New software and some shiny new watches from LG make Android Wear a little more interesting.

So, we’ve got a significant platform update for Android Wear and two carefully created watches to showcase it. It’s overdue. Most anyone who is familiar will tell you that Android Wear was getting a little stale and needed a watchOS-level update to freshen things up. And I think that describes the new update pretty well — what was lacking in software was addressed and delivered without going overboard and trying something that just isn’t ready. The new Google has grown up a bit and no longer throws everything into the air and later collects what works to keep.

Android Wear needed a refresh with the right features — not all the features.

Of course, the watches themselves dominate the stage because they are required to have everything the new update offers right now. That will change and we’ll see fully working builds of Wear 2.0 come to last year’s hardware, and some of them will even work well with it. Others will have the software shoehorned in and we’ll wish they had never been updated at all. That’s how this whole Android thing works, though to a much lesser extent on watches than phones. We’ll worry about that when it happens, but for now, I want to talk about the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport.

Like most of you, I haven’t been able to actually use either. That means there are going to be plenty of things I can’t say because I don’t know. But I did have the luxury of spending a week talking with Flo and Andrew and peppering them with questions and off-the-wall requests to build a mental checklist and see how they measured up to my wants — and to see if I even cared at all. I just could never find a reason to love Android Wear, and the few times it did make my life better wasn’t enough to justify having one more thing here that needed to be charged every night.

That’s changed, and I’m interested again. And not in the watch you think I would be interested in, and not for the reasons you might think, either. I’m really digging the LG Watch Style because to me, it looks good the way a watch should look good.

LG delivered exactly what they needed to deliver with the Watch Sport. It screams Wear 2.0.

I don’t hate the Sport. In fact, I want to talk about it first. Google did exactly what so many people wanted them to do with Wear 2.0 and added standalone functionality and payment processing to the platform. Then LG looked over at Samsung and built it in the shape of a Galaxy Gear. There is zero shame in that. There are no unique ideas left and Samsung looked at countless Casio and Timex watches to make the Gear S2 and S3. I’m sure someone at Timex looked at something when they built the first Ironman watch. This is how a thing we like gets refined with each new model and, if left to continue, everything will look exactly the same. People clamoring for a round Apple Watch with a sweet sporty rubber strap don’t want one because it would look like a Gear S3. They want one because they think it would be better for them. They’ll probably get one eventually.

Feature-wise, the Sport ticks the right boxes, too. Standalone everything so you can set it up once then just be you and use it forever is what many of us were demanding. Use your GPS to find a Jamba Juice so you can pay for delicious drinks with your watch, then answer a phone call from your wrist so you can annoy everyone around you by yelling at your arm while they are trying to chill and slurp on a smoothie. We asked. LG delivered. And if you’re not into it all, you don’t have to use any of it (and can grab your smoothie and find somewhere else to drink it).

The Sport should be a successful product for LG. One they didn’t lose money on and one we remember as being pretty good a couple years from now. And really, that’s the best any company can hope for at this point.

But that Style. I think I’m going to get a Style.

It’s not hard to figure out why, because I already said the one thing I wanted to see from all this new stuff — something that looks good. And the Style looks good to me. Titanium and black with an antique bell-style crown matches a couple watches I already have. With the right watch face — I’ll make my own if I have to because Android Studio makes it so damn easy now — it will be something I want to wear on my wrist. Yeah, shallow, I know. I don’t care and I like shiny things sometimes.

The LG Watch Style does what I want a watch to do and looks good while doing it.

I really do not care about the things the Style is missing. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ll never go anywhere without my phone and everything I need is on my phone, including Android Pay. My watch really only needs to do two things — remind me what day of the week it is and tell the time. Both things my phone can also do, but reasons to justify buying a new watch that costs too much only because I like the way it looks. Wouldn’t be the first time, as my wife would be quick to point out.

Again, this is first impression, off-the-cuff thinking. There’s a good chance I’ll get a Style and not like it or see something that makes me wish I had gone with something else or just not bought anything right now. That would also not be a first. I might even change my mind if I roll into a Best Buy and rub all over one. I’m in the same boat as most everyone else here.

And to be honest, it’s kind of fun.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Upgrade your Elite: Dangerous experience with VR.

There are many ways you can make Elite: Dangerous a more compelling, immersive game. A solid HOTAS controller, great audio hardware, and a decent high quality display will improve your experience substantially, but there’s still more you can do. Adding a VR headset to this game puts you in the Captain’s Chair in the most literal way possible. Being able to turn your head and see the menus on your dashboard light up while you grip the throttle and joystick is amazing, but which headset is going to offer you the best experience?

Here’s a quick look at the merits of using an HTC Vive versus an Oculus Rift to play Elite: Dangerous!

Read more at VR Heads!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Are we ready for apps that install from a search result? We need to be because they’re here.

Some folks are starting to see Google’s Instant Apps feature roll out to their phones and it seems like Wish is the first company to use them.

Back at Google I/O 2016 Google told us about Instant Apps. The idea is that you would find an app in your Google search results and be able to tap a button and start using it, much the same way you would use a web page. They are “real” apps with a component that installs on your phone and not a web-optimized or HTML5 app that lives completely in the cloud. This should be a great way for companies to expose people to what they have to offer from a native app without having to get us to leave the search and open the Play Store to download it. For us, it means we can get instant access to something like a shopping app instead of using a web page that might not be designed for a small touch-based screen. Everyone wins.

Up until now, everything about Instant Apps has been in a slow testing phase while everyone outside just watches. But we’ve heard several reports from folks saying they can install and use the Wish instant app on their phones with Android 7.0 installed. We’re seeing the same thing here, and our pals at Audroid are, too. This is what the process is like.

  • Open your settings and find Google Settings.
  • Find the Instant Apps setting and tap the switch to enable it.
  • Read the terms and agree.

Now when you’re searching for something (in this case the Wish website) you might see a search result for an Instant App version. If you open it, you’ll be able to install a tiny part of the app and jump right in.

Shopping sites and news websites will be able to benefit from these, and other companies are thinking about how they can leverage giving a user access without taking them away from their search. The idea is pretty cool, and we’re excited to see how companies use it to lure us to them.

Anyone else out there seeing Instant Apps? Give a shout in the comments!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

It’s real, and it’s awesome.

Samsung gear VR owners can now use Google Cardboard apps through their preferred headset, instead of having to switch back and forth between a Cardboard viewer and something else. It’s pretty easy to set up, and our friends over at VRHeads have everything you need to get started with every version of the Gear VR. Enjoy!

Take me to the article!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |