Wednesday , August 23 2017

Android Wear, and those who don’t seem to get it

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One thing we in the tech media often find amusing is when main stream journalists tackle new technology. Being on the fringe of the mainstream, sites like Ausdroid survive on our specialisation. We focus on one subject area, and (we like to think that) we focus on it well — for us, our focus is obviously Android, and more generally, mobile and wearable technology.

Smaller, niche news sites, like ours, don’t often get invites to the big shows; we haven’t in the past received sponsorship to attend CES, or media passes to cover Google I/O. We’re not upset about this — in fact, we’ve never really expected to have anything like this extended to us — but what we find bemusing is that the people companies do choose to send represent a really questionable return on investment.

What even is a smartwatch?

Take, for example, people who are sent to cover Google I/O (which we all knew was going to be about Android Wear) who have no concept of what wearable technology is designed to offer, and who opine about how useless it is, and how the latest and greatest from Android is really annoying, while looking forward to what Apple has around the corner.

My goodness. Do these people even understand the industry they claim to write about?

Smartwatches are not new. Even before the Pebble, there were Bluetooth compatible watches and other wrist-worn devices that would vibrate for incoming calls. I’m talking a couple of years here.

Pebble landed in the middle of 2013 for Australians, and it represented a big leap forward. Wearable technology that could display things from the Internet. Weather. News. Tweets. Football scores. We’ve had this capability, this technology, for at least a year now, and in other markets, for much longer. We in technology journalist land are certainly not new to this; we’ve had notifications buzzing away in our pockets, on our desks, on our computers, and on our wrists for what seems like forever.

The whole premise of these smart, wearable devices, is to connect us a little better with the technology around us. It seems so natural to pull out a mobile phone these days to check what you’ve missed, and it doesn’t (and didn’t) take a genius mind to consider that it might be easier to glance at a wrist than to pull out a much larger phone. Hell, Dick Tracey used his watch for quite a bit back in the day.

This isn’t the answer.”

A certain author has told of his regular receipt of emails, tweets, text messages, Facebook alerts and more, and how these alerts are easily accessible via his smartphone. That’s great.

Android Wear, and other smartwatches such as the Pebble, Galaxy Gear, Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and countless others, are designed to bring the Internet off our phone, and onto our wrists. That’s their whole raison d’etre. If it weren’t for that intended purpose, there’d simply be little need for a smartwatch — measuring steps can easily be handled by a smartphone by itself, or by a companion Bluetooth step counter. Heart rate monitors have been around for years, and there are some that can interface with a phone, too.

In fact, if you don’t want notifications on your wrist, why are you bothering to look at a smartwatch at all? To wear a comparatively ugly piece of technology on your wrist instead of an exquisite hand-crafted Tissot timepiece? A slab of black plastic instead of stainless steel, or gold? Please.

Android Wear, and other smartwatches, are most definitely the answer, if you ask the right question.

Is a smartwatch the best watch I can wear to tell me the time? No. Is an elephant better for commuting in Sydney traffic than a car? Probably not.

Is a smartwatch the best way I can see what’s going on around me, online and elsewhere, without looking at my phone? In most cases, yes.

Some questions are easily answered. Some answers don’t fit stupid questions. That’s what we have here.

“My wrist hasn’t stopped buzzing since I synced the device with my phone”

My air conditioner hasn’t stopped running since I turned it on, either. My God. What did you expect it to do??

You see, the whole idea of a smartwatch is to increase, not decrease, your connectivity. It’s design is purely for that notification on your wrist. Do you find this too intrusive, too annoying? Change what notifications come to your watch, which all smartwatch platforms allow you to do, or alternatively, take the damned thing off.

It’s all well and good to prefer a FitBit fitness tracker. I prefer riding a motorcycle to driving a car, but they’re not really the same thing, just as a FitBit isn’t really the same as a smartwatch.

One’s a fitness tracker, one’s a smartwatch. They’re actually designed for different things, and comparing them — even at as higher-level as ‘wearable technology’ — really doesn’t make any sense.

“I only want to be notified when important people email me, not for every spammy PR pitch I get.”

Funnily enough, I’ve seen more than one person say this.

I (and other writers at Ausdroid) would probably share that concern. However, complaining about your smartwatch being unable to discern between spammy PR pitches and important emails is probably on par with complaining that your car stereo plays all the songs you don’t like, instead of just the songs that you do like.

It’s all about horses for courses.

If you don’t want every single annoying email to vibrate on your phone and on your wrist, you need to set your email up better, not complain about what Android Wear (and, in fact, every other smartwatch platform) can’t do. Only want to read PR pitches on your desktop? Have it go to a different email account, and don’t sync that account on your phone (that’s what I do). Don’t want Hangout notifications from a noisy chat, but just the important one? Easy. Mute the noisy chat. PushOver sending too many notifications to your Pebble? Change the notifications you receive, instead of decrying that your Pebble can’t figure out someone else’s system and intelligently filter your notifications.

These changes occur at a higher level; they’re on your email account, your Hangouts options and more.

At a lower level, you can change which Android apps can notify you by individually enabling or disabling notification preferences.

At a lower level still, you can change which of the notifications reach your phone are mirrored to your watch. It doesn’t have to be all of them.

In short, your wrist should vibrate precisely as much as you want it to, and if it’s too much or too little, it’s because you haven’t set it up properly, not because the platform itself is defective.

Where do you want your news?

These kinds of complains are the sort of idiocy you’ll see if you only read mass-media and its misunderstanding of the purpose of, and reasons for, modern technology. My smartwatch does what it’s designed to do, and it’s annoying, so hopefully Apple will make a better one!

I guarantee you, they won’t. Apple will no doubt want to get on the smartwatch bandwagon, and no doubt they’ll make a really good looking piece of technology that will work really well. Of this, I have no doubt. Will it be able to filter out your PR emails, stop buzzing as much, and be the answer to your prayers? I doubt that.

Should a smartwatch just be limited to fitness tracking, because that’s what one mass media journo thinks? No way. Give him a FitBit and watch him dribble over that, while we’ll take our Android Wear smartwatches, and add them to our collection of Gear 2 and Pebbles, and we’ll enjoy the new platform.

Where will you read honest (and perhaps, better informed) opinions and thoughts about Android Wear?

Right here.

 

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

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14 Comments on "Android Wear, and those who don’t seem to get it"

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o0o.paw
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o0o.paw

Bluetooth headsets a dud? I use my stereo bluetooth headset every day and have done so for years. I can answer my phone, skip any music I don’t like without having to get my phone out of my pocket or bag or quickly turn the volume down to listen for traffic when I am crossing the road (taking the ear buds out of my ears works too I guess).

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Luke Vesty

Word.

PuGZoR
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PuGZoR
I did get a bit annoyed at reading what seems to have been the same article you did, Chris, but I don’t think it’s fair you brand all mass-media as being out of touch. There are quite a few tech reporters out there that do “get it”. Ausdroid is awesome for the enthusiasts but there’s way too much content on here that has little or no interest to the average person. If I had to choose one or the other, I’d go with Ausdroid in a heartbeat, but that’s because you guys have the same questions around industry developments that… Read more »
Chris
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Thanks for the comment PuGZoR. I do agree; not everyone that works for larger outlets is completely out of touch, but I do find that – generally speaking – technology coverage in the AFR, Fairfax or News Limited rags is pretty high level, and quite often misses the point completely. These are good journalists. They’re just writing about things they don’t quite understand. We are a specialist news site. We do understand Android, and related tech. We do write about it in an informed way so that people can derive more benefit from what we say. However, the downside of… Read more »
PuGZoR
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PuGZoR
Completely agree! It’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to Ausdroid. I did work in one of the News Ltd newsrooms too. I think too it comes down to what the role of the media plays. Increasingly the national and state mastheads have become opinionated in regards to technology. That is, they’re not presenting facts but rather opinions… taking one side of the fence rather than simply presenting the story. This invokes people to use their brain and make a decision whether they support the statements being made or not, but overall, creates an emotional link with the… Read more »
Jimbo
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Jimbo

Believe I read the same article. Exactly my response. Well written!

Iain Simmons
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Also, Google I/O is a developer conference. It’s for Google to show developers what is coming in Android so that they can prepare and then deliver the user experience via apps. There are already a number of apps designed to filter notifications, emails, etc. so we can expect similar solutions for Android wear. I guess the only valid point I might find from this (though it might have been from here, rather from the original articles, which I haven’t read) is that perhaps the notification system should be ‘learning’ about what you actually want to be notified about to some… Read more »
SachmoJoe
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SachmoJoe

Love it Chris, spot on. These flogs were just criticising the smartwatch concept rather than Google’s implementation ie bagging google because they don’t like smart watches.

Stephen Crisafulli
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Stephen Crisafulli

Kovach is clearly suffering from “Im so popular I don’t have time to check every msg I get” syndrome. He probably had someone else install the app and pair the watch for him the tool.

Fred
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Fred
The problem is, those other journalists understand what you seem to be missing. There are a very few people who want a constant stream of notifications and can’t even wait 3 seconds to look at a phone. But all those previous attempts at a watch with notifications have shown, it’s not a mass market product. You want a mass market product, it has to be much better than that – particularly if you are going to want as much as a smartphone for it. It has to be more, have that killer functionality, be great tools. And these are not.… Read more »
Boulton
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Boulton

Hear hear

Ben Lee
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Ben Lee

Ditto. Saw the said ‘mass media’ piece (or one similar) and immediately thought much the same of it.

nicholas
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nicholas

I enjoyed this rant.

JeniSkunk
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JeniSkunk

Agreed.
It really needs reposting in more places.

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