Thursday, February 26, 2015

Smart Watches

The announcement of the new Pebble Time reminded me to post a blog about my LG G Watch experience since I purchased it in September. Something I now find invaluable.

At the time, I'd switched off many of my phone apps' notifications because I found them distracting and would often venture off into other apps on the phone when acting on them. However with the watch, I could see the notification and be presented with a very narrow set of options. Somehow I found this much less distracting and as a result, I've since increased the number of notifications apps can emit on my phone, I find even when coding, my phone beeps and I briefly look at my watch, swipe it away and carry on. If I do need to act, then I can save the notification for later if needed.

I still find the voice part a little embarrassing to use in public, but in the car or by myself I find dictating to the watch very useful. I've dictated at least half the text messages I've sent over the past few months. I also quite liked the default replies selectable via the watch. Usually it gets the dictation spot on.

A great recent feature is Google Music integration, having synched my music to Google it's nice to be able to ask Google to 'play some Mogwai' for example. Though I've never found the ability to store music on the watch useful as I've always got my phone with me.

The watch ties in very well if you use Google Keep or Google Inbox where you can create reminders for certain locations. I.e. an email for collection at a specific store or simply a photograph/note of something to buy next time you're at a shop.

There is a variety of watch faces available, I've settled on Weather Watchface which shows me the current weather, temperature with highs and lows. It also provides useful feedback if I walk away from my phone.

Navigation is pretty cool too, getting a vibration alert on your wrist to tell you a junction is coming up is useful, however the display is useless if it's a complicated junction like a double roundabout or 'left then right' type junction. You might be shown a 'turn right' arrow at a junction or roundabout, but you're never entirely sure as the screen doesn't reflect your current direction or show you a local map view.

Over time many of my initial niggles have disappeared, there has been a stream of system updates. Some apps still don't take full advantage such as Facebook only ever showing 'open on phone' instead of providing a bit more information.

The battery appears to have improved lasting about 2.5 days now, though still on one or two times I've forgotten to charge my watch or hadn't seated it properly in the dock and worn a brick on the wrist for the day. In fact on one day I wore my old 'traditional' watch and found myself looking at that watch when my phone made noises!

I didn't like the watch strap that came with the LG G Watch, but since it has a 22mm watch strap fitting I could fit a Milanese Mesh watch strap instead.

One of the main features I bought the watch for was Google Now's 'time to leave' card; but this is actually a bit hit and miss. Sometimes it forgets to notify you until it is too late and other times it notifies you way too early leaving me with a dilemma about dismissing the notification for a few hours orhaving to remember to look at it again.

Many of the other Google Now cards aren't supported and don't appear which is fair enough, but means I tend not to see them at all as I'll rarely access the feature on the phone.

Answering calls on the watch is very useful, I get to see the caller and options to abort the call or answer, but unfortunately there is no option to answer on speaker making the feature more limited than it could be. Thankfully Wear Speaker comes to the rescue by putting a big button on the watch when a call is connected to enable speaker.

So after Pebble's Time announcement I thought I'd write a list of the things I've come to really like about Android Wear:

  • I like dictating text messages and creating reminders for myself. I particularly like the geo based reminders. E.g. "Ok Google, remind me to write this blog post when I get home"
  • I like the 'time to leave' functionality
  • I like seeing who called me on my watch. 
  • I like reading SMS messages on my watch. 
  • I like seeing email message summaries on my watch. 
  • Replaceable 22mm watch strap. 

All of the above should be possible on the new Pebble Time and probably in a more useful format using the time line function.

How about the feature's I'd lose:

  • The touchscreen is attractive and seems great for things like Google Keep lists, but I've never used it for that. It's more of a hindrance as you must look at the screen to ensure you touch the right place. 
  • The OLED screens looks fantastic, but it spends most of its time switched off to save battery power and the watch face I've chosen doesn't have fancy graphics. 
  • Having to charge my watch every 2 days. 

I've pledged for two Pebble Time watches and look forward to trying one out alongside my LG G Watch for a week in May. I wonder which will go on eBay after?