writing about tech

Month: May 2015

What’s the point of a smartwatch if you already have your smartphone?

A common criticism of smartwatches since their introduction has been “what’s the point of a smartwatch if it just does all the same things your smartphone does?” While it’s certainly a valid criticism, I also think it’s a bit of a lazy one.  Yes, a smartphone can do basically everything at this point, but it doesn’t mean it’s better at doing those things than a tablet, laptop, or yes, even a smartwatch. Heck, I’d say there’s more value in a smartwatch over a tablet, because it can physically do things that a phone can’t, simply because you’re wearing it. I think it’s difficult to understand those situations until you’ve actually worn one. However, since that’s a weak position to take, I’ll throw out a few examples:

  • I’m driving, and my phone is in my pocket. I remember I have to do something when I get home. I tilt my wrist – Hey Siri, remind me to do that thing when I get home. Hey Siri, okay. Done. Eyes never off the road. Also, replace “driving” with “running” or “biking”.
  • I’m at home, my phone is in another room. My friend asks me if I want to play some Heroes of the Storm. “Sure” I reply, from the built-in responses. Or “Maybe in a bit”, I dictate. Quick response, notification dealt with, never had to go find my phone.
  • I’m biking. I glance down at my wrist, and immediately know my heart rate, as well as the elapsed time, or current pace, or current distance, depending on what I’ve set it to.
  • I check the time, and notice my Move or Stand circle is almost filled. I get up and take care of some business around the house/office, because I need to fill those circles, dammit.
  • It’s getting cloudy, and I wonder if it’s going to rain in the next hour. I tilt my wrist, swipe up to my Dark Sky Glance, and see that it won’t.
  • I’m shopping. I check my shopping list on my wrist, grab something off the shelf, and check the item off.
  • I pull into the garage, and my wrist is tapped. The Reminder I set earlier just went off. I snooze it, knowing it will tap me again in 15 minutes, regardless of where my phone/laptop/tablet happen to be in the house.

Some of these are things I could do with my phone. But why would I? I’m already wearing a smartwatch, and for those things, it’s faster. Better. I could also watch a movie on my phone, but I don’t – because a tablet (or a TV, for that matter) is more suited for the task.

Different screens. Different contexts.

My favorite Apple Watch apps so far

Someone asked what my favorite Apple Watch apps were so far, and I boiled it down to this core list:

* RunKeeper, in tandem with the Exercise app. I like being able to control my GPS-driven workout app from my wrist. Being able to switch between them with a double-click of the Digital Crown is a nice touch.

* Overcast. I usually just control podcast playback from the media controls Glance, but sometimes I want more control, or sometimes my iPhone will get confused and play music instead of a podcast.

* Dark Sky. I find I use its Glance rather than the Weather glance, and I find its functionality – a detailed forecast for the next hour and the rest of the day – complimentary to the built-in Weather app’s function of giving me a longer-term forecast.

* Wunderlist. Love this app. I use both the Glance and the app to check for my to-do list. Great for shopping, too.

* Shazam. Now that I can launch Shazam right from my wrist, I actually use it again.

I have some others installed, but those are the only ones I’d qualify as a must-have. Deliveries almost makes the cut, but I don’t need to check my package status often enough to open the app more than one or twice a day, much less use the Glance.

I will say that having a Watch app available means I am more likely to try out app out – for example, I knew Overcast and Deliveries both existed for awhile, and I’d heard great things about both, but didn’t bother to try them out until I heard they had Watch apps. Now, I use and love both services.

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