I recently picked up the Moto 360 and really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I read some reviews, but the reviewers seemed much more focused on “car guy” stuff like specs, resolution, etc instead of the experience of using an Android Wear device in one’s daily life. I was surprised to find out that the experience is pleasant in ways I didn’t expect and largely different from a smartphone.
For example, I never, ever talk into my smartphone in public or at work. I feel like its a bit rude and makes me feel self-conscious. Yet, there’s something very accepting about whispering into your smartwatch. I think there’s a sort of stigma attached to the types of people who treat their phone like a 2-way walk-talkie and we’re socialized a bit to talk loudly into a phone, but with a smartwatch these issues just aren’t there. A quick whisper to text my wife is pretty stealthy because raising my wrist to my lips only takes a moment and I only need to speak loud enough for the microphone to hear me. I can do this without most people around me even noticing, which is a huge plus.
The fitness apps seemed a little half-baked to me, but I am enjoying the pedometer. I’ve started giving myself goals, like breaking 5,000 steps while walking my dog. The progress is fun to see on the charts it provides. A pedometer is something I would have never sought out on my own, but as a built-in function its actually pretty useful.
My entire life of email, texts, etc has changed in a small but appreciable way. It turns out most of the messages I receive aren’t long or important, so glancing at them on my watch is more than enough. The watch displays a good sentence and half of text and tapping on it loads the next sentence and a half. Its surprisingly efficient. I would like better pre-cooked responses though. Android Wear has a few for replying to texts, but I’d like to see more and this feature available for email.
From a social graces point of view, its godsend. I was getting way too much into the habit of pulling out my phone incessantly and checking things like twitter, reddit, email, etc. While my habits are still poor, I feel its much less of a faux pas to quickly look at something on my watch than to actually reach deep into my pocket, pull out a large square of glowing glass, unlock it, navigate to the application, and finally check the message.
The built in Google Maps navigation is fun as well. While driving, I can just whisper to my watch to navigate somewhere and turn by turn directions will appear on its face. This is so much more convenient, and I imagine more safe for the driver, than trying to deal with mounting a phone on your dash, worrying about the phone’s battery, etc. I can just glance at my wrist, look at an arrow that will tell me when my next turn is, and immediately put my eyes back on the road.
The watch is sometimes unintentionally comical with its Google Now integration. It randomly tells me the traffic home, like its urging me to quit the workday early. Sometimes I catch a strange green glow on its underside when its randomly checking my heart rate for the fitness app. Incoming phone calls can be a little strange. I’ll suddenly feel a vibration in both my pocket and my wrist and see a photo of the person calling on my watch’s face, filling it completely. There’s a real futureshock element here that I’m just not experiencing with smartphones and I’ve been using smartphones since the early days of the Treo. I’m also starting to develop what I call the “Moto 360 nose.” If both my hands are occupied and a wrist twitch doesn’t turn the screen on, I find myself leaning in and using my nose to turn the screen on or to dismiss a notification. I suspect some wrist twitch tweaking will eliminate the need for this in the future, but right now I must look incredibly silly sometimes.
Like all technology, it has its shortcomings. Its screen doesn’t turn on sometimes when I flick my wrist. Its ambient mode, like all ambient modes I’ve seen, look like the displays of cheap VCR’s from the 1980s. I don’t even bother with ambient mode, both because of the looks and because of battery life. A lot of apps aren’t optimized for Android Weaar, so trivial things like actually seeing a reddit comment or tweet aren’t possible yet. Instead, you get a button that reads “Open on phone” which kinda defeats the purpose here. I expect this to change as developers update their apps to be Android Wear aware as opposed to the dumb notification pass through Android does with non-AW aware apps. I also don’t like how the search function will usually show me the most relevant wikipedia page, but will only allow me to view the first sentence of the wikipedia page. Unlike texts and emails I just can’t tap to continue loading the text. I also don’t like how I can skip songs on an album I’m listening to, but cannot navigate to other albums.
I also don’t like that there’s no movie theater mode. The screen lit up more than a few times during a showing of Gone Girl. Luckily, no one was sitting behind us as I imagine it must be annoying to suddenly have a bright light come in right in front of you in a darkened theater. I absolutely can’t stand it when people view their smartphones during a movie. It just takes you out of the experience. Hopefully, we’ll get some kind of mode like this soon as the only solution I’ve found is to shut off the watch.
Interesting side note about battery life. Not only do I get more than enough battery life for all day use, my phone’s battery life is suddenly better. It turns out I’m viewing my phone’s screen much less often, so my screen-on-time is less, which means significant battery savings. At night I charge both of them together on an Energizer Dual Qi charging pad. Motorola chose the popular Qi standard for charging the Moto 360 which sure beats yet another proprietary connector or wireless charging standard.
That said, its a pretty good experience. I’m enjoying a level of convenience here that’s starting to illustrate, to me at least, how unnatural the smartphone experience is. The idea of carrying around this bulky glass brick and constantly pulling it out has taken a backseat to just glancing at my watch. I’m not sure what the future holds for smartwatches, but I’m honestly finding mine useful and don’t think its a fad or a mere fashion accessory. Its really a superior way to use mobile technologies for many common use cases. Who knew?