Nokia’s grand Android experiment is over. In addition to thousands of former Nokia employees being let go from Microsoft this week, so too is Google’s operating system. Microsoft will surely keep developing its own apps and services for Android phones but it won’t be making the phones themselves.
The Nokia X line started as a strategy to bring a Windows Phone user experience to low cost handsets, complete with Live Tile-like icons and Microsoft services. The idea was to get the Microsoft brand in the hands of customers in emerging markets where feature phones still rule the roost. Microsoft wants none of that and will instead work to get Windows Phone hardware costs down for these markets.
LG is keeping Android around though, so don’t worry. This week, the company launched the G3 Beat, a “mini” version of its G3 flagship phone. Like most attempts at a smaller flagship, this is more of a cut-down handset as opposed to simply a smaller edition.
The G3 Beat has a smaller — but still big — screen measuring it at 5-inches and gone is that pixel dense 2560 x 1440 resolution from its bigger brother: This display is 1280 x 720. LG opted to downgrade the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chip inside the G3 flagship all the way to a Snapdragon 400 in the new Beat. The device does keep, however, the laser auto-focus camera system. Inside you’ll also find a meager 8 GB of internal storage — expandable with a memory card — 1 GB of RAM, and Android 4.4.2.
That means the G3 Beat will work with an Android Watch. Should you buy one? The easy answer to that question: It depends.
I spent several weeks wearing an Android Wear watch — the Samsung Gear Live — and although I generally like what it offers, I’m not convinced most normal, mainstream consumers will. At least not when the price of entry begins at $199.
Yes, my favorite feature is the built-in Google Now support, complete with voice input. I’ve longed for that since last August. But the watch doesn’t get my spoken commands correct without fail. And we’re talking about a solution that is convenient but not necessary when you likely have your phone in hand or nearby. I’ve been able to ask my Moto X various questions or task it with commands by voice when it’s still in my pocket, for example.
Here’s the thing though: Android Wear is in its infancy. Google has put out a software product that’s good enough to get the platform going; it still needs a bit of refinement. Some handy settings — screen brightness is one — are buried in menus a little too deep, for example. And third-party apps are interesting but not completely compelling just yet. Give it time and Android Wear could be a very appealing watch for many more people besides diehard Android enthusiasts.