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Smartwatches Aren’t What They Used To Be

I remember literally twisting my mums arm to get me my first watch when I was about 6 years old. It was a Japanese ‘Asahi’ digital watch that cost KSH 50(less than a dollar – even at those times). Coincidentally, ‘Asahi’ in my mother-tongue translates to ‘I beg you’. But that’s the last watch she ever bought me because the next day after she did, it was not a timepiece anymore but different pieces of plastic and metal that could no longer tell time. Also I didn’t find little people inside that I imagined were responsible for turning the hands of time.

Flash forward over 2 decades later when I set my eyes on the first smartwatch masterpiece. My pupils dilated, my heart skipped a beat et cetera at the sight of the first pictures of the Gear S2.

My idea of a smartwatch has drastically changed ever since I got my hands on the S2 Classic  since I got the S2 Classic on my hands a couple of months ago, but I must say I’m still in love.To be fair though, anyone that knows me knows I love watches.

However, my initial hope that I would be letting go of mobile phones in favor of smartwatches and potentially other wearables remains a dream. Despite the fact that I physically use my phone much less now I’ve come to learn that the watch will  – for the foreseeable future – be just a proxy to the mobile phone. I’ve learnt a few more things as well:

It’s Still A Watch, Aesthetics Matter
The Gear S2 is Samsung’s second generation smartwatch on the Gear S series. It was released in October 2015 and has been touted by many as the best smartwatch currently in the market. It comes in two flavors: there is the Gear S2 sport that has a silicon wristband and the Gear S2 classic that sports a leather one. They both come in 3G and non-3G versions. The former is a little bulkier because of the inbuilt speaker and SIM card.

Apparently, real life is a little different from old school sci-fi films where bulky wrist gadgets look cool. A watch is still a fashion accessory and any tech feature that brings that out differently has to be reconsidered. I think why Gear S2 wins is because it capitalizes on this so successfully: it manages to pack awesome functionality inside a very thoughtful, minimal design.

What Apps?
Samsung Gear S2 runs on Tizen – not Android – boooo! There aren’t as many applications on the Gear store as there are for Android Wear. This is one of the things that initially got to me. I assumed we had all telepathically agreed everything should run on Android from now on. I had my Android Studio fired up ready to start building apps when I realized I would have to use Tizen SDK instead. I actually might have gone for something different if I had know this beforehand. But now, from experience, I’m glad Samsung managed to sneak this little info past me.

I downloaded all the nice Gear apps I came across and also decided out to start out building some of my own. However what I realized over time is that I barely used the apps I installed.

All the games I had downloaded I played two times max just to find out what that would be like. I also got a few news apps that I imagined would come in handy and that I would be using every now and then.

In reality the only time I interact with them is when a notification pops up, which I end prefer to ‘Show on phone’ anyway.

I thought I would use the cute little keypad to reply messages but no. It’s like a little goat. Nice to look at, but you know are never getting one because you can tell reality from wishful thinking.
This is not to say watch apps are useless. Far from it. The Gear S2 comes with awesome and very useful built-in apps. The S-Health app is brilliant. You can use it to track your activity and it nudges you whenever you are inactive for too long. I no longer sit for 12 hours straight writing code. I now go for 30 minute walks everyday at 6pm. At least so that that little gadget won’t tell me I’m lazy.

Notifications, Notifications, Notifications
Calendar apps are awesome for quick glances at your daily schedules synchronized with your phone’s account of course. Weather app is cool, alarm clock etc. The biggest win though is notifications.
No longer shall we be startled by that buzz from our phones during that awkward but important meeting. Or that vibration that won’t quit. The Gear S2 has a very gentle mostly inaudible vibration. And with a quick look at the watch’s screen you can go through the notifications and even send preset replies. Or type if you are old school like that.

 

Action….

The truth is except for a few utility apps, most applications are best served through a counterpart phone app. I’m no longer crazy about building a watch app and instead to focus on phone apps that integrate well with it. So you have for example WhatsApp messages that have a reply button, Twitter follow notifications that you can follow back and such. “You Uber has arrived” notification etc.

Out with the old…
While my idea of what a smartwatch is has changed (I’m still hoping for cool IoT integrations, and maybe a teleportation button) there’s no going back at this point. I tried one of my old watches for a day last week and it felt the same as switching from a science fiction movie to a Hallmark drama.

The fact that I wasn’t getting notifications for my new emails or getting news headlines from the Guardian just bugged me.

Also I could no longer tell how fast my heart was beating or how many steps I had made that day.

The horror!

And I had to take my phone out of my pocket just to change the music? I couldn’t take it anymore. So 2014!

 Smartwatches Aren’t What They Used To Be