.
  • Typing on a tiny watch screen is awkward. There is no sugar coating that.
  • Having Google Assistant on your watch would be a lot better if Google Home and your phone didn't fight with it. Google needs to fix this.
  • Using more than one Google account is surprisingly easy.
  • Android Wear 2 probably won't appeal to someone who didn't like Android Wear version one. You either want or need smart features on your watch or you don't.

Final thoughts

There are going to be some people who think NFC and watch payments or standalone connectivity finally makes having a smartwatch worth it. But I'm betting that most people who didn't find Android Wear useful last year aren't going to be won over. I find myself in the middle all around on this front. When I need to do something on my wrist or see messages without pulling out my phone, Android Wear is a great way to do just that. When I don't, I'd just as soon wear a regular "old fashioned" watch or none at all. I just don't find it any more cumbersome to pull out my phone to make a call, send a message or pay for something.

I'm not Wear's biggest fan, but I would spend money on this.

The new features all work surprisingly well. Some, like the LTE connection, are because of the hardware in part, but the software itself is well put together and the user experience may not be the most beautiful but is simple and functional. Sometimes less is more and I don't need to see high-resolution UI accents when I want information at a glance. As a part-time Android Wear user at best, I like the direction Google is moving towards with Wear and how LG has implemented them.

While it's not a necessity in my life, this is something that I can see myself spending some mad money on and wouldn't hesitate to recommend an Android watch to anyone who thinks they need it or would find it useful.

Your turn

Have you been using Android Wear 2 for a while? If so, join the discussion and tell everyone what you love, what you hate, and how well you're liking it!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

