Android Wear 2.0 Review

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For months, I checked the Huawei Watch’s Reddit page every day, waiting for Android Wear 2.0 to come out. About three weeks ago, the good news finally came and I got the update I had been waiting for.

Since I won’t be able to save my verdict for the end, I’ll say it now. Android Wear 2.0 is a big letdown. The interface is now more counter-intuitive than ever, and Wear 2.0 has its fair share of bugs. But what exactly makes it so bad?

To start off, notifications don’t make sense anymore. On Wear 1.5, a user could swipe up from the watchface to see if they had any notifications. If they didn’t, nothing would overtake the watch face. On Wear 2.0, on the other hand, when a user swipes up, a full-screen popup appears to tell them they have no notifications. In order to dismiss it, they have to swipe down. This extra step is unnecessary, and in my opinion, Android Wear 1.5’s “no notifications” animation looks better and is more functional than on 2.0.

In Android Wear 2.0, notifications are handled worse than on 1.5. When a notification is swiped away, it is gone forever, unlike in 1.5, where it could be un-dismissed for a little while after dismissing it. Whereas on 1.5, swiping to the left on a notification showed more menus, in 2.0, swiping to the left dismisses a notification permanently. Therefore, if a user is still used to swiping to the left to see more information, as I am, they will end up dismissing a lot of notifications they actually want to act on. This is incredibly frustrating. If there were at least a way to bring back notifications that were accidentally dismissed, this problem would be partially solved. Even worse, in order to reply quickly to a notification, a user needs to scroll all the way down a Hangouts or Whatsapp conversation to access reply settings, instead of just swiping once more to the left to skip looking at the whole conversation.

Speaking of taking extra steps and wasting time, in Android Wear 2.0, it takes extra steps to turn on theater mode or brightness boost. Where before, a user could press the physical button twice for theater mode or three times for brightness boost, they now have to fumble around in the menus to use theater mode, and brightness boost is gone. What’s even worse is that double- and triple-clicking the watch’s button now doesn’t do anything. This is a big step backwards.

Staying on the theme of inefficiency, watch faces now take an extra step to change. Instead of swiping to the left on the watch face to access apps, a user can now swipe either left or right to change the watch face. However, if they don’t swipe slowly enough, the watch thinks their swipe was accidental and doesn’t do anything. In addition, once viewing available watch faces, in order to see more than their favorites, a user must press another button and scroll through four faces at a time. On Android Wear 1.5, I was able to hold on the watch face to select from over forty different watch faces at the same time, each one displaying full screen, but now I can only see small previews of each one.

As for the app drawer, for the most part, it has gotten worse. Five apps now appear on the screen at once instead of three, which is good, but the Rolodex-feeling scroll style is a bit weird. I also preferred accessing the app drawer by swiping to the left instead of pressing the watch’s physical button, but at least the animation for pulling out the app drawer looks cool. Whereas three recent apps used to show up at the top of the launcher, now only one does, but you can now select favorite apps to be at the top of the launcher which isn’t too bad of an alternative.

This is a small gripe, but do not disturb now only affects the watch. On Android Wear 1.5, a user could silence their phone by putting on do not disturb from their watch, but now this feature is gone. There is, however, an app that brings this functionality back.

Now for my biggest complaint of all about Android Wear 2.0. Google Assistant search results don’t show nearly as much information as Google Now did. Google Now showed at least four or five results for every search, but Google Assistant only shows one. This is a feature I use every day on Android Wear, and to give the user less information just to make the UI look a tiny bit better makes no sense. The point of having a smartwatch is to access information more quickly than on a phone, but if information goes away too easily or doesn’t show up at all in the first place, the watch’s purpose is defeated.

However, not everything is bad about Android Wear 2.0. My favorite feature of the operating system so far has been manual keyboard input. On Android Wear 1.5, a user could only respond to a notification by voice, with a canned phrase, or with an emoticon, but being able to use a full keyboard on Wear 2.0, no matter how long it might take, is a great feature. I use it literally every day to respond to notifications when I can’t take my phone out for whatever reason.

In addition, my watch now buzzes sooner than it did on Wear 1.5. It used to be that I would feel my phone vibrate and then my watch vibrate after, but on Wear 2.0, my watch often starts buzzing when my phone is only half done buzzing. This isn’t a huge feature or anything, but it is something to mention.

Since upgrading to Android Wear 2.0, I am happy to report that neither battery life nor performance have taken a hit. This is great to see because these problems often occur with new software on a relatively old device.

Lastly, I have noticed that Google Assistant’s reliability has gotten a lot better since I had Android Wear 1.5. Where it used to only respond about half the time, I would say it works about 80% of the time now. Still not great, but a considerable improvement for a software update.

A couple more things to note: In my opinion, watch apps that are separate from phone apps are kind of useless. The point of a smartwatch is to be a secondary device for a smartphone, so having apps that are only available on the watch somewhat defeats the purpose of the device. In addition, Android Wear 2.0 requires you to install a watch-compatible app both on your phone and watch manually. This is a hassle most of the time, and in Android Wear 1.5, having apps by default on both devices was easier.

Another one of Android Wear 2.0’s most touted features was complications on the watch face. However, as someone who already wanted to have steps and battery percentage on the watch face in Wear 1.5, I have already found a watchface that works for me. Therefore, I have no real reason to use complications because I already have a system that works.

So that about wraps up my thoughts on Android Wear 2.0. If 1.5 is working well for you, and you don’t feel the need to type on your watch, you might want to stick with 1.5. Otherwise, if you need to be on the newest update or specifically want a feature that Android Wear 2.0 brings, try upgrading. Google may have missed the mark with this update, but it certainly shows potential. Maybe next year’s update will be better.

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Zachary Sherman

Since I was a small child, everything tech has interested me. A few years ago, I started watching tech YouTube and after putting two and two together and meeting Alex, we started creating New and Improved.

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