Just a year ago, we were introduced to Android Wear and took notice of its promising software. Then came the announcement of the Apple Watch and all momentum shifted towards the Cupertino Clan.
In fact, the hype became so huge, the device was already hailed as the hi-tech timepiece worth strapping onto your wrist even before it launched. But the perception has changed over the past few weeks as sales of the Apple smartwatch have plummeted faster than 50 Cent’s bank account.
Consumers are now showing more interest in Google’s collection of smartwatches. And not just for the cheaper price tag, but for the exclusive and innovative functions only found on Android Wear. Here are 11 of the key features that you won’t find on Apple’s wearable.
1. Built-in GPS
Fitness tracking is a pretty common feature on smartwatches. But without GPS functionality, how reliable is the biometric data that’s collected on your wrist? That’s something Apple Watch owners continue to ask themselves when they realize they forgot to bring their phone on a run. Sony Smart Watch 3 users on the other hand have it good, as the Android Wear-powered device is the only model at the moment to come equipped with built-in GPS.
2. Sunlight Mode
Smartwatch screens aren’t designed to compete with the intense glare of the sun. Apple’s device does its best to remedy the issue with three settings (low, medium, and high), but without a light sensor in the front, it can’t automatically adjust brightness like the iPhone. This leaves Android Wear with the more effective solution in Sunlight Mode. The Asus ZenWatch or Moto 360 both provide a temporary increase in backlighting to kick up the brightness when needed.
3. Always On Mode
Several Android Wear devices like the LG G Watch R eliminate the need of making an overt arm motion to turn on the screen. The “Always On” mode was programmed to help devices save power by stripping colors and additional features. With Android Wear 5.1.1, the feature has expanded to support apps like Google Maps. The Apple Watch simply doesn’t have an answer yet.
4. Custom Watch Faces
From the onset, Google has allowed developers to design and sell their own custom watch faces on the Google Play market for use on all compatible smartwatches. Thousands of options are available for download, which allow you to customize the home screen with personal photos or get mood-appropriate dials. Apple offers only 10 watch faces to choose from and its upcoming photo background selection feature is set to be available with watchOS 2...next fall.
5. Works With Any Wi-Fi Network
Wearables have struggled with the stigma of being tagalong devices. Look at the Apple Watch, which requires an iPhone to function properly, and on the same Wi-Fi network. Android Wear devices break free from those wireless restrictions by linking to any Wi-Fi network without relying on a secondary device.
6. Hand-Drawn Emojis
Apple Watch owners aren’t particularly fond of WatchOS’ 3D-animated emojis and sketch messaging systems. With Android Wear 5.1.1, Google’s slick conversion algorithm accurately converts your chicken scratch to what it should be and inserts the appropriate emoticon(s) onto the screen.
7. Wrist-Gesture Controls
Smartwatches provide the user with some secrecy by letting users read messages and see notifications without pulling out their phones at inappropriate times. The latest Android Wear update makes things even more discreet by including the ability to scroll through notifications via a flick of the wrist. Apple chooses the more old-fashioned approach of using your fingers to scroll the alerts.
8. Pattern Lock Screen
Google’s mobile OS has garnered a bad rep over the years for its security augmentation. Still, Android has been at the forefront of lock screen security. While the Apple Watch relies on the company’s number code lock system, Android Wear takes a more complex route with its familiar pattern lock screen that is customizable to increase security measures.
9. Unlocking Your Android Phone
Those familiar with the Pebble Watch know all about Pebble Locker, the mobile app that lets users unlock a smartphone directly from their wrist. Well, the app is now available on Android Wear and provides a seamless transition to a bigger mobile screen. The app also acts as an additional security measure: if the Bluetooth connection is severed for any kind of reason, it will automatically lock the screen for protection.
10. An extra-low key vibrate mode
For the record, WatchOS does allow users to dim the display. It’s just nowhere near as high functioning as on an Android Wear device. The counter agent to this would be the latest Theater Mode update—leaving the smartwatch in a low-powered mode that disables vibration for incoming notifications and remains asleep when executing motion gestures.
11. Google Now
Google Now has become the powerhouse newsfeed source on Android devices. So it comes as no surprise that the Internet giant has made the service exclusive on its smartwatches. Siri has certainly shown strides as a virtual assistant, but it (she?) pales in comparison to the adaptive intuition Google Now exhibits, which proactively offers up related info before engaging in a search.
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