This is what the Apple Watch can learn from Android Wear

Apple only recently announced its first real wearable, the Apple Watch. Patterned after Google’s Android Wear and Samsung’s Gear line, Apple Watch tries to fill the void in that part of Cupertino’s product offering. Though not yet available, Apple has spelled out what its smartwatch looks like, and has even given us a fairly thorough walkthrough of what we can expect when the Apple Watch finally lands. Interestingly, Apple Watch misses out on a few key points that, at first glance, its competition already does better. Since there is time before the Apple Watch comes to market (if you’ll pardon the pun), there are still some things that Apple can learn from Android Wear.

moto 360 thumbPeople like round

Take a look at how many rectangular smart watches that have been released or announced that are powered by Android Wear, then factor in the number of round Android Wear watches are out there, or in the pipeline. Now ask yourself, how many people either bought the Moto 360 or are waiting until they can find someplace that has it in stock. That’s what I thought: people are literally lining up for the Moto 360.

I spent some time in my local Best Buy over the weekend. They had plenty of LG G Watches, various Samsung watches, and even a handful of Pebbles in stock.  As you might have predicted, they were entirely sold out of both flavors of the Moto 360 – though they had display models of each ready for customers to go hands-on with.

Not a single person asked for another watch to be taken out of the display case, but 75% asked when they’d be getting more Moto 360’s in stock. If Apple is going to “do it right”, it’s got to release a round version of the Apple Watch. Then again, perhaps they’ll wait until next year, so they can get everyone who bought the Apple Watch 1 to throw it out and buy the Apple Watch 2.

Ambient display

ambient screenLG’s G Watch comes with two states to its display: active, and inactive. If you want, you can set the watch face to turn off entirely when it’s not “raised”, but that’s not how it ships by default – and that’s a good thing. Time and time again I’d glance at my wrist to see the time – without raising my wrist and activating the display. Since the display is “always on”, that was never a problem.

When I wore the Moto 360 it’s screen would “sleep” completely. Activating it was easy enough by lifting my wrist, but I could no longer “glance” at the watch to see the time. Heading into the settings and turning on the ambient display mode corrected that, but I was warned that it would impact battery life. For me, the reduced battery life was worth it, and I never ran out of juice over a full day of use – even with ambient mode turned on.

If a watch – no matter how “smart” – doesn’t display the time, it’s just a black slab. Apple must rethink it’s “off until you tip it up” on-switch on the Apple Watch if it’s going to “do it right”.

Dual microphones

"OK Google, twp to beam up!"

“OK Google, two to beam up!”

One of the things I like most about my G Watch is the ability to talk to it and tell it what to do.

One of the things I like least about my G Watch is that it hardly ever hears what I want it to do when there is the slightest bit of background noise.

When in your car, the instructions for using this feature should be (1) turn off the radio, (2) turn off the air conditioner, (3) ask your passengers to be quite, (4) slow down so there isn’t too much road noise, (5) raise your wrist, and (6) say “OK Google” followed by your command.

The Moto 360 has two microphones: one to listen to you, and one to listen to your surroundings. This lets the audio processor cancel out everything except your voice, making voice recognition much more accurate, and much less frustrating.

I didn’t hear Apple make mention of how many microphones its watch would have or if it would have noise cancellation, but it’s got to if it expects voice input on the Apple Watch to work.

Talking is awkward

Michael Fisher, StarfleetThen again, talking to your watch is awkward. Maybe it’s because I have to say “OK Google” four or five times before my G Watch finally gets it. Perhaps a noise cancelling microphone would fix this. Nonetheless, there are times when I simply can’t talk to my wrist. For those instances Android Wear doesn’t function as smoothly as I’d expect. Sure, I can launch some apps from my wrist, but I can’t start navigation to a specific address by any other method than dictating my destination prefaced by a command to “Navigate to…” I don’t think microscopic keyboards are the solution here, but I should still be able to select from a list of places I’ve previously bookmarked or travelled to from my wrist.

Apple’s got to “get this” and make the Apple Watch smart enough to “just work” without voice input – and do so elegantly.

Battery life

Duracell AA batteryThis one goes without saying, but it concerns me the most.

Pebble notwithstanding, smart watches don’t have the best reputation of battery life or runtime. Apple didn’t even mention battery life when it was highlight features of the Apple Watch. This could simply be because it hasn’t had a finalized product and has not data against which to measure “real world” battery life.

On the other hand, since Apple is already committed to “turning off the display” when the Apple Watch isn’t “raised up”, it could be bad news when it comes to battery life.

Regardless, Apple has to have at least a full day of use out of the Apple Watch, and ideally two.

Your turn

Those are the first things that come to my mind when comparing what we know of the Apple Watch to smartwatches powered by Android Wear. What about you? What things do you home that Apple learns from Google and Google’s smartwatch partners, and successfully implements (and hopefully improves upon) in the upcoming Apple Watch? Head down to the comments and let us know!

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.