The value of a watch is measured by how it improves your daily life—both in looks and functionality. A simple Rolex will still provide the time when necessary, and ultimately act as a symbol of your affluence. Timepieces typically serve double duty in that respect. Mostly, though, you wear a watch without even noticing; you sometimes glance down at your wrist without thinking about it, acknowledge the time, and move on with your day. It becomes muscle memory.
Only, if you own either of the new Android Wear watches—the Gear Live and G Watch—telling the time isn’t a luxury that’s always readily available. It sounds ridiculous, because these are watches we’re talking about. But take a step outdoors, out into the shining sun, and suddenly the screen is neigh unreadable, as if it’s veiled in a thick fog. Cupping your free hand over your wrist to see the screen is a common gesture in Google’s wearable land.
That’s not Google’s fault, mind you. Android Wear has potential. But the hardware running Android Wear is another issue.
These new smartwatches look nice enough; certainly what you’d expect a modern day smartwatch to look like. But with their Super AMOLED and IPS LCD displays, respectively, those bright and pretty colors that looked so lovely during the controlled Google I/O presentation become washed out. Emails dim to the point of invisibility. The sun’s harsh rays suddenly render your device inoperable. Well, not quite, but you’ve used a smartphone outdoors; it’s not what you’d consider a pleasurable experience. Magnify that by five, and then shrink it down into a tiny wrist computer.
Let us show you what we mean. When folks first started getting their hands (wrists?) on the Gear Live and G Watch in late June, the immediate reaction beyond, “Whoa, cool!” was that these devices were difficult to use outdoors. Say you’re walking down the street, the sun is beaming, and you get a notification. Imagine barely being able to see that notification. Imagine how much you suddenly desire some nice shade. Our video will show you.
A lot of times this situation will present two scenarios: you either bring your wrist embarrassingly close to your face, shade the screen with your free hand, and then maybe see the screen. Or, maybe, bring out your smartphone like normal, and move on with your day. (You wouldn’t have to do that with the Pebble Steel, by the way, which has an ePaper display, and is infinitely easier to see out in bright, beautiful sunshine.)
Indoors, in a restaurant, in your home or office? It’s a non-issue. Android Wear will be Android Wear in the morning, afternoon, night, rain, shine. But if, in that instance when you wake from hibernation and begin synthesizing the sun for good old vitamin D, your fancy Gear Live or G Watch will just blankly stare back at you. Dumb as a hunk of plastic.
It begs the question: will the Moto 360, one of this year’s most beautiful gadgets, show off in the sun any better? We sure hope so. If not, Motorola’s most anticipated device since the Razr at least looks nice.