Smartwatches and wearables have been around for a while, but since the advent of the Apple Watch (Apple being english for hyped-up sales bonanza) the market has started to see some serious improvements with other platforms now in their second and third version.
Not being an Apple user, the Apple Watch was obviously not for me.
We got a couple of Smartwatches at work for teaching pretty early on in the life of Android Wear, an LG G-Watch R and a Motorola Moto 360. This was really early on, AW 1.1 I think. Yeah, they ‘worked’ but they were as buggy as hell and their functionality was pretty clunky. I poked around a bit and then handed them back to the Mobile Tech teacher.
Sometime later I stumbled upon a Pebble on Gumtree for a price that I could easy flip if I didnt like it. You gotta remember that the Pebble is the original Smartwatch. Forget Apple, forget Android, forget Samsung – it was Pebble on Kickstarter that kick started (boom-tish) this whole industry.
And I fell in love with it. It became as necessary and as normal as wallet and keys. Days that I somehow forgot to put it on, I felt somewhat naked. Being able to just glance down and see incoming notifications on an easy to read screen, dismiss them with a single button, control my music, all from my wrist without having to pull out phone was just brilliant. Yes, the LG and Motorola could do this – but they were big, heavy, and clunky in comparison and needed charging every night (sometimes not even making it through a single day). I even ended up upgrading to a Pebble Steel so i could have the same thing with a proper steel band; like a proper watch.
Then randomly out of nowhere a few weeks ago, I got the itch to see what else was out there now. I started by grabbing back the original Moto 360, ran a stack of updates with idea of seeing if it had improved at all. And not be honest – not really. It was certainly smoother and more reliable – but I was still not a massive fan of the AW interface. For a company that did such a great job on Material Design, I just dont think Google did a good job on AW, at least not in this version 1.
Probably due to being burnt so bad with horrible manufacture launchers on Android phones, Google decided that no one would be allowed to change the Android Wear interface. I’m actually not sure that was such a good idea on this. Being Googles first crack at a wearable interface; it may not have been a bad idea to see what other people could have done.
Then in quick succession; two other watches popped up that I couldnt say no to. Both later model watches – a Sony Smartwatch 3 and a Samsung Gear S2. Two very different watches.
The Sony is running Android Wear. Meaning ti is stuck with the AW interface and all that comes with it. But it is such a well made watch. Its faster and with a MUCH better screen than the old Motorola. It also has the apps available for Android Wear (I really wish Google would create a seperate store for AW).
The Samsung is actually a different beast. Most people think that its just another Android watch, but it actually isnt. Its not actually running Android Wear underneath. Its running an alternative operating system called Tizen. Samsung built their own interface over the top and started its own App store. Which is good and bad.
Samsung were able to build an interface bespoke to its watch. And it is fantastic. Out of the Pebble, Android Wear, and the Samsung, the Samsung for me is streaks ahead of the rest. It just ‘works’ intuitively and smoothly (not bad from the same company that gave us Touchwiz). The downside is its Apps store which is way behind the others. Pebble has had theirs since day dot, so have heaps of Apps. AW is well, Android – so many of its developers rushed to make watch apps and have continued to do so. Samsung had to try and convince developers to come to their watch too and it still lags behind in a noticeable way. However I have been able to find most apps I’ve wanted/needed.
So out of the three watches I own, the Samsung gets the most use by a long shot now. Its the interface that does it for me, and its a nicely made watch to boot. Is it my dream watch though?
My dream watch would be the Samsung, but running Android Wear under that very nice interface. But that is something that Google specifically blocked and I hope doesnt come back to bite them on the arse. Or I hope it is something they decide to change with the incoming Android Wear 2. But thats doubtful.
Having the Samsung Gear S2, but with access to all the Android Wear apps, for me – would be perfect.
IFA is coming up in a few weeks, I’m kinda looking forward to seeing what get announced in the next generation of smartwatches.