Did a smartwatch improve my life? No, it didn’t.

I am aware that there are spoilers in the title, but this is my small contribution to a click-bait-free world.

When smartwatches came about some six years ago, I saw no practical use for them, and considered them to be to a large extent useless gimmicks. But roughly a year ago, thinking that their infancy period has probably finished, I started considering giving them a chance. There were three main areas where I thought I could get some added value from a smartwatch. The first one is notifications. I often miss notifications when my phone is in my pocket, regardless of whether the sound is on or if the phone is in vibration mode. In addition to not missing notifications anymore, just by looking at my wrist I could do triage and decide if I needed to react on a notification as soon as I have received it.

The next use-case is tracing my route with GPS. Sure, I can do this with my phone, but tracing for many hours drains the phone battery, so it would be nice to have another unit to take care of this. And finally, the third situation where I expected a benefit from having a smartwatch is checking maps. I do this whenever I am unsure that I am going in the right direction. When travelling, I check maps especially often. By using a smartwatch in these three scenarios, I expected that my phone would stay pocketed more and that its battery life would see a boost (at the cost of having to charge the watch, of course).

The requirements I had for the watch were the following. It had to support Android Wear, it had to have its own GPS sensor, and it had to look classy (not sporty and/or plasticky). It turned out there was only one model in the current generation that satisfied these requirements, the Huawei Watch 2 Classic. But its price was too high for what I was ready to shell out for this experiment. It was about 400€. I had no idea if I would find a smartwatch useful, which made me afraid that I would end up with a useless expensive gadget. I followed how the price moved for a few months and kept changing my mind between “Ok, I will buy the watch tomorrow, there is no other way to find out if I will like a smartwatch than trying it for myself” and “I really don’t need this in my life, especially not for this amount of money, so I give up”. Until one day I saw the price drop to 270€. So I ordered the watch, it arrived a few days later.

I used it for a couple of weeks and these are my experiences. As far as notifications go, it was nice to get them on my wrist and it did reduce the number of times I reached for my phone. But I noticed that they were buggy, I was not getting all of them. I did not identify a common pattern of when a notification would not reach my watch. A couple of years ago, when I had more time for gadgets, I would typically Google the hell out of a bug until I found either a solution or a workaround. Now it just made me pissed, I wanted notifications on my wrist, but they were not reliable. Big minus…

GPS tracking was an even bigger failure. It started of good, an Android Wear version of my favorite tracking app (Sports Tracker) was indeed available. But it was not a standalone version that tracked on the watch. Rather, it triggered tracking on the phone. There went saving the phone battery out through the window. Sure, there are other apps available, and I probably could have found one that worked standalone on the watch. As said, a few years back I would have invested the necessary effort and time, but now I just wanted it to work effortlessly with the app that I liked.

Google Maps were another failure. Just checking where you are and what is there around you worked relatively fine, despite the very small screen. But navigation while walking had one major flaw – there was no way to review the proposed route or to choose an alternative one, which you can on the phone version of Google Maps. I like to double check the proposed routes because they can contain errors. Or sometimes I feel like taking the longer route because of the sights along the way. But here it was just one proposed route and you could take it or leave it. I chose to leave it. Leave it completely. I sold the watch. It was a combination of a technology that has not matured yet (or it may never mature, for that matter), of a failure in the areas where I had the biggest expectations, and of my impatience where I no longer want to fight my way around bugs.

To end with some positives. I really liked the look of the watch. It wears nicely with a shirt and does not paint you as “THAT guy” who has the “nerd-watch”. As an engineer and scientist, I am always happy about a performed experiment. Sure, the outcome was negative, but no experiment is failed as long as something is learned from it. I learned that I did not need a smartwatch. At least not at their current state of development.

2 thoughts on “Did a smartwatch improve my life? No, it didn’t.

  1. Hahaha, totally agree – jedino korisno je za vjezbanje/trcanje, da se mozes pratiti. I ovo zadnje – ljepota 😆 Ja imam Suunto i obozavam ga, ali ima waaaaay too much beskorisnih informacija. I nikako se ne mogu naviknuti na “punjenje” sata – ono, “ide ko vurica” je potpuno neprimjenjivo 😆😆

    1. U mom sličaju ni to praćenje nije radilo kak spada. Punjenje mi čak ni nije bilo problem, morao sam puniti “samo” svaku drugu noć, djelomično i zato jer mi je sat bio beskoristan pa se nije puno baterija trošila.

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