I’ve rarely been an early adopter of new tech. Sometimes that’s because of financial obstacles – often it’s simply not seeing the burning need for whatever the latest “thing” is. Sometimes I’m concerned about how well something is going to hold up long-term (“early adopter” is just a marketing term for “sucker”, says my engineering friend).
Considering I was in my 20s before I had a smartphone (remember when high-powered smartphones were still called “superphones”?), I was surprised myself to see a smartwatch appear on my wrist a little before Christmas.
Caitlin mentioned in a recent post of hers that she was a bit jealous of my purchase. To be honest, I came into the new watch pretty much by accident – I desperately needed to update my phone, and a really impressive Cyber Monday sale offered the watch free with a very competitively-priced phone. With my contract terms making it very hard to justify not buying a phone outright, this was too good a deal to pass up.
So, what are we looking at?
My new smartwatch is a Moto 360 2, or 2nd gen to give it the full title. From Moto, formerly Motorola as the name suggests, it uses the standard Android Wear software and can pair with any Android phone or even (with a bit more work) an iPhone, but it goes like peanut butter & jelly with a Moto phone.
First impressions, um, first – it looks fantastic. There’s a choice of several watch faces with various customization options, but I prefer the mode that leaves the screen off when idle. It doesn’t just save the battery – the expensive-looking metal frame with an empty jet-black face is distinctive and actually looks great as part of any personal style. There’s a gold detail around the button, the rest of the body is silver coloured – it feels heavy and expensive to handle.
Practically speaking, it shows notifications for texts, messages, incoming calls, emails, Facebook, Twitter… whatever you have set up to display. It also integrates with your calendar and Google Now – it tells me when I have an upcoming event, and how long the drive is expected to be and how heavy traffic is. It might sound pointless, but I actually find this element alone really handy – letting me check my wrist instead of digging out my phone every minute when work is busy, especially if I’m moving around and have my hands full or am in a meeting and don’t want to interrupt the proceedings unless it’s vital.
It also monitors your heart rate, steps taken, and calories burned – Fitbit-style functionality that helps me track how I’m doing on my goal to be more fit and active in the lead-up to Japan.
I’ve also found it helps with hands-free operation for safe driving. Rather than fight with the glitchy voice recognition in my company car, and rather than program dozens of numbers into the car, I can just say “Okay Google, Call Whatshisface” and it takes care of everything – whether it’s someone in my contacts, or a local business it searches for. I prefer having that functionality running on the watch, which I can wake up with a quick shake of the wrist, rather than burn through battery by having the microphone in always-on state on my phone.
Other features – a “flashlight” that’s a white watch face at max brightness, you can run Google Translate and Maps on it for ease while travelling. A phone-finder for when I’ve misplaced my phone (it happens constantly, to me at least). It uses an inductive charging mount where it sits on a little pedestal and displays current charge and a digital clock – so you can use it a bit like a traditional digital clock/alarm in an era where everyone uses their phone instead of an alarm clock. You can also use it to control your phone camera for the perfect group shot.
My only real complaint so far is that gesture control – flicking your wrist in different directions to navigate menus and notifications one-handed – is finicky. Or at least, with my current strap. The holes in the watchband it came with are either very tight, or juuust a bit too loose to allow the flick gestures to work seamlessly. I also need to figure out settings to keep weather displaying on the watch face without refreshing.
Overall, though, as someone who was pretty skeptical of the concept, I have to say I’m thrilled with the results. The software is also lag-free and smooth in its animations and screen changes. Oh dear, one more piece of must-have tech I’ll spend money on till I die or we all have robo-eyes and 7G hotspots in our brain stems…