Monday, March 24, 2014

Android Wear

Pretty, isn't it?
A while back, I talked a bit about what I wanted in a smartwatch. I was looking at a number of them, including the Pebble, the Sony Smartwatch 2, and the Samsung Gear. But after the dust had settled and I'd read all the reviews, none of them really worked for me.

Well, it's a new year, and smartwatches have another chance to win me over.  There's a new iteration from Samsung, with not one but three successors to the Samsung Gear.  There's the Pebble Steel. And I'm certain Sony will have a new iteration of its smartwatch. But what I'm really excited about are the Android Wear devices.  The picture above is the Moto 360, which is beautiful.  I currently have, and really like, the Moto X, and I'd be interested in seeing whether they can manage the same sort of innovation in a smartwatch.  We do know that it accepts voice commands, via Moto X, and that it uses Google Now type cards to push relevant information.  But these are more features of Android Wear rather than of the Moto X in particular.

The video above does a fairly good job of advertising Android Wear, but I should add a caveat. These are all things that Android Wear could do, with the right apps. It's not at all clear that Android Wear will do all those things, or that anyone's made any of those apps.

Aside from the Moto 360, LG has also announced an Android Wear watch, which they're calling the G Watch. HTC and Samsung are also expected to announce Android Wear watches.

So will this tempt me into getting a smartwatch this year? There are a few criteria that have to be met before I'm willing to buy a smartwatch:

  • Price. I'd prefer not to spend more than $200, and I definitely don't see myself spending more than $300 on a watch.
  • Size. It needs to be comfortable to wear.  Already, the Moto 360 looks rather large. Maybe I can accept that size with a round form factor, but I'd really like to see something smaller.
  • Battery life. This is a big one. The Samsung Gear claims 24 hours of battery life, and that's not good enough, I'm afraid. 24 hours usually means that with heavy use, there's a good chance that the battery will run out before I go to bed, and while I can tolerate that in a phone, that's unacceptable in a watch. I'm looking for at least 48 hours claimed battery life, which I'll accept as lasting all the way through a day. And, of course, longer is better.
  • Interface. Does Android Wear actually work like it's supposed to? I'll have to wait for some reviews to know how well it actually does.
Fortunately, there are a number of Android Wear smartwatches on the horizon, so there's a good chance that if the one that looks good now disappoints, one of the others will satisfy me.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Black Gate Review online

I've now posted my latest review at Black Gate. This month, I'm reviewing Wil Radcliffe's The Tragic Empire, the second book in his Noggle Stones series. I reviewed his first book a little over a year ago.  Here's a taste:
The Tragic Empire takes place a few months after the events of the first book. Martin Manchester is settling in as the king of Willow Prairie, establishing alliances with the nearby realms of dwarves, ogres, and other folk. The goblin Bugbear serves as Manchester’s diplomat while pursuing his own investigations, with a particular interest in discovering what force was behind the Shadow Smith, the villainous mastermind of The Goblin’s Apprentice. To that end, he’s allowed himself to be thrown into an Áes Dána prison, in hopes of finding access to the their archives, which contain works dating back to the Coranieid Empire. After a tricky escape and some fancy diplomacy, it seems that Bugbear may get what he wants, until the US Army attacks the Áes Dána.
The author assures me that his next book will have more distinctive villains, one of my niggles with this last one. Read the whole review for more.