95 Comments
  • Good and bad in equal measures. The good -
    It transformed my ZenWatch 2 into a really fast and responsive watch. Notifications are nicer looking and some apps work a lot better.
    The tiny swipe Querty keyboard is surprisingly accurate IF you need to use it like somewhere you need to be a little more discreet than using voice commands The bad - many of the wrist gestures from 1.5 are gone and you can no longer reply to messages and notifications using one hand. Now you have to manually press the screen to select 'OK' and Send etc where you could just flick your wrist down toward the ground. Having to set everything on the watch instead of the AW phone app is just a pain in the butt.
    Google Assistant isn't as good as OK Google/Google Now
  • Yep, agree on all accounts
  • I notice I defer to my zenwatch2 less after the 2.0 update. I like the new app drawer and pinning of most used apps at the top but it just seems like something is missing. I feel let down I waited all that time just for this. And for whatever reason my battery tanked. It barely makes it a day where on 1.5 it lasted about 2 days.
  • I agree on the negatives and add:
    • It's slower It does not respond nearly as quickly to button presses, crown press and voice activation. There's a noticeable lag before the screen updates to reflect your action. It breaks the action-reaction illusion that's makes a UI feel responsive and reliable.
  • I agree. Not only that, they made it much less convenient to do basic tasks. Instead of being able to do two basic swipes to get from the watch face to my contacts, I have to press the button, scroll down and find contacts, and then find the contact I want. And the biggest sin in my opinion is the removal of the double tap of the button to turn off the screen.
  • "And it has to be thick to fit all the new parts to include NFC and LTE in the watch body." Apple: "...Hold my beer"
  • And that's the bugger. Apple relatively kept the same size housing but did everything an android connected watch does but at a much thicker dimension. Give this to me at half the size and twice the battery life and I'm in. Until then I'll keep looking from a far and waiting.
  • I often wonder how Pebble watches would have fared with OLED screens and two-day lifespans, instead of the e-paper screens (which required large bezels) and one-week batteries. It feels like that would have been the sweet spot that everyone's looking for. I tried a Pebble Time and didn't mind the bezels, but I didn't care for the e-paper screen. Instead, I've lived with a Moto 360 that looks great, but won't last through the day.
  • I do wonder what people are running on their moto 360s I have one and I get more than a day from it. One thing I have found is I did only use the watch at a weekend as I biked to work and had a fitness band for in the week and my watch was on charge most of the week being taken off in the Evening if I want out I found the battery did just last about a day but now I use it every day as i drive to work I now have about 60% battery left when I get home from work at 6pm I have 84% now and took it off charge at 6am this morning and it's now 12:41pm in the uk.
  • Apple: look at moi bezels!
  • Gear S3 is already miles ahead and with the Tizen update it won't even be a comparison
  • Agreed - I think Android Wear is in a tough position - if you are on android and want a watch that truly complements / replaces the functions of your phone, Samsung is lightyears ahead. And though it is early - if you value fitness functions Fitbit is making big moves there (along with the fitness products Samsung already offers). When fitbit announced their ionic everyone was asking if it will be an Apple Watch killer - when in reality the question should be if it is an Android Wear killer
  • I might be open minded to another Tizen watch then. When I had one (first generation), I thought it was rather bland, lonley and didn't work inherently with most notifications and apps.
  • I had the gear live for 3 years. Loved that watch. I waited patiently for a replacement. The LG Watch Sport was released and a huge disappointment (to me). I went for the Gear S3 and it's amazing. Definitely a 3+ year watch for me
  • Thanks...I'll keep that in mind. :)
  • I would definitely go that route if I had a Samsung phone. While using a Pixel XL, Android Wear is the only option.
  • Why is that? I use my Gear S3 with my Sony Xperia XZ Premium and it works great! Using Samsung Pay with it is a bonus too!
  • Thanks, for the tip. This is news, to me and I pay attention.
    In my knowledge base, Samsung /Tizen watches were for Samsung phones, only. One I stepped away from Samsung phones, I stopped researching Samsung watches. It's nice to hear that compatability improvements were made. I will research Tizen options. 👍
  • Wear is not your only option. You can use the Gear S3 on any android or iPhone
  • I have the LG Sport which came with Android Wear 2.0. I have found it to be easy to use. I like that the Apps mirror the Apps on my phone. Would like to see more complications released by developers, but understand that is a niche market and the money is in Android and IOS apps for phones. Battery life is the only issue. Even doing all the power saving recommendations, I still cannot make it through an entire day on a single charge.
  • I complained about the Urbane 2 not receiving the update on here just yesterday and lo and behold, I got the update this morning! Being that I'm 6 months behind, I have to find out if I like it or not.
  • Got the update on my Urbane too. It totally bogged mine down to where it was pretty much useless. Put up with it like that for about a week until I decided to reset the watch. Way better after that. I highly recommend resetting it, forgetting it in the AW app, and starting over if yours gives you problems.
  • Can you confirm you can turn on the NFC function. Mine has not been able to stay on. I am using the ATT variant if that makes a difference. W200A
  • I just did the update as well on the 13th on my Urbane 2 LTE, it slowed it down a bit. I did a master reset on it, performed a bit better. I need to get used to the UI changes. I've been looking at the LG Sport for a while, if the Urbane keeps being slow might decide to upgrade the watch.
  • @getorres which carrier? No update yet for my Verizon Urbane 2 LTE....
  • What carrier @worldwide? My Verizon Urbane 2 LTE has not received the update yet
  • Got it on my Moto Sport about a month ago, had reservations at 1st because of what I had read, but they were wrong. A BIG improvement!
  • If I wasn't tied into Samsung health and Samsung pay with my gear s2, I'd give my lg urbane more of a spin. It got much faster after a reset and is nice to run through even without the crown....I do miss the features, and changing the screen brightness takes work, but otherwise a fine effort...
  • If you are going to advertise "stand-alone apps", there needs to be a way to manage battery optimization and allow apps to constantly run in the background (or not). You can't leave your phone behind if you aren't sure an app is going to receive a notification correctly. Messaging apps like Telegram don't work well because they have to be open and running to receive notifications. But they are always killed by the battery optimization and don't work as intended, making them useless.
