I got a SmartWatch the other day. One of our interns had bored of it, so I swapped my long-disused BlackBerry PlayBook for it. I configured it, paired it with my Android phone, then set about trying to use it.
This, very roughly, was my experience with it.
My first full day with a Sony SmartWatch! I forgot to wear it, & it spent all day by my bed.... Other than that, it is pretty nifty!
— Terence Eden (@edent) July 9, 2014
2nd full day with a smart watch. * I remembered to wear it! * It buzzed to say it was nearly out of juice. * I walked 24 steps today!
— Terence Eden (@edent) July 10, 2014
Day 3 of owning a SmartWatch. Wore all day & only noticed when I'd got home that it was switched off. I don't think I'm the target market!
— Terence Eden (@edent) July 11, 2014
Day 5,6, & 7 of owning a Smart Watch. The watch is somewhere in my house. I can connect to it via BlueTooth but can't physically find it...
— Terence Eden (@edent) July 14, 2014
Day 17 of owning a SmartWatch. Have found it under a pile of old papers. Battery 0%. Wondering whether to resurrect? pic.twitter.com/h7SfuTzoZv
— Terence Eden (@edent) July 19, 2014
Here's the thing. When I'm at work, my phone is on the desk in front of me. In the car, the ICE displays who is calling - as does the phone itself. When the phone is in my pocket, I feel it vibrate and - if I'm not busy - I look at it.
No one calls me. I mean, seriously, mobile phones are text and email devices. Voice Calls? That's *very* 20th Century.
Looking through my incoming call history for the last three months - it's really only my family who call. Work tends to be text, email, or - *gasp* face-to-face meetings.
Calendar reminders were nice, I suppose. But, again, my life isn't back-to-back meetings and urgently rushing to catch a plane to Hong Kong.
Because of the limitations of the Sony SmartWatch2, I have to give the untrustworthy Sony corporation complete access to my email. So that was a big fat "no" from me.
And, again, having to give Sony access to all my social networks in exchange for some wrist-based jollies just wasn't worth the trade-off to me. Partly because I control my social media usage - it doesn't control me.
Ultimately, what is a Smart Watch for? If you have a problem of too many notifications on your phone - turn them off. If you're always missing calls - keep your phone close to hand. Want fewer calls? Don't give out your number or make sure important numbers are set to alert you.
I've spent several weeks with Google Glass and - while more enjoyable than a SmartWatch - both suffer from several of the same problems.
- Yet another thing to charge. One of the reasons I stopped using BlueTooth headphones (other than washing them) was because it was another bloody thing whinging to me that it needed feeding.
- You have to physically strap something to your body. If you already wear glasses or wear a watch, I guess that's not too much of a problem. But with both Glass and a SmartWatch it was easy to forget to put them on.
- The effort required to set things up "just so" would be as well served setting up the phone to only serve the most appropriate notifications.
- The screen simply isn't of high enough quality. When you're used to a full-sized smartphone, anything smaller is like peering through the wrong end of a telescope.
- The interface is just too fiddly. Whether poking around in a fury of half-remembered gestures, or trying to find the correct intonation to make the voice interface works - it's just not very pleasant.
- Ultimately, though, the problem is that the context and importance of a message cannot be determined by a machine.
Is the message from my wife a silly picture of a cat, or is it letting me know she's need picking up early? My Smart Watch can't possibly know. Even Google's "Priority Inbox" feature has as many false negatives as false positives.
The crop of wearables that I've tried fail at their primary purpose - to save me time and make my life easier. They offer a limited and inconvenient window into your world, when what you crave is expansive and immersive.
Strapping on a SmartWatch in 2014 feels like a 1970's vision of the future.