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June 25th 2014 1:13 pm

Legitimate use cases for a smartwatch?

So, Google is spending a lot of time talking about their new Android Wear SDK that will allow developers to start creating apps for smartwatches. Between Android Wear, the venerable Pebble, and Apple's rumored entry into smartwatch, it seems like wearables are all the rage.

In the office, we've had some back and forth about whether or not smartwatches are actually useful or relevant. Personally, I'm excited for smartwatches with all sorts of sensors (for fitness tracking, etc) that can provide contextually relevant information. I feel like I can see a lot of use cases for this:
  • Time (duh)
  • Turn-by-turn directions
  • GPS / distance info while running or biking
  • Quickly glance at messages (running late, be there in a few, etc)

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22 replies

I'm pretty excited for smart watches, I've wanted a pebble for some time now. My main use case is convenience. I often wear jeans and leave my phone in my pocket. Several times a day, my pocket vibrates and I'm stuck with what I deem to be a huge dilemma. Should I go to all the work of standing up and retrieving my phone from my pocket when it might just be that some friend is checking in at local coffee shop on foursquare or should I sit on my lazy bum. This problem is magnified when I'm driving. I'm wondering if this is some emergency call from my child's day care that I need to pull over and address immediately or did my friend just run 4 miles?
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Additional thought: I do think talking to your watch like a Dick Tracy style communicator is a bit cheesy (and not to mention, I have a lot of reservations about using voice to communicate with my devices). But who knows, maybe this will feel more natural in the future.
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I have the Gear 2 Neo and using it as a speaker phone has become of the things I use it for the most. I have had little to no complaints on call quality when using it. I tend to use it as a speaker phone when driving and there have been a couple times where I have gotten calls in the middle of the night and answered the phone using my watch which I wear to sleep instead of getting up and going over to the dresser when I keep the phones to charge. I don’t think this will be the case for everyone but it has been a feature that I did not think I would ever use that has actually become one of the features I use the most.
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Not be able to sleep with my watch bug me a little bit. Would have been useful for nite notification, and I always make something fall off my desk trying to get to the phone. I hope we can get much better battery technology, or a 15second recharge technology so I can recharge when I get up.
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The LG G watch fast charges to 90% in 30 minutes, which is really nice for the mornings. By the time you get up, have a shower, eat breakfast and about to leave, should be all set for the rest of the day!
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Where did you hear that? I really hope it's true because I've preordered the G Watch but somewhat worried it'll be a pain to keep charging it up.
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I heard it from an LG rep here, about 50 seconds into this video: Hands-On With LG G Watch [Google I/O 2014]: youtu.be­/gSbQ­-5YGjqI
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I very excited about Android Wear. As I said in your other post, I haven't worn a watch in 15 years or more, but I will wear the Moto 360. When they said during the presentation that the average smartphone user checks their phone 125 times a day, I initially thought that was crazy. But then I thought about it and realized that I'm probably well over that number. This will cut down on that significantly, which will likely improve my battery life too.

But there's one use that you didn't mention: easy security. I love that my watch would be the security key for my phone. I think that's great.
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I've been using a SmartQ Z1 since the start of the year, I have a solution like the AndroidTV controlled by smartwatch that was shown in the keynote. Mine is a bit further along...
see it working here.


Instead of controlling AndroidTV I'm controlling XBMC Gotham, including voice searches
of movies songs actors etc.

it uses two seperate speech recognisers, selectable by which button you tap on the watch.
a local MS recogniser and the Google recogniser in the cloud.

It uses wifi from the watch , not Bluetooth, I've gotten used to selecting media while walking around the house, I could never go back....
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I'm waiting for these to be a mix between a fitness device and information tool. I would love to have something along the lines of Garmin or Polar triathlon style watches that quickly go from wrist to bike and back, while tracking power or heart rate. Basis was there with the data points but suffered from athlete portion. I think Pebble is there with interactions, but suffers greatly from power features.
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They've got it wrong. A smartwatch's highlight is not eye-candy to distract your eyes from the real world around you.

IMO, the best smartwatch should house many more INPUT controls on your wrist to enable you to utilize your smartphone just by feeling around the watch or by voice control, without much need to look at either screens.

Example use case. Wearer(W) in supermarket... Google(G) is the watch:
W: "Ok, Google, sum these up:"
G: soft beep and vibrates to signify ready, Displays empty list on watch
W: "Four ninety-nine, Cornflakes"
G: soft beep and vibrates to acknowledge, item added to list labelled "Cornflakes"

W: "Sixty p...."

G: soft beep and vibrates to acknowledge, item added to list with no label

W: "Total?"
G: "Five pounds Fifty-nine" (list is still displayed)
W: "Fifty p, twice, Milk."
G: soft beep and vibrates to acknowledge, item added to list labelled "Milk x 2"

W: "Total?"

G: "Six pounds Fifty-nine" (list is still displayed)

W: looks reviews the list on the watch and swipe the 60p item away to delete it.
W: "Total?"
G: "Five pounds Ninety-nine" (list is still displayed)

Phone call comes in and the watch switch it's interface to the caller ID/pickup/reject app. Wearer don't feel like taking a call and without looking, does the reject gesture or press the power button to reject.

G: screen change back to the previous list.

