There are some things that must be experienced to determine the feasibility. After I started using smartwatches almost 2 years back, I never thought I would want to switch back to wearing normal watches. But I did.
Why I Gave Up Smartwatches
Smartwatches have improved in its design to look really attractive. They now look really like traditional watches, with round faces, metal bezels, brilliant colour display and customisable watchfaces that wearers can change any time. No longer does one need to wear different watches.
But I realise that I don’t really need smartwatches in my life. It introduces additional hassle instead of reducing my reliance on smartphones.
Smartwatches need to charge regularly. If battery goes flat, I lose the ability to tell time because I have to charge the watch. Yes, there are smartwatches that lasts for at least a week, but regular charging is still required to keep it going.
To save battery, one tends not to set the smartwatch watchface display as always on. So I could not read the time as subtly as I would have liked. Displays using e-ink lasts longer but do not have glorious-looking screens.
Notifications Are Inadequate
Notifications are one major advantage that smartwatches offer. At times when smartphone is out of reach, the smartwatches offer glimpses of incoming events for your attention conveniently. Just that my kind of lifestyle does not put me in such situations as often as I have thought, so this advantage is not that important to me.
Quite often, when I receive them on the smartwatch, I still have to reach for the phone to continue the response. First, the notifications are text-based and formatted on tiny screens, so rich content emails don’t look complete. For text messages, you cannot respond extensively on smartwatches. On Android, if you swipe away the cards, the notification icons disappear on your smartphone too, and by doing so, you might forget replying to the messages. If you leave it, then the notifications stack up over time and clutter the smartwatch.
Another Gadget To Operate
I find myself fiddling with the smartwatch so often, mostly to dismiss notifications, access functions, check my steps, trying to wake up with wrist movements, etc. What for? Most functions are already on my smartphone which is always within reach and frankly a better gadget to achieve all the needed features.
A Slave to Fitness Tracking
In a bid to capture my steps and sleep stats, I wore my smartwatch all the time, except when I bathe. It comes to a point of being tired of having to wear it. Yes, I could just take it off, but then the stats would not be accurate. And if I am not keen to capture steps accurately, then why wear a smartwatch?
For people who needs just a fitness tracker, they can wear smaller devices without elaborate displays. These devices can last for over a month.
Too Little or Too Much
The irony of life: when there are too many notifications, the smartwatch keeps buzzing, which is disturbing, yet if you ignore them, it defeats the purpose of a smartwatch, because when you have time later to check the missed notifications, it would be easier to check on the smartphone instead.
On the flip side, if there are no notifications, the smartwatch becomes somewhat redundant.
Return to Conventional Watches
So last month, I started wearing back normal watches, and realised that I was doing fine. I felt more at ease wearing heavy solid timepieces around my wrist, not some gadget that requires tender care and frequent recharging.
There are a few things that I missed while wearing smartwatches.
- Inform me to check my phone for incoming events because I always set my phone on silent.
- Track my steps, which is a nice indicator of my activity level.
- Silent alarm (don’t want to wake my wife in the mornings).
Hello, Hybrid Smartwatches
Wearable products are still growing strong, with many manufacturers coming out with interesting wearable concepts to drive consumer interest. One type of wearables that caught my interest is hybrid smartwatches. They look like traditional watches but have some smartwatch functions and connect with the smartphones.
I have owned several Fossil watches and am quite attuned to their design, so I am happy that they have a watch line of both Android Wear smartwatches and hybrid smartwatches, under the label “Fossil Q“, a homage to Ian Fleming’s 007. Browsing the catalogue, I was impressed at their hybrid smartwatch product range, which is already in their second generation. They have no fewer than 20 models.
I searched online and found that ZALORA offers the lowest price with standard 2-year international warranty. Thanks to Shopback and in-store promotion, I enjoyed almost 40% off the published price of S$275, saving me the hassle of ordering direct from overseas.
Unlike “normal” smartwatches, I had to choose a watch face carefully since it is permanent. I like the Fossil Q Grant series, and was almost going to check-out the stainless steel strap but finally decided on a leather strap so that I could change the strap easily.
Fossil Q Grant
This is definitely one of the more popular models, because it is sold out on the online store. Look at the photos, and it’s not difficult to see why. Gold-coloured pop-up indices contrast with the blue background makes reading the watch an ease.
I did not choose this initially because the brown leather strap does not go with my usual dress code, so once I received the watch, I swapped to my current black one, which doesn’t really go with the watch face colour. I’ll be looking out for another strap in time to come.
The battery compartment is removed just like a traditional watch. Fossil included a tool in the shape of a “Q” to allow self-removal and replacement of CR2430 lithium button battery. Fossil claims the battery can last up to 6 months, depending on usage.
Removing the battery exposes a bit of the circuit board. Truth be told, even though the watch face looks conventional, the analogue hands are not controlled mechanically. This is an electronic watch, in all sense. And it’s made in China.
