Monday, September 15, 2014

Smart Watch Requirements (a.k.a. "Samsung Gear 2 Neo Initial Thoughts")

I bought a Gear 2 Neo this weekend. I was planning to get the Gear Live, but the sales dude talked me into the G2N, even though he didn't have any in stock, and a competitive retailer did, plus a longer return policy.

Wore it to a social gathering last night, and got into a conversation with a technical friend of mine. He asked me “What would make a smart watch worth it for you?” and I could only blurt out a couple of stray thoughts.

It got me thinking... and my first thought is that I don’t know what I don’t know. What I mean is: back in the day, I couldn't imagine why someone would want to have a camera on their cell phone. But now I can’t imagine one without it. So I don’t really know what I can't imagine yet.

That said, here are the things that would make me really love one today:

  1. The fitness and sleep tracking is a given. If it can’t compete with Jawbone or Fitbit, it’s not going to replace either, and I don’t need ANOTHER wearable.
    1. The pedometer needs to be on all the time (G2N seems to be)
    2. The heart rate monitor needs to be accurate. (G2N S Health Exercise app's Running Coach suggested I slow down my walk because my heart rate was about 165. It was not.)
    3. The fitness apps need to integrate with myfitnesspal, runkeeper, and the other mainstream apps that allow access. (G2N does not)
  2. A gmail app would be really useful. I don’t use the Android mail app on my phone (though I could for gmail, but I like the gmail UI better). (G2N does not have one, though I can get notifications from Gmail.)
  3. Open system. This one made me create a Samsung account, instead of letting me use my google, facebook or other oauth account. Now I have to manage data there, too. And use their apps. That’s one thing I did like about the Pebble: I believe it’s open source.
  4. Notification settings PER application selected. There are privacy settings for all notifications, but it would be great to decide which apps can do what. The Pebble offers this.
  5. The ability to get notifications on the watch that you aren’t getting on the phone. For example, I might like to see news on the watch, but not have those notifications on the phone. Right now, the G2N is mostly just an extension of the phone.
  6. A thinner, more attractive form factor. I have very small wrists. (Was looking toward the Samsung Gear S, but it loses some "must haves" in my book)
  7. Swappable bands (Check!)
  8. Changeable clock faces. I mean--it *is* called a "watch". (Check! Though there aren't a ton of creative choices yet.)
  9. Option to leave clock on always (though I’m finding that’s not as important as I had thought)
  10. Changeable desktop/wallpaper (Check!)
  11. Reliable, fast voice command (G2N uses S Voice, which isn’t great; I would prefer Google Voice and Google Now notifications that are available on the Gear Live)

What I didn't know would be cool:

  1. Using the G2N to answer/reject calls, and as a Bluetooth speaker. I don’t know how often I’ll use that, but maybe driving? Will have to test the quality of it in the car with both hands on the wheel. Can I live without this? Probably.
  2. Screen resolution is REALLY good.
  3. I did find a free SMS app that has a teeny keyboard. It’s fine in a pinch, to get away from the G2N pre-fab (editable) templates.
  4. The most creative use case for this type of auxiliary device technology (that I've seen so far)? The escape call. You know--where you fake a call to get out of a conversation? I've never used one, but it seems that subtly tapping your watch to have it "ring" your phone would be much less obvious. There's an app for that.

What’s not as important:

  1. Playing music. A Samsung device isn’t likely to compete with an iPod for me. I haven't found an easy way to get podcasts and music on my Galaxy, so there’s really no point. I don't listen to music when I walk/run, and if I do, the iPod can come along. So much less fuss.
  2. Taking photos. I haven’t see the quality of the smart watch cameras, but…I don’t really think it’s that hard to get my phone out.
  3. Games. Tried Solitaire on this. I laughed so hard when the tiny cards loaded. Even after I realized I could pinch and zoom in to read the actual card faces, I was laughing. Maybe someday there will be a good "DWR" (Doctor's Waiting Room) game that I can see without magnification or scrolling.
  4. TV Remote. Cute, but not critical.
Apple Watch may have more things I've never considered, but since I don't have an iPhone, I'll not likely find out. I find it disappointing that the devices require a certain phone to be of any value. The Pebble is in the lead there, but I suspect there may be more potential in Android Wear for longer-term extensibility and apps.

I was waiting when I wrote a Pebble review in April, and you can sign me...

Still waiting,