  • Ever since the update came across, I have had horrible experiences with it. I started with the Moto 360, and enjoyed that one 1.0 wear for a long time. Then I switched over the Huawei watch and if I recall, there was a very short period of time that I used that one and enjoyed it. Now however, it has been horrible with Android Wear 2.0 It won't recognize my voice often, it often has connectivity issues with my phone and it doesn't do GPS elements well such as when walking in the city somewhere. It has taken me from a high on Android wear to a low. I can't say that the Huawei watch isn't partially responsible since it happened around the same time, but I am in a bad spot with it right now.
  • Downgrading to 1.5 is amazingly easy. You should do it.
  • I am personally hating that there is not persistent icon/text option for many watch faces. I liked how it was built into AW 1.0 to show you at a glance there is a missed text or call. Now in order to see if I have a notification I have to swipe the watch face...pretty annoying. I thought I would get used to it over the months but having AW 1.0 watches helped alleviate me having to always interact with my phone or watch...
  • Huawei Watch v1, paired with One Plus 3T. Wear 2.0 is great on the whole. Prefer the watchface workflow. Complications are terrific. Greater standalone abilities are good. Battery life is maybe a little better but it was already an easy 1.5 days with everything turned on. Unfortunately, assistant seems a little slower to activate. Worse though is Wear 2.0 on Huawei Watch has pairing issues that mean the watch/phone periodically need to pair. Not an uncommon problem. Lastly, I suspect that the Watch is not favoring the Wifi connection which it should do, particularly when on charge.
  • Apple puts LTE in a 38mm Watch and Samsung and AW makers have LTE Iin HUGE watches 44-46mm. Folks say Apple can't innovate....lol. Obviously leading in miniaturization with wearables, Airpods included.
  • Without an iPhone, the Apple watch is pretty gimped wouldn't you say?
  • The update has completely destroyed the battery life of my Zenwatch 3. I can't even get through a full day without it dying.
  • Hmm, that's odd. I also have a ZW3 and my battery life got marginally better. Using the same watch faces and average use, I get an extra hour or two of battery life every day. About 12-13 hours of use each day and plug it in with about 30+% battery left. Some watch faces will drain your watch faster than others. My only real gripe about the AW2 update was that it steals call priority away from my BT dongle in my truck. Calls used to go to the dongle but after AW2, they went to the watch. Thankfully, Tasker took care of that and I have it set so that when the dongle in the truck is on, calls go there and revert back to the watch when the dongle is off.
  • It's been 6 months already? Wow, goes to show how well the Gear S3 is satisfying my SmartWatch needs because I have not strapped on my LG Urbane LTE in at least that long.
  • I've used Android Wear for some time now. After short stint with a Samsung Gear, I felt the Tizen world was lonely and barren. I went with the LG Watch Urbane with Android Wear 1.5 and beyond some quirks, I really liked it. I upgraded to a Huawei Watch 2 Sport with Android Wear 2.0 and I like it even more. One thing I really like about Android Wear as a whole that is handles notifications quite well, even if there isn't an "app" for the companion phone app. That is something Tizen couldn't do. I think Android Wear 2.0 is getting a bad rap and I think it is rather underrated. One thing I would like is a little more fitness oriented apps. Google Fit is fine but could be more robust. Sleep monitors, official ones (not third party) would be nice.
  • The Tizen based Gear S3 does what you state that you want in not having to rely on third-party apps for sleep monitoring and exercise tracking. As far as the messaging (I use Google Voice), I don't have the problem you referenced.
  • I've had the Watch Sport since day one. Here are my comments:
    >>>Thickness - you get used to it
    >>>Connectivity - Wi-Fi - I'm not sure it switches wi-fi networks as I go from home to work. Everytime I check, the "last used" network is never the network I should be on at that time. Maybe I'm interpreting the results incorrectly.
    >>>Connectivity - Cellular - I agree, it's not natural to make calls through the watch, i avoid it. I find myself keeping cellular off to save battery. I figure I can turn it on when I need to make a call or when I don't have wi-fi. Big bummer - since I have a business cellular account with AT&T, I cannot use number sync. So when not connected to my phone, I don't have the benefit of answering calls or texts from the watch.
    >>>NFC -works fine, I use it when I can
    >>>Apps - good for pretty much notifications only. I keep away from the keyboard and use voice input
    >>>Best Watch Face I found is Black Classic
    >>>Other - Since day one, it seems that the battery does last longer. The Fit app is much improved. I think these comments are more about the Watch Sport and less about Android Wear 2.0, oh well!
  • AW2 did improve my Zenwatch 3 a little, but it's nowhere near as useful as I'd like. Battery life actually got more inconsistent. I tried to like it, but it just didn't work for me. In fact, I rarely use it anymore and will likely sell it. I find my Gear S2 much easier to use, it has much better battery life, and it's become my everyday watch.
  • i hate it. and please realize i was realllllly looking forward to my Huawei Watch getting Wear 2.0, mainly to get a dark theme, circular app drawer, and other new features.
    It made the usefulness of my watch so bad that i've realized i just have to get rid of it...
    Why?...not performance issues....
    The problem is literally every function i used my watch for either got worse or went away completely:
    -the lil peek card, so i can see the latest message or now playing on WHILE my nice big watchface is still being displayed at the same time. also used to be able to tap on the watchface to pause music this way...now i have to wake it, tap the now playing, tap it again, and then hit pause. used to be literally 1 tap.
    -raising my watch at any time and just saying "ok google" to set a reminder etc....can't do this if you have a notification or now playing, because that takes up the screen and disables the wake word. so i never know if it will work when i raise my wrist, so i have to instead hold the button every time now, which is bad because i used it a lot in the car for quick & safe handsfree reminders.
    -volume buttons for music are TINY...used to be literally 1/4 of the screen. now i'm tapping them 5x to hopefully actually hit the button once.
    -swiping through notifications used to go one at a time i believe?...now if i swipe too hard, it goes all the way to tthe bottom...i have to carefully swipe softly to see each one at a time, which makes it easy to miss one or not find what you're looking for if there's many.
    -my reminders never display right anymore. sometimes they buzz once and then it goes away immediately. i have to swipe through all my notifications and find it buried in there. not helpful at all when i wanted to be reminded to do something at 11am or when i arrive home. and i used these CONTSTANLY before...it was so useful back in AW 1.x
    -can't quickly/easily change the watchface by holding it down
    -used to be able to double-tap the button to turn off the screen completely - which was EXTREMELY USEFUL if you realize y