What Are The Smart Functions?
Given the watch face uses analogue movements, it cannot display any digital information. But Fossil Q Grant can still interact with the smartphone to deliver the smart functions.
First, install the Fossil Q app from the iOS or Android app stores. Go through the on-screen steps to pair with the watch. Once it’s completed, the Fossil Q watch will display the time in sync with the smartphone.
Activity Tracking: Steps and Sleep
There is a movement sensor inside the watch to capture the steps and your sleep pattern, just like a fitness band. The app displays daily, weekly and monthly information. I like the UI design and the choice of fonts. The sleep tracker works fine, but I won’t wear it to sleep daily as it is too bulky.
Here’s where things get interesting. How does the watch tell you who or what notifications are being received? The below screen shots should help you understand.
Notifications are assigned to one of the 12 hands. When an incoming notification is received, the Fossil Q will move both its hands to the respective positions for a brief moment. It is possible to assign multiple events to the same hand. It is also possible to just vibrate without any hand movement.
Does it work in real life? Yes it does for me. I set all my important contacts who call or text me to point to 11, calendar events at 12, general SMS at 3, Messenger at 6, Whatsapp at 7. When my watch vibrates, I look at where the hands are pointed. If it shows 11, then I know it’s from important contacts and I check my phone. If it’s 7, I know it’s a Whatsapp message which is not that important but I will get to that when I am free. If it shows 12, then I know I have an upcoming appointment (which I usually remember) so I won’t need to check my phone for those.
But isn’t it useless to receive notifications when I cannot pinpoint who exactly and what message they are? Whatever the notifications, despite the best smartwatches, I still end up reaching out for my smartphone which provides the best interface for all kinds of actions. It is redundant for me to look at my smartwatch that displays limited info, and going to my phone to complete the action. Some might say that the smartwatch already supports interactive responses, but they are again very limiting, like canned messages, ability to delete the message. That is why I limit my notifications on the Fossil Q to critical events, where it requires my attention and reach for my smartphone. It’s not a replacement of my smartphone, like some consumers intend. This is my use case, and this is the use case for hybrid smartwatches.
Can it be improved? Yes I can think of a few scenarios where hybrid smartwatches can lean more towards the digital side, but I suspect that would increase battery consumption.
Activity Target, Second Time Zone, Alarms, Date Display
Apart from notifications, the watch shows the steps activity target in percentage by default. There are 3 buttons on the watch. The first button will show the date. Notice the small numbers around the circumference of the watch face? When you press the first button, the hands will point to the date number. It would be nice if Fossil can build an analogue date display like the other watches.
The middle main button is a mode toggle that shows the last known alert, second time zone, the preset alarm time, and the date.
Fossil Q Grant hybrid smartwatch runs on normal button battery and lasts 6 months. No more hassle to charge watch! Hands wave and watch vibrates during alarm, tells date by pointing the hands to the numbers. A sweet blend of analog face and smartphone interface. #fossilfirsts #LGG6 #gridshot #lgmobilesingapore #fossil #fossilwatch #fossilQ #fossilQGrant #watchface #timepiece #fonegrams #watchesofinstagram #instawatch #watch #smartwatch
The bottom button is customisable to trigger an action of your choice from the Fossil Q app, though there are limited choices. You can configure to act as a camera shutter button, or ring the phone to find it, or trigger a goal that you personalise. The goal setting feature is quite interesting: Fossil Q app lets you specify the goal type, and in my case, I selected to track the amount of water I drink. So whenever I press the goal button, it adds to the count. The app helps you track the goal which you can set either as daily or weekly (e.g. “Say hello to a stranger 4 times a week”) and for how long (e.g. “for the next 10 weeks”).
Only the last button is customisable. Hopefully future firmware upgrades can unlock the first two buttons for customisation.
The app supports connecting to other fitness apps to share activity data, set vibration strength, and other standard configurations.
Hybrid smartwatches are only targeted at consumers who love to wear proper-looking timepieces instead of colour-display smartwatches, but still desire some smartwatch capability. I know many are not that particular about watches, and so the list of requirements will be completely different. For instance, battery concerns can be mitigated by getting wearables with basic displays or e-ink.
After wearing the Fossil Q Grant for a while, I think it works really well for me. I get to wear a normal watch with adequate smartwatch functions and its battery lasts up to 6 months. Although Fossil Q Grant supports alarm, I decide not to wear it to sleep due to its bulk, so I reverted to being awaken by my smartphone. To conserve watch battery, I turn off Bluetooth on the smartphone once I reach home to stop notifications.
How long will this phase last? Time will tell (pun intended), giving the wearable manufacturers some more time (another pun!) to develop the next generation of smartwatches that might just bring me back to the light.
If you are also wearing a hybrid smartwatch, share your comments below. If you have questions, let me know too.