Last week, we began a comparison between two of the hottest smartwatches on the market today – the Moto 360 (2nd Gen.) and Samsung Gear S2. They offer very different experiences, so deciding on which to drop a cool $300 isn’t an easy task. Therefore, we’re breaking down what exactly they’re about.
We’ve covered the differences in hardware, so now it’s time to see how the software compares. If you haven’t kept up with Samsung’s recent smartwatch developments, the company has moved away from Android Wear and implemented its own, home-brewed OS – Tizen.
Samsung has been playing around with Tizen for a while, but Android is so established on phones that it’s very difficult to introduce. That’s not so true with Android Wear, which is relatively new. Consumers are not so attached to it, therefore, Tizen has a chance.
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The most similar aspect about the two watches is the home screen. I mean, they’re watches, so it makes since that the first thing you see is a clock. They both utilize “watch faces”, which are basically different styles of telling time.
Both have a variety of faces that come in the watch, and the option to grab third-party faces from a store. However, the Moto 360 has more options, because of access to Google’s Play Store. Tizen on the Gear S2 is a bit more closed off and there aren’t as many faces out there created by outside developers. Bear in mind that a watch face can tell you more than just the time. There’s tons of information that developers can throw on, like notifications, battery life, date, weather, and fitness data. Android has had more time to develop and grow, resulting in a larger library.
However, that isn’t to say that Tizen doesn’t offer a lot. There’s a bunch of stock watch faces that come with the watch. And you can find more through the Samsung Gear app. What’s more, you’re able to customize the look of the watch faces to a great extent.
Something that the Moto 360 offers over the S2 is an Always-On screen. This means that when the watch is on standby, you’ll still be able to see the time. Pretty nifty.
But in the S2’s defense, I have to mention the Moto 360’s flat tire (the dead space at the bottom of the display). Motorola has yet to figure out a less invasive place for the ambient light sensor, and believes it’s important enough to cut off a little bit of the screen. The S2’s display is a complete circle.
A simple way to navigate through the watch UI is an important aspect. Thankfully, although the two platforms are very different, navigation is pretty intuitive. I would actually say that Tizen is a bit more user friendly. Part of that is due to the rotating bezel. When you twist it, you flip through different panels (different features, like fitness, weather, or music).
Android Wear works a little differently. It’s more about notifications, and to sift through them, you swipe up and down. There aren’t widgets that you can place on a panel, like on the Gear S2. If you want that information, you have to go into the app. And speaking of which, to get to the app drawer on Android Wear, it’s a swipe from right to left on the home screen. You’ll merely see a scrollable list of the app’s name and icon.
On the S2, the app drawer has a cooler implementation. The app icons go around in a circle. You can either use the rotating bezel to make a selection or tap on the icon. The rest of the apps are separated by pages (tap the last icon on the list to get to them). The only bad thing about this system is that you can’t readily see what each icon means. You have to have to flip through them one-by-one and the app name will show at the center.
Regarding features, the Moto 360 and Gear S2 excel in different ways. This fact will probably be the most important consideration for many folks. As mentioned previously, Android Wear is more about notifications. Its efficiency is most realized when notifications pile up and you see them pop up on the interface as they come in. Google refers to these panels as “cards”.
Depending on the integration of the app’s notification in Android Wear, you can do different things upon getting a notification. To see your options, swipe from right to left on a card. For instance, when you get a text message, you can reply from the watch (using your voice or one of the pre-set reponses). Or if you have music playing, within that card you have playback controls and can even thumbs up/down tracks.
On the Gear S2, there are similar controls, but Tizen’s panels are “widgets”. You add in widgets to your liking. You get can place things like news, music, weather, fitness data, etc. You can do the same things as in the corresponding apps; the widgets can be thought of shortcuts.
Both OS’ have a pull-down shade from the home screen. The Moto 360 tells you the battery and date and gives you a couple of system functions. The S2 tells you battery and Bluetooth status, as well as three controls along the bottom.
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What is the right interface for you?
Wearables are an exciting space right now. There’s great freedom for manufacturers to play around with different approaches and find something that works for them. That means that it doesn’t just have to be a Google vs Apple fight, like with phones. Tizen can join in and offer something compelling.
How do you feel about it? Do you prefer to stay in the Android ecosystem or are you open to trying Samsung’s OS?