Disclaimer from the start. I have not held or used any of the devices mentionned. I also own a Nexus 5 and an iPhone 4S and can see merrits and pitfalls on both platforms.
The latest battleground in tech is going to be your wrist and after Google IO 2014 we know how Android is launching its wrist based assault. The days of smartphones are having significantly useful new features has past and we are into either refinements or ‘gizmo’ territory ( Amazon Fire Phone I am looking at you ). Is there anything more exciting in tech than entirely new type of device? Of course not!
Let’s clarify that statement though before a very small group of folks get a mild sweat on. The smartwatch isn’t new. Various companies have over the years been having a crack at it. I think its fair to say though that this year is the first time we will start seeing something like what we had always envisaged. I don’t wish to beat down the Pebble or anyone who bought one. I like what they did and using e-ink is a good idea, its just idea adopted at the wrong time. If it came out with a colour e-ink display then it would have been much more likely to have mass market appeal. I also really like that its platform agnostic too, something that is going to become increasingly more difficult and more important in our choices to come.
So at Google IO we got a preview of Android Wear, the software that will drive your Android smartwatch and maybe even more in the future. Its nicely polished, simple to use and dull. So dull. Sorry but I think if you put a group of tech enthusiasts together in a group this is the sort of thing they would come up with. Notifications! Reminders! Alarms! Reply using Google Now if it ever understands you! Yawn.
Like any good blogger I have neither the qualifications nor skills to do any better but damn it that’s not doing to stop me having a massive shot of caffiene and a bloody good rant.
Look, if I am doing to splash out in excess of £150 on a new device it needs to do something compelling. Shaving a few seconds off here and there compared to pulling a phone out and checking your notifications is simply not worth the money. Have a look at the video below to see the rational for using one in the eyes of Google. Other than making Google more money and having advertising space on your wrist. Pay special attention to the section about ‘micro-interactions’ at around 0:50 in.
If you didn’t have the time or inclination to watch the video basically what Google are saying is that when people get their phones out to quickly check something then they often get sucked into the phone and spend way more time than intended checking various apps out. Now with a quick glance at your wrist you can quickly check the message and be back in your hilarious conversation with your freakishly attractive and hip friends, in the glorious sun that shines eternally in all tech promo videos. Okay… I am nearly buying this. This entire premise is based on it working correctly all of the time. Which ( watch me go way out on a limb and stare into the void here )
…it won’t. In fact if the hit rate is 50% I would be impressed.
This is what might really happen. You get a notification and go to respond and find you can’t directly to that app/service. “Okay Google” makes a hash of your command 2-3 times so you give up. Eventually you get your phone out and respond. Then get stucked into your phone again. Eventually the learning curve tells your brain that if it works almost 100% of the time on your mobile but only 50% on your watch then the watch gets slowly ignored and then eventually placed in a draw to be ignored. The likelyhood you do this will increase inversely to the amount you paid for it.
So Google doesn’t really have a good use case. I am really hoping this is the bit Apple nails. Traditionally it is the very thing they are so good at. Looking not at what can be done but what should be done. What will add value to your interaction with it. The properties that will make you want to wear it proudly every day. Which you can’t really can say about any of the current watches. The Moto G is just too nerdy and dull, the Samsung has been beaten with the ugly stick so badly it needs to be placed in a medical induced coma and the Motorola 360 was a near miss. Its a bit thick but the bit that’s spoilt it is the dead space at the bottom of the panel. What an utterly stupid design choice. Lovely circular display and bezel, but wait I know we’ll have to put the sensors in a bit at the bottom. I know why its there but the fact is Joe and Josie Public won’t give a toss about the technical reasons. They will just think it looks annoying or stupid. Which it is.
I did say I was going to rant a bit didn’t I? This was a missed opportunity for Google. The biggest own goal was not having the Motorola 360 ready for Google IO, despite my misgivings on the screen. There is no way the LG G Watch and Samsung Whatever ( does anyone care what they call it? Its only going to change in 6 weeks anyway ) should have been allowed to be the publics first exposure to Android Wear. It should have been the 360. Its stylish, non nerdy looking and has enough wow factor to make people sit up and notice.
Close but no cigar Google. Roll on the iBand I say.