I've been wearing a Moto 360 for a little over six months, so I thought now would be a good time to share some of my experience with using this Android Wear smartwatch. I'll be writing about the Moto 360 because it is the watch that I own, but what I am writing about applies to all Android Wear watches. Android Wear is very much a work in progress, and as you will see, my experience reinforces this fact.
I started to write one article about what I like and dislike about the Moto 360, but that quickly grew too large so I decided to break the article into two parts, one about what I like and the other about what I dislike. In this first article I will explain six things that I like most about the Moto 360.
Compared to smartphones, smartwatches have small screens that will only get smaller over time. The ability to precisely touch buttons or icons on the screen is only going to get more difficult, and therefore voice support is important. My ability to speak commands to my watch is one thing I like most about the Moto 360.
To set a timer I say, "Ok Google, set timer for 10 minutes" and a timer is set on the watch for 10 minutes and begins running. To set an alarm I say, "Ok Google, set an alarm for 3 PM." To find out the the outside temperature I say, "Ok Google, what is the temperature outside?" and a card displays with the current outside temperature.
When someone sends me a text message or email, I can browse the message and dictate a reply that is translated to text and sent as a reply. Speech to text does require an Internet connection, provided either via phone or a WiFi network, but I find it works pretty well.
One surprising aspect of the Moto 360 is that it does not have a speaker, so you will not hear the Google Android speak back the answer to my question about the temperature like you do with Android smartphones. Consequently, you cannot use an Android Wear smartwatch as a phone, such as you might have seen in those old Dick Tracy comics. Some may find the lack of audio as a deficiency, but I could take it or leave it.
My first experience with notifications, now common on all smartphones, is with the Fossil Abacus SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) watch back in 2004. SPOT was a data protocol developed by Microsoft that used the FM radio band for wireless communication. Microsoft pushed snippets of information, things like sports scores, stock quotes, and news headlines, from the MSN service to the watch.
I really liked having this information pushed to me throughout the day, and bear in mind this was several years before the smartphone notifications we are familiar with today were first introduced.
All notifications that appear on my smartphone can appear on my Moto 360, which allows me glance at that information without having to take out my phone. I can specify which notifications I want to see so that I am not constantly feeling a buzzing on my wrist. To close a notification, I simply swipe it away to the right and it is removed from my Moto 360 and my smartphone.
What I like most about Android is how I can personalize it with wallpapers, widgets, icons, and folders. It is no surprise then, that I really like the ability to change watch faces on my phone.
The Moto 360 ships with several different watch faces, each which you can customize either by changing backgrounds or adding items like the date. One Moto 360 face has two little clocks that you can set to different time zones, which I find helpful when working with colleagues outside the United States. I've customized another face with a picture of the Wrigley Field scoreboard, and I like to switch to that face while watching the Chicago Cubs.
An ever growing number of watch faces are available on Google Play either for free or for a small amount. I use an app called Watchmaker that one can use to create a watch face, and there is a huge library of free faces at Facerepro.com. Every week or so I browse the Facerepro site for new faces that I download to my Moto X and then transfer to the Moto 360 as I wish.
The Moto 360 is the first device I have ever owned that charges wirelessly, and it is wonderful. Each night I simply place the Moto 360 in its charging cradle, with no fiddling to open a cover on the watch and attach a cable.
It may be a factor of how small the battery is in the Moto 360, but it recharges pretty quickly. In a little over an hour my Moto 360 is completely recharged. Motorola had the good sense to use the Qi charging standard, so you can place it on all sorts of charging pads.
If only the Moto X supported Qi charging.
By now you may have noticed that I have yet to write anything about apps. I think it is fair so say that Android Wear lags in apps, not too unlike how Android initially did in comparison to iOS.
Part of the problem may be that it takes effort to design a useful smartwatch app. You can't simply port a smartphone app to the watch, it takes some thought to design an app that has functions you actually will use on a watch.
An app that I think does this well, is IF, which is the app version of the If This Then That (IFTTT) Internet service. You can use IFTTT to integrate different Internet services, apps, and devices. Think of it as, IF something happens THEN do something, for example IF the time is 9 AM THEN turn on the Hue light in my home office.
For Android Wear the trigger, or the "IF" part of the equation is pretty simple, it's basically if you tap a button on the screen. In my case I have options for turning the Philips Hue lights in my house on or off. I also have a simple IF trigger on my watch to send a text message to my wife to tell her I am on my way home.
The best thing about IFTTT is that it provides a way to add functionality to your watch or phone without having to wait for a developer to write an app. IF is by far the most used app on my Moto 360.
Integration with Moto X
The final item is the integration between the Moto 360 and my smartphone, a Moto X. I configure all my smartphones with a password to provide a level of security should it be lost or stolen, however if I am frequently accessing my phone having to constantly enter the password can be a pain. The Moto 360's ability to be a trusted device alleviates having to constantly enter the password on my phone.
Trusted devices is a feature first introduced by Motorola and unique to the Moto X and Verizon Droids, but Google has since incorporated it into Android 5.0 (Lollipop) so that this feature can be available with all Android phones and tablets.
Whenever you bluetooth pair a device with an Android phone you will be asked whether you want to set up that device as a trusted device, meaning that as long as the device is connected to the phone you will not have to enter the password. Using a watch to provide this type of authentication makes a lot of sense.
Another way that the Moto 360 integrates with my phone is with notifications, when I swipe a notification away on the watch it is also cleared away from my phone, which only makes sense since I don't need to see it twice.
I see integration, not just with phones, but with tablets, computers, and more, as key to answering the question of why would one want to buy a smartwatch. Size limitations are going to limit how much functionality a smartwatch is going to provide on its own, but if the watch can communicate with objects around me, that is a whole additional level of functionality that I think many may find appealing.
For example, today I have to use the IF app and select an option on the watch's screen in order to use my Moto 360 to turn on my Hue lights. What if, instead, the Moto 360 were able to communicate directly with the lights so that when I came within range of the room the lights automatically turn on?
The key to this type of integration lies in the services that a device communicates with, and this is an area where I see Google having an advantage they have yet to fully exploit. Perhaps the best reason for owning an Android Wear watch is to experience the leading edge of wearable technology being developed by one of the world's leading services companies. I look forward to seeing where Google takes Android Wear in the future.