Wearable

Android Wear is overrated, but it might be a good thing, and here’s why.

If you wear a watch, how often do you check on it or play with it? Do you spend a lot of time admiring the beauty and craftsmanship?

How different would you interact with a smartwatch?

I’m currently reviewing 2 smartwatches at the same time: the Sony Smartwatch 3 and LG G Watch R. Both running on Android Wear, so apart from the outlook, the heartware is largely identical, with a few hardware exceptions.

The most common observation is how functionable and interactive the Android Wear is to the wearer.

In one way, the Android Wear is intuitive. After going through a brief on-screen tutorial, I got the hang of it, totally. Swipe right to dismiss notification, swipe left for more options to the notification, swipe up for next notification. On the standby watchface screen, tap to select actions or apps, tap-hold to change watchface, swipe down for status. If you need to do anything, just say “OK Google”. Voice recognition is amazing.

In another way, Android Wear is limiting. No on-screen keyboard (yet), no speakers, no camera. It relies on Android apps on the smartphone for function compatibility. For instance, I must use Google Hangouts as default SMS app to reply SMS from watch. I must use Google Play Music app to sync music files to the watch built-in memory. Not all apps support interactive reply from the watch.

But, going back to my subject header, it might be a good thing after all. It reduces the unnecessary distraction of maintaining another gadget with you. I mean, shouldn’t you be using your phone for most of the tech interactions like viewing photos or browsing the web? I am constantly rationalising my tech gear to make sure I do not carry too many things with me. Say when I go out, I either carry a tablet or a laptop, but not both. Or, when I bring out a Bluetooth keyboard to work with my smartphone, I won’t carry my laptop.

In short, Android Wear is not trying to be a smartphone on a wrist, something that Samsung is trying to achieve, at least with its new Galaxy Gear S.

Android Wear is built with a specific set of use cases in mind. It does not intend to take over the smartphone as another telecommunication device. The result is that some consumers do not see any huge benefit to use an Android Wear smartwatch. There may even be elements that do not appear to be “smart”. For instance, there is no “night mode” where you can disable notifications, except activating “cinema mode”. But when you do, all notifications, including alarms, will be disabled. Not very smart when you want to wear it to sleep and wake you up next morning. But, is Android Wear build for night wear, or should that responsibility go to the fitness activity bands?

The areas that Android Wear is better than other proprietary smartwatches are the watch-like design, the thoughtful UI, and the fuss-free integration with Android smartphones. If you want your smartwatch to be as smart as your smartphone, then you have to wait a few more development cycles.

Smartwatches are here to extend your existing digital information lifestyle, not to replace. Android Wear is not another standalone gadget, but a complementary product with your Android phones. You might end up using it less often than you think, and that could be a good thing.

The review articles of the Sony SmartWatch 3 and LG G Watch R are up, Click the respective links to read.

Article written by Chester Tan (http://musicphotolife.com/)

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