The Wear24 is a Verizon-exclusive smartwatch which happens to be among the first to ship with the Android 2.0 Wear platform. Moreover, it offers LTE-based connectivity so that it can operate independently of a phone. Priced at $300 with a two-year plan or $350, it comes in considerably higher than an activity tracker or standard wearable; however, it’s right in line with other more recognizable watch and electronics brands. We spent roughly two weeks with the Wear24, putting it through the paces, getting a feel for it as well as Android Wear 2.0.

After having been introduced in May 2016, the latest build of Android Wear finally started rolling out in February of this year. The revised and updated version offers up a cleaner and more intuitive interface, Google Assistant, improved text input, and more.

Whereas the Android Wear release is important, equally so is the LTE connectivity. With messaging, calling, and other standalone data capabilities, it lets users keep the phone at home for workouts and runs.

Design

As we’ve seen with most smartwatches so far, there’s two main routes makers take with them: classic and sporty. The former tend to look more like what you’d expect in a standard watch with leather and other premium materials. The latter is generally comprised of silicone, plastic and waterproof materials. Classic looks classy and matches most formal and semi formal attire while sport models look a tad more modern and flashy.

The Wear24 takes an interesting approach in that it walks the line between both styles. It looks right at home in just about any setting. Its band is silicone and sporty and feels very flexible and durable. Wear the watch for any length of time, though, and you’ll find that it’s not always comfortable.

The bands are held in place with a unique triangular screw. You won’t find it easy to replace them, if you can at all. Reportedly, Verizon says it’s designed this way because of the LTE antennas. Take the watch off and lay it on the table and you’ll see that it cannot lie flat on its back. You’ll have to place it on its side, potentially scuffing the finish over the long term. On the plus side, there a plenty of holes in the strap to find the perfect fit for pretty much any wrist.

The face itself is shiny, polished nicely and stands out from the black band. But, it’s certainly not anything spectacular. You won’t find any details that signal a great deal of attention or inspirational. In short, it feels boring and looks like a regular ol’ watch.

The face is just a hair over ½-inch thick and looks somewhat clunky as compared to other watches. There are definitely other watches on the market (smart and standard) which look and feel much larger, but this one comes across as big. The underside is smooth and fits nicely against the skin.

The watch has an IP67 rating, which means it can withstand water such as rain showers, and a few splashes in the pool. We recommend taking it, and any other wearable off whenever swimming, but that’s just us being extra cautious. Still, the last thing you want to do is scuff the silver face or the glass.

There is one button, on the right side of the face, which is used to perform various actions. We found it to have excellent feedback and a fair amount of travel. You certainly know when you’re pressing it.

Setup

Setting up the watch wasn’t all that difficult in the big scheme of things, but it did require us to use a Verizon smartphone. We didn’t know that going in but we were able to procure one for pairing and testing purposes.

Outside of that issue, we were able to pair the watch to our phone rather easily. The process was the same as other Android Wear devices but seemed to take less time than in the past. Moreover, the initial setup screens and tutorials were not as invasive or prone to slow you down. We’ve been through this setup more than a few times and we’ve become tired of it over the years. Here’s to the quicker setup that is Android Wear 2.0

Android Wear 2.0

Android Wear 2.0 acts and moves in a manner which calls to mind the standard Android experience found on today’s phones. By that we mean swiping down pulls up controls, settings, indicators, etc. You’ll swipe up from the bottom, though, to check notifications. Swiping left or right from the main watch face pulls up the option to use or install other watch faces.

For those of you who have used Android Wear prior to 2.0, one of the main differences you’ll notice in the new version is how you’ll pull up apps. To do so here, you press the hardware button the right side of the watch. From there you’ll swipe up and down, navigating the list until you’re ready to press on the one you want. It’s possible to “star” or favorite up to five apps which are shown at the top of your list.

The hardware button is used more now than in the past, which we like. It acts as a back button when getting into multiple layers of navigation. Scrolling through options and tapping is down on the face but the backing up is the hardware button. That takes very little time to learn and feels more intuitive than swiping in all different directions.

Another key change in Android Wear 2.0, and available in the Wear24, is the Google Play Store. Indeed, you can install apps directly onto the watch so that they can operate independently of a smartphone.

The experience was a mixed bag for us with this watch as some apps seemed to take considerably longer than we might have anticipated. Perhaps it’s the hardware in the watch being lesser powered than what we have with phones. Either way, we’re not fully sold on this yet and want to test it on other watches before fully committing to it. To us, it makes more sense to install the apps on your phone and use the watch for navigation and controls. With that said, we would love to leave the phone at home or in the office more often than we do today.

