the watch are by voice, similar to using Google Now on Android phones and Siri on iPhones. You can scroll through a short menu of functions, but it's primarily there as suggestions and isn't comprehensive. To activate the voice function, just tap on the watch face or say ''OK, Google.'' You can ask the watch to set an alarm, check your calendar or send a reminder.
You can't use the watch as a speakerphone for calls, the way previous Samsung smartwatches allowed. But you can make calls or answer ones that come in. The call still goes through the phone, but that's not a problem if you have a Bluetooth headset.
You can send texts by dictating a message or using canned ones such as ''Yes,'' ''No,'' or ''On my way.'' You can't add your own prewritten response, the way you can on Samsung's previous watches. Android Wear also lets you send and receive emails and read Facebook notifications. I sent myself a draft of this story and was able to read all of it on the watch. If you prefer using the phone, there's a button you can tap to have the message automatically open there.
The watches can also keep track of your daily steps, and Samsung's has a heart rate monitor. These tasks and the clock functions are about all you can do without the phone nearby.
Where Android Wear advances smartwatch technology is in navigation. As long as the phone is nearby, you can get turn-by-turn directions on the watch. While walking down the street, you can look at your wrist and avoid having to constantly pull the phone out of your pocket. Sony's SmartWatch 2 has a maps app, but it doesn't work as well as Google's.
Beyond that, the watch offers the types of notifications you'd get through Google Now on the phone, if you've turned that feature on. That includes local weather, birthday reminders and scores for your favorite sports teams. While jogging to work Tuesday morning, Android Wear even offered nearby bus stops in case I wanted to cheat.
Of course, I can simply pull out my phone for all that. Android Wear is supposed to make your life better by displaying relevant information on your wrist, rather than in your pocket.
But you still need the phone nearby, and the voice recognition feature doesn't always hear me correctly.
Android Wear isn't