Android Wear is Google’s take on what a smart watch could be. Whereas Apple’s smart watch won’t come out until early next year, the first watches running Android Wear started appearing last summer. Unfortunately, of the several models of watch that were announced the model people wanted most – the Moto 360 – was delayed quite a long time. Last week I finally got my hands on one.
First off, let me say that I love Moto’s hardware. The design is beautiful: it’s a piece of fashion you won’t mind being seen with. I was surprised to find that though the 360 is by necessity quite big (though not as big as some fashionable normal watches), once I put it on I quickly forgot it was even there. The leather strap is quite comfortable, and the device doesn’t way enough to be noticeable. This is exactly as a watch should be: there when you need it, forgotten the moment it’s covered by your sleeve again.
The software on the other hand leaves a lot to be desired. In my experience there isn’t a function on Android Wear which isn’t at least a bit buggy. Notifications disappear or fail to even show up at all. The voice commands have to be stated in exactly the right words to work, and even then the odds of it doing exactly what you want are 50/50.
One function which works somewhat reliably if you know how to use it is note-taking. If I bring the watch to my face, say calmly and clearly “ok, google”, wait a second and say “take a note” and wait a few more seconds, then a screen will come up on my watch telling me to dictate my note. Of course, it can’t be more than a couple of words and I have to speak very calmly, or the watch will inform me that it “didn’t catch that”. When I do succeed, my voice will be converted to text in a new note placed in Google Keep. I tried to have my notes saved to OneNote instead, but no luck. Being quick to respond for once, Microsoft has already released an app to make OneNote availble on Wear, but I couldn’t get it to work.
As for the voice to text conversion, I’d say that it is, again, somewhat reliable. It’ll catch most common words correctly, but proper names and brand names just don’t work. I haven’t even attempted to dictate to my watch in Dutch: if it is even possible in the first place I doubt it’s nearly as accurate as English.
And yet I don’t regret buying this device. Unreliable as they are, I find the functions of Android Wear very handy. You won’t realize what a bother it is to dig out your phone every time you need something until you have the option of leaving your phone where it is and just bring up your wrist instead. If my phone is buzzing in my pocket my first instinct is no longer to get it out and look at it: I just take a look at my watch instead. “Ah, apparently my old college buddy liked the picture I posted on Twitter a couple of minutes ago. That’s nice to know.” Or if some crazy idea hits me while I’m on the road (which happens a lot actually), I can make a note to look into it once I get home. Even if it takes a little effort, and even a retry, to do so. “I should write about a library for my experimental storytelling blog.” Noted. It gives a feeling of security.
Besides, I doubt these bugs will be around for very long. Android Wear was released quickly, perhaps even a little too quickly. But now that the watches are out there and people are using it, it will grow fast. Apparently the first big update hit just a while ago, and the next one is already underway. It may take a few months to get most of the bugs out, and no software product I know is ever 100% bug-free. But if even at half power Android Wear is already this useful, I don’t doubt that within a few years there will be as many smart watch users as there are smart phone users.