Friday, February 13, 2015

Two Months with a Smart Watch

There hasn’t been [a smart watch] that changed the way people live their lives. At Apple, that's our objective. We want to change the way you live your life. - Tim Cook
Everyone knows I'm going buy the  Watch the moment it comes out. If I don't by the  Watch, I lose my Apple fanboy status and the perks of spending hundreds of dollars a year on crazy stuff. I haven't worn a watch since college when I got my first Palm Pilot. To prepare my soul for the shift and build up my arm muscles to carry the extra weight, I bought a Pebble in November. So how do I feel about the three things the Pebble does?
Notifications - every time my phone gets a notification, my Pebble buzzes, shows the notification, and waits for me to dismiss it. If I acknowledge the alert on my watch is removes it from the Notifications view of the phone. The usefulness of the notifications and the buzzing varies a lot depending on context and it would be really nice to filter this magically. For work, I spend the whole day sitting in front of my computer which also pops up alerts every time I receive a work message. Two-thirds of the alerts that are buzzing away on my wrist are pointless and annoying because my watch is buzzing to indicate the exact same alerts that my computer is already showing me. It's nice to be able to dismiss them on my watch so they don't clutter my phone's notifications. The  Watch could do two things to make this better - it would be nice on the phone to be able to say which alerts are sent to the watch - so I can say if I want an alert on the phone, watch, notification center, etc. It would be AMAZING if there were presence/continuity going on so that if I am already working on a computer that is display the alert, I don't need to my watch to do it. I suspect that someone at Apple is working on the iCloud-backed notification center as you read.
When I'm away from the computer, the notification feature is way cooler. I get to leave the phone in my pocket and still get notified of new emails, iMessages, etc. without taking the phone out. I just look at my wrist. That's slick. Fun fact though - because most people don't have smart watches it's socially ruder to look at your watch every couple of minutes than to glance at your phone every couple of minutes. People assume you keep checking the time (not looking at mail notifications). That perception may change - we'll see. So notifications on the watch? B+
Second - There is a built in music app on the watch that mimics the controls in your iPhone control center - back, play/pause, and forward. I use this a little bit. If my phone is low on power, I throw it into the dock while still playing music, and I can pause/skip tracks. In theory it has really nice Spotify integration, but I don't use Spotify, so who's to say. Music integration? B+
Third - you can have exactly 8 apps on the watch. This limit (which I don't expect on the Apple Watch) forces you to prioritize a lot. What are my apps?

  1. MultiTimer - because timers on the phone is inconvenient.
  2. PebbleAuth - puts my 2-factor codes (Google, Dropbox, onto the watch. This is cool.
  3. YWeather - A watch face that includes the weather based on location. Convenient.
  4. WeMote - Control my WeMo devices - fans, lights, fireplace.
  5. Leaf - Control my Nest thermostat.
  6. TCP Lighting - Control my bedroom lights.
  7. play slot
  8. play slot
The real use I've found with apps on the watch is integrating with home automation. I don't want to pull out my phone to manage things around the house - I want that to be super fast and super easy and the watch makes this happen. I wish I could open my smart garage using the app.
Overall the Pebble gets a B+ - I put it on every morning and I miss it when I'm not wearing it. I suspect the  Watch is going to get an A. If for no other reason that I can stop carrying my Fitbit with me.