There are a number of applications already loaded on the Wear24 when you initially power on. Each seems to do the trick for which they were designed; weather provides a good at-a-glance view of conditions and forecast and the agenda does something similar with your calendar and upcoming events.

In typical Verizon fashion, the Wear24 comes with two of the carrier’s apps/services installed. Indeed, you’ll find Message+ and MyVerizon loaded on the watch. And, no, they can’t be removed. Considering the limited amount of space available on a watch, we didn’t appreciate being stuck with the apps.

Strangely, the Wear24 that we reviewed only came with one watch face. Installing additional faces is simple and straightforward, however this give the watch a cheap or “not thought of” feeling. We’d rather be on the other end of the spectrum with too many faces and options.

Performance

Generally speaking, performance was on par with expectations. The Wear24 employs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 processor with 768MB RAM and 4GB of storage. Things were relatively smooth all around but there were the occasional moments of choppiness and stuttering. It’s hard to say whether it was the hardware or the software, but we’d look for it to be fixed if it’s the latter.

The watch display comes in at 1.39-inches with a 400×400 pixel resolution. This means an improved pixel density or higher resolution as compared to previous generations of Android Wear. Although the size isn’t all that big, you’ll want those extra dots for reading messages or glancing at notifications; it’s more obvious if you’ve spent ample time with other models.

The 450mAh battery is pegged at upwards of 60 hours of standby which we found pretty accurate. With basic daily usage we found it would get around two days per charge. But, throw in regular usage of calls or standalone LTE connectivity and you may actually cut that in half. As is the case with pretty much every other Android Wear watch, we suggest charging it at night.

Speaking of charging, the Wear24 comes with a dock which holds the watch in place. In our testing it takes a little over an hour for the watch to go from empty to full. This isn’t bad at all, and, were we to like the watch more, we’d recommend getting a secondary charger for the office.

Strangely enough, the Wear24 does not have a heart rate monitor. To us this is a pretty glaring oversight, especially at this price. Whereas the Google Fit and basic watch apps can track runs, walks, bike rides, and other exercises, we’d really like to have seen the heart rate added in for extra detail. In the middle of 2017 we expect all wearables to track our hear rate, if only for the most basic of reasons. On the other hand, this watch is big and clunky enough that you won’t want to go to bed with it on very often.

As much as we might like the idea of using a watch independent of a phone, the real world practicality is a mix bag. Messaging is great and being able to use certain apps is pleasant, but it’s not perfect. Take listening to music, for instance. Sound is outright horrible if you use the watch by itself. Calls were also so-so in that performing them and taking worked fairly well but the sound quality was pretty bad.

Speaking of which, you can set the Wear24 up to have its own phone number for calls and messages. Do so and you’ll want to advise all of your contacts of the additional number. We suggest keeping it paired and tied to the phone so you can still take calls on it; plus, it’s one less number to worry about as a contact.

Listening to music or taking calls using a Bluetooth headset was completely different and much more enjoyable. If that’s something you own, we can more easily recommend loading music on the watch and heading out for a run with some wireless earbuds.

Bluetooth connection is the usual 30-foot radius but we noticed it did have trouble staying connected at all times. And, whenever we did lose a connection, we found we had to occasionally reconnect manually.

Typing messages and replies is much easier with Android Wear 2.0, but it still requires determination and patience. To us, it has become a case of vetting whether something is worth replying to while out without a phone. We’ve become fond of the quick replies and short burst messages, but we’re also pushing things back until we get to our phone.

Conclusion

Cutting right to the chase, we have a hard time recommending this watch for $300-$350. There’s far too much competition in the space at this price range and we’d rather put our money toward a second or third generation of a particular mode.

We’re all about trying out brands and giving companies a chance to shine in a particular area, but the Verizon Wear24 comes up short. The lack of interchangeable watch straps and heart rate alone give us pause.

The LTE connectivity and standalone capabilities sound great on paper, but the real world execution was lacking. Perhaps a software fix or two could address a few things, but that’s just us being optimistic. This is the first device of its kind from Verizon so we don’t have any track record when it comes to software updates and support.

Keeping with Verizon, we hate that we’re tied to their network here. We get that it’s an exclusive device, but we miss the days of when Google kept carriers and OEMs from installing extra apps.

Sound quality could be better all around; the mic and speakers seem like they were not developed or built to completion. In general it feels like it was a proof of concept or beta device that might later get a more formal release. Our advice is to spend your money elsewhere if you have to buy something right now. This goes double if you are not a Verizon subscriber.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Setup
Battery
Physical Customization
Watch Faces and Customization
Performance
Value
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