smartwatch / 29/06/2015

Hands On: Android Wear

android-wearI recently starting using my Sony SmartWatch 3 properly, after pairing it with the LG G4.

I know I’ve openly said smartwatches are not for me, but I have to admit, I did not use it for a long enough period to come to that conclusion.

Now that I’ve been using the SM3, I realise I won’t be bothered by notifications buzzing all the time (I can control it) and that “charging another device” isn’t that much of a big deal when I have the cables right next to my bedside and downstairs (basically everywhere at home).

Back to the smartwatch… the pairing process was seamless, done over Bluetooth. The SM3 pairs with Android 4.3 and up handsets. I learnt a lot about how notifications work through trial and error, as with most things.

My main concern was getting only important emails coming through. I generally use a dummy gmail account to log into any Android device for the first time, so all app downloads are tied to this account. Which means I have to set up my email accounts separately.

I turned off notifications on the default gmail app and added accounts to Outlook (my preferred email app client on Android and iOS). Despite regular smartphone apps not having Android Wear specific apps, whatever notifications get pushed on your smartphone, it will appear on the watch. So email was sorted via Outlook.

sm3-2

I also opted to receive notifications from Twitter, Instagram, FNB, Facebook and some news apps. Mostly social media and email but disabled Periscope, Hangouts and other Android system apps.

I tried several Android Wear apps but didn’t find most of them useful. None of the major social networks have dedicated apps (but Tinder does – of course Tinder does), so I downloaded stuff to try like the Guardian, TripAdvisor, an islamic calendar, and some custom watch faces. I found the general selection very limited and even more so from a South African point of view.

It displays Google Cards too, like the weather or if you have a flight, the card will automatically show up (if you use the official Gmail app), and your daily steps. It’s easier to talk into it for stuff like creating reminders, which is triggered by saying “Ok Google”. I find Google’s voice recognition very good; if it understands my accent, then it has to be. It’s also smart enough to correct itself, example if you say something and it types it as it interprets it, you will see it autocorrecting to what you actually said.

sm3-1

But, the watch is really good for one thing – notifications. Personally, I’ve been trying not to be too glued to my smartphone and I find that the watch actually helps with this process. When my phone is in my bag and I get a notification, I can opt to dismiss it or to do anything further, you have to launch the app on your smartphone. If you don’t want to take out your handset, you just dismiss it and worry about it later. So essentially, you know what’s happening by an extension of notifications without reacting to every single one. Not that you can respond to stuff from the watch directly. If you use Google Maps, you can get directions displayed on the watch. But do you want to drain the battery on that?

SONY SMARTWATCH 3
The SM3 has a 1.6-inch display and weighs 45g (without the strap). It is detachable which makes it easier to charge. The little flap that covers the charging port seems fragile and I hope it doesn’t break off eventually. It does look a bit masculine (and somewhat sporty) but is slightly too large for me as my wrists are quite small. It has one button on the right, that’s it. Do the specs matter? No; you can find them online if you really want to know. The watch does have a very good battery life, you could make it last 3 days if you are selective about notifications.

NOTIFICATIONS
To access notifications, you swipe from the top down. To scroll between what is on the default notifications tab, you swipe right to left. The first tab allows you to decide if you want all notifications to come through, priority, or none. Just tap the corresponding icon. The next tab is “theatre mode” if you don’t want to be disturbed; and the last tab is settings. To get rid of a notification card, just swipe right.

sm3-3

SETTINGS
In settings, you can adjust brightness, change the watch face, font size, toggle wrist gestures, bluetooth devices, airplane mode, location, reset or restart or power off.

APPS
To access your app draw, just swipe from the right edge of the screen to the left. You will see a vertical list. Built in ones include Maps, agenda, alarm, find my phone, Fit, flashlight, Google, Play Music, Remote Shutter (for camera but seriously don’t bother – use your camera like you normally would), stopwatch and timer.

Overall I find Android Wear still in its infancy and limiting in what it can do compared to the Apple Watch and in terms of how many dedicated apps are available. However, as a notifications device, which is what I used it for, I found it very useful.



Nafisa Akabor
Always online... except when I'm offline.




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