After 20 seconds or so of inactivity, the watch switches back to the normal watch face.
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An app (maybe built by your favourite supermarket) could do that using google's voice recognition software.
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Hmm... What I want to highlight is that smartwatches should:
1.) very seldom require the user to look at its screen, and
2.) should have at least 2-3 physical buttons (in addition to the touchscreen), to enable simple interactions with the smartphone without even looking.

For round smartwatches, there's the additional opportunity to integrate a jog-dial into the round watch face, which will feel natural for controlling media volume, prev/next, and general left/right UI navigation.
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So I own a Pebble Steel and love it because, while it doesn't have the voice features you're talking about (which I would never use anyway because I don't like having conversations with inanimate objects in public), it does have 4 physical buttons which I love.
1) Notifications on my wrist, i.e. don't need to reach for my phone to see why it's buzzing, when I'm on a subway or walking down the street is really helpful.
2) The ability to pickup or hangup an incoming call without touching my phone is also important.
3) Music control is very important, and again the physical buttons are clutch here.

Other ways I use my watch:
- Navigation: when I'm getting driving or walking directions, I don't like the voice talking at me, my watch can show me the next step and buzz when a turn approaches.
- Payments: For instance, I can load the Barcode for my Starbucks card on my watch and pay without getting my phone out. It's 3 button clicks.

Things that really worry me about Google Wear:
Battery life, battery life, battery life.
My Pebble Steel lasts me 3-5 days depending on use. But it doesn't have a full color screen...
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Battery life doesn't worry me too much because it can fast charge from 0 to 90% in 30 minutes.
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They say that, but that's not necessarily true... And even so, are you sure the charge will get you through the day? They're claiming 36 Hours, which, as we all know, means it will probably get closer to 20-24 hours, max. That means you need to charge it every. single. day.

I charge my pebble at most 2 times per week.

Needing to charge a watch every day doesn't seem like the right design to me...
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My cell phone used to last 5 days. Now I charge it daily. Having to charge a phone and watch daily isn't a big deal to me. Even if it lasted 3 days on a charge, I would still plug it every nite else I'll forget the night I should and won't last the day. People say it last well over 24 hours with good usage and the always-on screen. So that show promise. More power saving mode might be able to be introduce. One thing that going to be nice is the inductive charging of the Moto 360. And I guess we will need stackable Qi charging system :)
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Battery life worried me, but I saw a review so far that say it last more than 1 day and a half. My cellphone last about as long, so charging my watch and my phone isn't a big deal. Also create a routine... If I had to charge my phone every 4 days, I would probably forget and run close 1 day of running out. I think ~2 day charge watch will remain the standard, but allowing a 10 second wireless charging will probably what going to be before a 7 day battery watch. You will have charger everywhere and you will be able to give a boost to your cell phone or your watch by touching a dock.

Talking to the watch is just for some things that buttons and sliding won't be quick to use. Setting reminder, driving directions and random information is really useful for a watch to talk to. Else you have to take your phone out to do those things.

As for the button, I'm a bit unsure why they went with no buttons... Though if you put 1, do you put 4, or 10... I guess they wanted to keep it simple. And based on what I heard, no complain so far.

What these watch seem to be missing is a light sensor, as apparently in dark environment, the screen is pretty bright.
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Being able to set a reminder in an instant on your wrist, while your out and about or working and can't pull out your phone, absolutely improves quality of life. Especially for those that have bad memory, or older people, it really helps so much. This is an example of what technology can do to improve our daily lives, and I believe this is one such one that once it becomes more well known by the masses how it improves their life, they will wonder how they could live without it, kind of like their phones!
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I agree there are great fitness GPS possibilities with Android Wear. I'd love a GPS Watch with Mio HRM (like my TomTom Runner Cardio GPS Watch) but the advantage of Wear being that I could directly have fitness apps such as Strava or Runkeeper etc on the watch - much like you can now on a phone I guess, but phones aren't great for interacting with during a run! I'm sure it's only a matter of time until there is more of a fitness/running based Wear Watch! I'll be honest and say I don't know how much you're reliant on being tethered to your phone with wear but there are exciting possibilities regardless...
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Some people talk about fitness needs, but in true, that won't stick, UNLESS it something like the Scanadu which I'm more interested for fitness, but put that with constant monitoring, that could even alert emergency service and people nearby with cardiac massage knowleadge when a cardiac arrest occur... Or maybe even detect before it happen. Watch blood pressure, and ECG.... That would be great... But the Scanadu isn't out yet, and they have calibration problem. And Apple not going to release anything close since it will be considered a medical device, and require disclosing the testing and lot of legal stuff....
Even the Samsung Gear Live require the phone to be tight to the wrist for it to check the heart rate, and that always hurt as it restrict blood flow and the wright get bigger and start to hurt ! I think what more likely would be something similar to a Polar strap for heartbeat sensor that a bit more comfortable and made for all day wear that monitor your life sign, so that won't even require a new watch to work.
The rest is just a question of app development, so runkeeper will make an app for sure as tons of other people. One thing I wondered is if it had a vibrator integrated into the watch. I'm guessing no for power and space constraint... But since it have skin contact, could there be some other way to notify the user !
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Make a custom app for my home automation system, would make life so much easier!
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