Verizon surprised us back in February when it announced the Wear24, its own LTE-enabled smartwatch. It's an Android Wear 2.0-running watch that doesn't bring any new ideas to the tables, which does make it a bit of an odd addition to the Wear family.
It's ready to fill the void of the LG Watch Sport, which the network mysteriously decided to cancel. In its place we've got another circular smartwatch that comes packing LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi and NFC.
Priced at $299.99 with a two-year contract and $349.99 without, the steel-cased Wear24 seems to be offering itself up as an alternative to LG's Sport. But is it actually a good alternative, and do Verizon's notorious pieces of bundled-in software enhance or bungle the experience? Here's our verdict.
Verizon Wear24: Design
If you enjoy nondescript design then you'll love the Wear24. This is a watch that wants to be as simple as possible, so simple that it borders on generic. The stainless steel watch face isn't trying to be bold and it certainly isn't going to turn any heads.
In fact, it's pretty much the opposite. No one is going to notice this thing on your wrist. It's not that it looks bad, because it doesn't, but that it looks incredibly familiar. There's also a soft silicone rubber band that's surprisingly decent. It's nothing to write home about, but it's nothing to complain about either.
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It's closest sibling aesthetically is the LG Watch Sport, though the Wear24 strips it back further. Rather than sport three buttons, it sports one. That's right, there are no twisting bezels or crowns here, just a singular button and the touchscreen, which sports a 1.39-inch AMOLED display with a 400 x 400 resolution and 290ppi. It's bright, the colors pop nicely, and it fares well in bright and sunny conditions.
That one button, though, acts as both a menu and back button. When you're on your watch face, you give it a click and you head to the app menu. When you're in an app, you give it a click and head back to the previous screen. It's simple, but it also feels limiting. Other watches have turned to rotating mechanisms, like bezels and crowns, to make navigating around smartwatches more intuitive. This makes the Wear24 feel a little archaic.
On the wrist, the 42mm watch face and 13.4mm thickness has a satisfying heft to it. The Wear24 doesn't feel like it's going to overtake your wrist, but it also doesn't feel like it blends into your person. Like everything else in regards to the design of this smartwatch, it's rather shrug worthy.
Verizon Wear24: Features
At first blush, the Wear24 has a good amount of features. There's LTE so it can work as a standalone device, there's NFC, and there's GPS so you can go for a run. That's more than some of the other Android Wear 2.0 watches you can buy, at least on the box. But then you actually use the watch, and you realize that checking off a features wishlist doesn't mean as much as you thought.
What doesn't it have? There's no heart rate sensor, so if you're mildly interested in some decent fitness metrics you're out of luck here. Also, there's no support for Android Pay. Despite having NFC, the Wear24 won't let you pay for things with your wrist, at least with Android Pay. Why? It's hard to say. It's possible that Verizon is planning to launch its own payment service in the future, or Android Pay may come further down the line, but for now we have an NFC-enabled watch that you can't use with what people want to use NFC for.
LTE, on the other hand, works pretty well. Verizon's network is still one of the best and most reliable in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I had no problem taking it out and leaving my phone at home.
Verizon Wear24: Fitness
And then there's the Wear24's fitness abilities. As previously mentioned, there's no heart rate sensor, so if you're looking for a running companion, this probably isn't the one for you. That's unlike, say, the LG Watch Sport or Huawei Watch 2, which both offer the optic sensor.
Of course you still have access to Google Fit Workout and the range of fitness apps on Android Wear such as Strava. The watch will still keep track of things like your pace and distance and calories, but you just won't get your heart rate, which can be used to improve calorie estimates.
And then there's GPS. At first glance, the GPS looks like it has a pretty accurate picture of where I took a run. But then when you zoom in a little bit and see that those lines weren't quite as smooth as the ones captured by the Garmin Fenix 5S.
There are plenty of instances where the Watch is clearly guessing where I am. For instance, I should be on the sidewalk next to a street, but the Wear24 has me walking through the homes of strangers. It's not dramatically off or anything, and managed to trace the route with reasonable accuracy, but it wasn't as assured as the Garmin.
Verizon Wear24: Android Wear 2.0 and Verizon's additions
For the most part, the Wear24 delivers the expected Android Wear 2.0 experience. However, Verizon also went ahead and bundled in some of its own software, as it tends to do.
Other than its account-management MyVerizon app, the two biggest additions are Messages+ and the Wear24 watch faces. Messages+ kind of wants to be like iMessage, in that it syncs all your messages and photos (and calls) and stores them in one place, keeping it all in line between devices. It's a good idea, but the execution here is wanting.
On the watch itself, you can reply and send messages. The Messages+ app, watch version, doesn't allow you to actually read your messages. You can only send them. On your phone, the app has your regular messages, but also includes sections where all your other information is stored. So there's a tab where all the photos from all your conversations are kept, and where all your shared geolocations are, and where all your eGifts are stored. That's right, you can buy your friends and families eGiftcards directly from the Messages+ app, if that's your thing.
Android Wear 2.0
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There just isn't enough in Messages+ to use it over something like Hangouts or Facebook Messenger. Although Verizon heavily suggests that the best way to message from your Wear24 is to use it.
As for the Wear24 watch faces, they look simple but are actually nicely customizable. You can adjust the colors, sure, but the more interesting bit is that each watch face has a couple different modes. For instance, while you choose the Wear24 classic watch face, you can also craft a couple different modes for it. You can create a fitness mode and a work mode, and you can set locations for them to activate at.
So when you get to the gym or your favorite running location, your watch face will swap out its complications your pre-set fitness complications. When you get home, it'll swap them out for, say, your favorite communication complications. And when you get to work, it'll swap into your set of work-related complications. It all works pretty well.
Verizon Wear24: Battery life
The Wear24 comes with a pretty beefy 450mAh battery, and in real-world use you can really feel that beefy battery living up to itself. With basic use, I was able to consistently get about a day and a half of use.
Of course, when you start dipping into heavy use - doing some GPS-based runs and turning up that screen brightness - that's when you start to see that battery life draw fewer breaths. In this case, I was able to eke out just under a day of battery life.
- Battery life
- Zippy performance
- No Android Pay despite NFC, no HR
- Ho-hum design