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This article was published on April 2, 2011

LiveView: Control your Android with this wearable display [Review]

LiveView: Control your Android with this wearable display [Review]
Brad McCarty
Story by

Brad McCarty

A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty. A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty.

The idea behind the Sony Ericsson LiveView is very interesting. It’s a tiny display (about the size of a wristwatch) that you can clip on or literally wear as a watch. With the display’s touchscreen, you can control various elements of your phone, as well as some 3rd-party applications built on the LiveView platform.

In theory, this is a very cool thing. In reality? It’s not quite ready for prime time yet. But, early adopters that I know you are, there’s a good chance that you’re still going to want this. As such, it’s my pleasure to tell you about it and what I’ve found.

The LiveView comes in a package with two bezels. One contains a clip that would be handy for a number of uses. The other bezel attaches to a cloth and Velcro watch band. Not the most stylish thing, but the idea is more for working out than for going out. There’s also a microUSB wall charger in the pack, and an instruction manual. Yes, you’re probably going to need it.

Firing up the LiveView for the first time, you’ll want to pair it with your phone as you would any other Bluetooth device. Once paired, it does a good job of maintaining connection, even after having gone out of range for a significant amount of time.

You’ll need the LiveView and LiveWare apps, at a minimum. LiveWare lets you manage the different devices that are available. LiveView allows you to connect/disconnect, customize your tiles and your notifications.

Once you’re set up, there are a few other apps that you’ll probably want to get. LiveView starts with some base apps, such as call display, an RSS reader, Calendar reminder and a phone finder (handy stuff, that phone finder…not that I lost my demo phone…)

Advanced functions of the LiveView depend heavily on what apps (known as plugins, within the display) that you decide to download. Want to get Gmail notifications? You can. Keep track of your running with your phone’s GPS? Yep, got that too. There are notifiers for Facebook, some cool watch faces and many more, all searchable thanks to the new Android Market via the web.

The question, of course, is will you use it? In some cases, it’s very handy. If your phone’s in your pocket or bag, looking at the display to see the most recent missed calls or texts is nice. Controlling your phone’s media player is handy too (and it works with at least some 3rd-party media players, such as Winamp). I had troubles, though, getting it to tell me when I had email with the Gmail plugin. Oh, and the phone dialer? Forget it. You really don’t want to scroll to each number to dial it.

In all fairness to Sony Ericcson, I’m not using a phone that’s recommended. While the website says that LiveView should function with any Android 2.x phone, it doesn’t specifically mention many that are outside of Sony’s own offerings. I’ll attribute the bugginess of some of the apps to my specific model being unsupported.

The parts that do work are really pretty handy. It doesn’t appear to like telling you about text messages received via Google Voice, but normal ones worked fine. Likewise, email sent to the Mail client on the phone worked without a hitch, but the Gmail function, as stated previously, didn’t.

Do you need it? Not a chance. Would you like to have it? Probably. There are apparently firmware updates, and reviews around the Internet seem to be of the mind that they will fix some of the inherent problems. The LiveView will run you around $80, from fine Internet retailers such as Amazon.

The overall score? I’ll give it 2.5/5. It’s about half the product that it really needs to be in order to justify the cost. Here’s hoping that the low score doesn’t keep us off of Sony Ericcson’s mailing list. I’m actually quite interested to see what the company comes up with, moving forward.

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