Samsung Gear Live unveiled as latest Android Wear smartwatch

Developers at Google I/O receive free smartwatches, urged to build more wearable apps

Google gave about 6,000 developers attending its I/O conference on Wednesday two Android Wear smartwatches -- one for now and one for later -- as a not-so-subtle invitation to get developers to build more apps for those devices and their connected smartphones.

Developers could choose between the new LG G Watch, which has been previewed in recent weeks, or the newly announced Samsung Gear Live. For ordinary consumers, the Gear Live will cost $199.99, while the LG G Watch will cost $229. Both will be available for pre-order in the Google Play Store later today and will start shipping July 7.

Samsung Gear Live
David Singleton, director of engineering for Android, gave details on the new Samsung Gear Live smartwatch running Android Wear during his keynote address at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

In coming months, all the developers will also receive a free Moto 360 smartwatch from Motorola around the same time it ships to consumers.

Android Wear and the new smartwatches got the kind of attention that some were hoping would go for Google Glass, which seemed to be forgotten -- at least in the keynote. Google officials demonstrated ways that Wear smartwatches will reduce reliance on a smartphone for greater convenience. Users can simply say "OK, Google" to start voice commands to get directions while driving or to call for a car with a special ride-sharing app on a connected phone.

Google said it would also provide a full Android Wear SDK (software developer kit) to help developers write code for making voice-activated commands or to build a custom user interface for a smartwatch. In one demonstration, Google showed how it could use a linked smartphone app to order and pay for a pizza in less than 20 seconds, relying on a previous order made for the same pizza stored on the phone.

Android Wear seems to support many of the capabilities in the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch, which sells for $300 and includes a camera that's not included in some of the Android Wear devices.

Samsung started shipping the Gear 2 and its kess expensive cousin, the $200 Gear 2 Neo, in April. Both run the Tizen OS, a small competitor to Android. The fact that Samsung built a smartwatch running Android Wear shows that Samsung and Google continue to rely upon each other, several analysts said.

One feature included with the Gear 2 is a heart rate monitor sensor, but Android Wear requires a separate device to monitor heart rate. During the I/O keynote, Google also announced a Google Fit initiative for developers to make fitness-based apps more effective by pulling in data from multiple devices. .

Apple recently announced that iOS 8 coming this fall will support a new Health app with a dashboard for all a user's fitness data as well as HealthKit, a developer software tool. Google Fit is expected to compete with Apple's approach.

In addition to Android Wear, the Android name was given to a new Google service called Android TV, which will be available through a set-top box or as part of a TV later this year, according to a blog posted after the keynote by Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps. With the system, users can stream content from their smartphones and tablets to their TVs.

During the keynote, an Android smartphone was used to control programming on a TV displayed on stage. Pichai said Android TV will also respond to voice search to find live TV, a movie or a music video. Android games on a smartphone can be played on Android TV, which supports Google Cast technology.

Google also announced that its Chromecast device, introduced last summer, will get an update to allow visitors to cast content from their devices to a homeowner's TV without the need to be on the same Wi-Fi network in the home.

This article, Samsung Gear Live unveiled as latest Android Wear smartwatch, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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