I’m very much an advocate of wearable technologies. Some of them go overboard, I’m not talking about Locutus of Borg with cybernetic implants and a funky eye-laser thing. I’m not even talking about Google Glass (though it does have a certain je ne sais quoi about it).
Wearables come in all different categories, from augmented eyewear to devices that monitor your vital stats for health monitoring. Some count steps or even heartbeats. Others check your temperature or even your oxygen saturation. While those all have their place, the kind of wearables I’m talking about are an improvement on a timeless accessory: the chronograph.
I call it a chronograph or timepiece because its concept pre-dates the wristwatch to the pocket watch and similar devices. Today a pocket watch may seem archaic, then again, so does a fountain pen, but even in the age of email and Tweets I still carry my trusted fountain pen in my pocket at all times. A pocket watch is similarly as useful and carries with it a rich history and heritage that spans continents and even oceans – both which were seemed larger when the pocket watch was en vogue.
The concept of a chronograph was simply to put a clock in your pocket – and eventually on your wrist. Today we take that for granted. Back in the day, timekeeping was something that was much less rigid than it is today, and the accurate time was much harder to come by.
Eventually, chronographs got additional functionalities: month, day of the week, day of the month, moon phase, sunrise, sunset, and more. You could say that these were the first real “smartwatches”. Today that definition has changed a bit, but the concept is the same.
I wear a Pebble smartwatch every day. My preferred watch face tells me the time, the day of the week, the day of the month, and the current temperature and weather conditions. To some who wear more traditional timepieces with advanced features, what my watch displays may seem a bit thin. However, my watch has an additional feature, like all Pebbles do: it gets notifications from my smartphone, and lets me run apps right on my wrist. It’s an amazing little device and I have never regretted having purchased it… but I’m ready to put it on the shelf.
We heard about Android Wear not long ago: Google’s SDK for presenting any Android notification to a connected smart device (not just watches), and also for enabling applications to receive input from the device, and even run apps on the device itself. That sounds nice and piqued my interest, but I was still on the fence.
News of the Moto 360, a round smartwatch with a color touch screen really got my pulse racing. While my Pebble looks just fine and works great, it’s just a watch. The Moto 360, on the other hand, well, that’s a timepiece! Even the LG G Watch, which is decidedly rectangular, looks like the natural evolution of the timepiece – almost. The one thing holding me back from truly adopting the smartwatch as the natural progression of the timepiece has been their relative appetite for power.
A traditional wristwatch can last for years on a single battery, some even have a small solar panel behind the hands to extend the runtime almost indefinitely. The old-fashioned, wind-up pocket watch could last for up to 60-hours on a single winding (which sounds a lot like the time I get out of my Pebble between charges). It’s anticipated that watches based on Android Wear will run for a day or two between charges, thereby placing a significant emphasis on the charging experience.
With Motorola’s recent FCC filing which confirmed that the Moto 360 should have Qi support, charging is now a non-issue: simply place it on the charger overnight, and it’s ready for you in the morning. No fumbling for cords or cables. No deliberate process to recharge added to your daily routine. Drop it on the charger and you’re done – at least that’s what I’m expecting.
If that turns out to be the case, other smartwatch and Android Wear manufacturers will undoubtedly follow suit. This one simple change has made Android Wear significantly more convenient, and much cooler than I was expecting.
Google I/O Update
While I hope I’ve made the case for how awesome Google Wear can (and will) be. During today’s Google I/O keynote, we saw even more of what Google Wear will be – and I’m floored.
I’m one of those people who locks his smartphone and tablet all the time. I do this not only because I feel it’s the right thing to do to ensure the safety of my personal information, but it’s also required by the Exchange Server at my day job. It’s a pain in the neck. Now, with Android “L” and Android Wear, whenever you’re wearing your watch and holding your smartphone or tablet, your Android is already unlocked. As soon as your watch goes out of range, your screen lock kicks in. Smart.
We all get a lot of notifications – all day, every day. Email, Gmail, calendar, Twitter, Facebook, Pushover, Hangouts, text messages, and more. It’s crazy. Each time one of these notifications comes in, you have to pull out your phone, turn on the screen (and possibly unlock it), find the notification, mentally process it, and act on or dismiss the notification. Multiply that by hundreds of notifications every day, times 15 seconds or so per interaction, and that’s an hour of your day spent just looking at notifications! Push those to your wrist and the time is reduced to only a few seconds each, reducing your interaction time to around eight minutes.
Now that Android is spreading to our TVs and our Autos, Android Wear now becomes my voice-activated remote control for those environments, too. This sounds simple, but it’s huge!
We saw even more cool features that Android Wear will bring to our wrists very shortly. We’ll cover those in more detail over the coming hours and days. Until then, I can’t wait until I can get one of these awesome devices on my wrist!