Verizon's LTE-enabled Smartwatch Is Anything But Extraordinary

- Nov 20, 2017 -

At first blush, the Wear24 has a good amount of features. There's LTE so it can work as a standalone device, there's NFC, and there's GPS so you can go for a run. That's more than some of the other Android Wear 2.0 watches you can buy, at least on the box. But then you actually use the watch, and you realize that checking off a features wishlist doesn't mean as much as you thought.

What doesn't it have? There's no heart rate sensor, so if you're mildly interested in some decent fitness metrics you're out of luck here. Also, there's no support for Android Pay. Despite having NFC, the Wear24 won't let you pay for things with your wrist, at least with Android Pay. Why? It's hard to say. It's possible that Verizon is planning to launch its own payment service in the future, or Android Pay may come further down the line, but for now we have an NFC-enabled watch that you can't use with what people want to use NFC for.

LTE, on the other hand, works pretty well. Verizon's network is still one of the best and most reliable in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I had no problem taking it out and leaving my phone at home.

And then there's the Wear24's fitness abilities. As previously mentioned, there's no heart rate sensor, so if you're looking for a running companion, this probably isn't the one for you. That's unlike, say, the LG Watch Sport or Huawei Watch 2, which both offer the optic sensor.

Of course you still have access to Google Fit Workout and the range of fitness apps on Android Wear such as Strava. The watch will still keep track of things like your pace and distance and calories, but you just won't get your heart rate, which can be used to improve calorie estimates.

And then there's GPS. At first glance, the GPS looks like it has a pretty accurate picture of where I took a run. But then when you zoom in a little bit and see that those lines weren't quite as smooth as the ones captured by the Garmin Fenix 5S.

There are plenty of instances where the Watch is clearly guessing where I am. For instance, I should be on the sidewalk next to a street, but the Wear24 has me walking through the homes of strangers. It's not dramatically off or anything, and managed to trace the route with reasonable accuracy, but it wasn't as assured as the Garmin.

For the most part, the Wear24 delivers the expected Android Wear 2.0 experience. However, Verizon also went ahead and bundled in some of its own software, as it tends to do.

Other than its account-management MyVerizon app, the two biggest additions are Messages+ and the Wear24 watch faces. Messages+ kind of wants to be like iMessage, in that it syncs all your messages and photos (and calls) and stores them in one place, keeping it all in line between devices. It's a good idea, but the execution here is wanting.

On the watch itself, you can reply and send messages. The Messages+ app, watch version, doesn't allow you to actually read your messages. You can only send them. On your phone, the app has your regular messages, but also includes sections where all your other information is stored. So there's a tab where all the photos from all your conversations are kept, and where all your shared geolocations are, and where all your eGifts are stored. That's right, you can buy your friends and families eGiftcards directly from the Messages+ app, if that's your thing.

There just isn't enough in Messages+ to use it over something like Hangouts or Facebook Messenger. Although Verizon heavily suggests that the best way to message from your Wear24 is to use it.

As for the Wear24 watch faces, they look simple but are actually nicely customizable. You can adjust the colors, sure, but the more interesting bit is that each watch face has a couple different modes. For instance, while you choose the Wear24 classic watch face, you can also craft a couple different modes for it. You can create a fitness mode and a work mode, and you can set locations for them to activate at.

So when you get to the gym or your favorite running location, your watch face will swap out its complications your pre-set fitness complications. When you get home, it'll swap them out for, say, your favorite communication complications. And when you get to work, it'll swap into your set of work-related complications. It all works pretty well.

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