Verizon Wear24 review: Time for a carrier-exclusive smartwatch

Among the launches of different devices this spring, one item you may have missed was the release of the Verizon Wear24 in March. While Verizon offers several different smartwatches for consumers, the Wear24 represents a bit of a different path for the carrier as this one is an exclusive. The market for smartwatches seems to be struggling despite the release of Android Wear 2.0, so Verizon’s entry is an interesting move for the carrier.

We recently spent some time with the Wear24 to see whether it offers a compelling case for consumers to add this to their portfolio of tech gadgets.

Design

The Wear24 comes in three different colors – Stainless Steel, Gunmetal and Rose Gold. The particular model we were working with is the Gunmetal variant which comes with black rubber bands. The design is rather spartan and utilitarian with a relatively thin bezel surrounding the watch face and no decoration or design bits to add any bling. At least in the case of the Gunmetal, this made for a rather plain looking device, although this may appeal to those who appreciate minimalism in their devices.

The watch does have a “crown” button that can be used to power the watch on and pressing it gives access to the apps menu on the Wear24. Unlike some previous generations of round face smartwatches, no “flat tire” is required for the ambient light sensor.

The bands are your typical rubber and surprisingly, I found them to be one of the better parts of the Wear24 thanks to a pair of bumps built into the bands to hold one of the loops in place close to the buckle. That was a nice touch that helps address a problem I have noted with watch bands that have loops sliding all over the place instead of doing their job.

The watch body is leaning toward the large size – it is almost as big as my Garmin sport tracker. Despite the absence of a heart rate monitor, the body is also fairly thick, probably thanks to the inclusion of LTE and NFC chips. Despite the size and weight, I did not find it feeling bulky when worn on my wrist, partly thanks to the effective straps that are flexible combined with a body that lets the straps drop almost perpendicular right where they are connected via the standard lug system.

The backside is plain, although you may spot the openings for the speakers. Meanwhile, the microphone is located on the side of the watch next to the crown button.

There is not much to make the Wear24 notable from a design standpoint, but the minimalist nature should not turn people off either.

Hardware

The Wear24 comes with a 1.39-inch AMOLED screen running at 400 x 400 resolution, yielding 290ppi. This is backed by a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 768MB of RAM which is a step up from the typical 512MB found in most smartwatches, and 4GB of onboard storage for app installs and to hold some music onboard. The battery is a 450 mAh unit. The Wear24 includes support for LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC. The Wear24 is IP67 rated.

Performance

Performance of the Wear24 is solid, which is not a surprise as Qualcomm appears to have done a good job of optimizing the Wear 2100 processor for use in smartwatches. Moving between screens is smooth and apps launch quickly. When notifications come up they are easy to scroll through and swipe away.

The screen itself is very nice, which is no surprise for an AMOLED display. I found it bright enough for use in sunlight and the ambient light sensor functions as expected. The resolution is good and everything appears sharp on the screen.

Battery

The battery in the Wear24 comes in at 450 mAh, which makes it one of the larger batteries on the market. Using the watch with the screen set to always on, I found the biggest draw on the battery occurred when it was connected to my Verizon phone. With notifications and such flowing between the two devices, I could make it through an entire day, but was definitely ready to recharge it when I went to bed each night. There was usually enough charge left, 20 – 30 percent, that I could make it through the night if I wanted so I could use it as an alarm in the morning, but then I would be faced with having to recharge it first thing in the morning. When I switched to pairing it with a Galaxy S8 on a different carrier, the battery tended to last well into two days of use. As I describe below, that is kind of a moot point, but the potential is there.

Charging takes a couple hours and is done wirelessly on a stand that comes in the box.

Software

If the review ended based on just the hardware, the Wear24 may rate as an okay device. However, one of the selling points of the device is that it includes an LTE chip so it can be used for making calls and receiving texts even when you do not have your phone with you. Making this happen though means a couple compromises have to be made. First, since the watch is a Verizon exclusive, it appears it will only work with a phone with a Verizon number. The calling setup feature (and messages as well) will not let you enter a non-Verizon number. I imagine one could get around this by paying for a number from Verizon specifically for the Wear24.

The other major compromise I found was that text messaging has to be done via Verizon’s Messages+ app. In my case, this meant re-installing the app and then spending over two hours with Verizon tech support to get the device to finally pair up. Since Android and Google made some changes a while back that only lets you have one SMS app active at a given time for sending and receiving text messages, this effectively locks you into using Messages+ for your SMS platform.

Once I managed to work through some initial setup and configuration issues, in the short time I was still using a Verizon phone with the Wear24, the routing of calls and messages to the Wear24 seemed to work well.

Onboard the Wear24, Verizon does include about 8 different watch faces for users to select and more can be accessed via a Wear24 app that can be installed. Users can also customize the look of the included watch faces by modifying fonts, colors and the widgets if they are willing to drill down into some of the settings.

Google took steps with the release of Android Wear 2.0 to cut down on customizations to the interface by manufacturers, so pretty much any Android Wear 2.0 device is going to function like any other and that is true for the Wear24. However, if you are hoping to take advantage of the LTE capabilities of the Wear24, be prepared to be locked in to the Verizon ecosystem of apps not only on the watch, but on your smartphone as well.

Closing

The Wear24 is currently listed on the Verizon site at a full retail price of $349, although you can get it for $299 on a two-year contract. This is not entirely out of line with the market for more some of the more premium smartwatches, especially those that are supporting Android Wear 2.0. The Wear24 does have some things going for it like the nice screen, the solid albeit minimalist design, and a good battery.

As we have noted in other reviews though, Android Wear 2.0 is a rather pedestrian user experience that is not going to “wow” consumers. For the Wear24, you are burdened with having to commit yourself to Verizon’s stack of apps to make full use of the watch’s features, especially the LTE supported calling and messaging.

If you are all in with Verizon services, the Wear24 may be a good choice for you. Otherwise, carefully weigh the Wear24 against some other options that are out there and whether LTE support is really a key requirement for your needs in a smartwatch.

Buy it now: Verizon


About the Author: Jeff Causey

Raised in North Carolina, Jeff Causey is a licensed CPA in North Carolina. Jeff's past Android devices include an HTC EVO, a Samsung Note II, and an LG G3, and a Motorola Moto X Pure Edition along with a Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1. He currently uses a Samsung Galaxy S8 and (very rarely) a Nexus 7 (2013). He is also using a Verizon-branded Motorola Moto Z Play Droid supplied by his job. Jeff used to have a pair of Google Glass and a Moto 360 Sport in his stable of gadgets. Unfortunately, his wife and kids have all drunk the Apple Kool-Aid and have i-devices. Life at home often includes demonstrations of the superiority of his Android based devices. In his free time, Jeff is active in his church, a local MINI Cooper car club, and his daughter's soccer club. Jeff is married, has three kids, and a golden retriever.