Smart Watch with Android Wear 1.5 - personal experience

Published on February 19, 2017

Smart Watch with Android Wear 1.5 - personal experience

    The wearable devices industry is one of the most actively developing at present, so it was decided to try a smart watch in real use. There are already a lot of reviews of different hours on the Web, but most of them are limited to reprinting the characteristics and standard screenshots. I will try to describe the personal impressions that have developed after a couple of weeks of use, I hope someone will be useful.



    Continued under the cut.

    Part 1. Choice


    For first, it was necessary to determine the platform. There are 4 options:
    - Apple Watch . Suitable for lovers of apple products, for owners of iPhones of choice, in general, probably not. According to reviews, Android watches with iPhones are very limited in synchronization.
    - Android Wear . It is also clear what the device will be most compatible with.
    - Tizen . A very actively developing system, good user reviews and a good battery life of the watches themselves.
    - Garmin. It is also a “sort of” smart watch, but it’s very “sharpened” for athletes, it even has its own app store, in which there are already 10 of them. One of the advantages is good battery life for smart watches up to 10 days, constant background pulse measurement, special software with a bunch of different sports statistics, built-in GPS, etc. In general, there is a good choice for sports fans, for others with such smart watches boring.

    Because I use Android, and I am not an athlete, then by mathematical logic, my choice was narrowed down to 2 platforms - Android or Tizen. In some reviews, Android was frightened by the slowness of Android (which in the end turned out to be wrong), and they promised more battery life for Tizen - and I was already going to take the Samsung Gear S3. However, having come to the store, I tried the display case, and (may the fans of this brand forgive me), the backlash and spinning wheel on them reminded me of the goods from Aliexpress. Perhaps it was just a broken-down display case, but nevertheless, I didn’t want to lay out almost 300Euro for that. Which platform was finally chosen can be understood from the title of the article.

    There are quite a lot of watch models on the market, but their characteristics are about the same. They are limited to a combination of "iron / battery", global breakthroughs in the development of which has not yet been. This is, in principle, a plus, both for developers (it is easier to write software) and for users (it is less likely that the program will slow down, or will not work at all).

    When choosing a particular model, you should pay attention to the following factors:
    - The battery life. The first versions of the clock worked for about a day, which of course is not enough - if you forget to charge, the next day you will be left without a clock.
    - Availability of convenient charging. This item is derived from the previous one. Because the clock has to be charged frequently, then this process should be as convenient as possible. Some Sony models, for example, have a standard micro USB connector, and I would be concerned for its integrity with frequent connections. So having a convenient charging cup with contacts or contactless charging is very important.
    - Water resistant and appearance. It's all clear, too. Nevertheless, watches are a subject that you look at every day, and you want them to be pleasing to the eye.
    - Compatible with Android Wear 2.0. This system will be released in 1-2 months, and it is highly desirable to make sure that it will be available on the selected model.

    As a result, based on the results of reading the reviews, Huawei Watch was chosen - they have a higher resolution screen than most models (400x400 vs. 320x320). Plus, they look like a watch, not like a piece from a smartphone, they have a metal case and sapphire glass.

    Yes, you have to pay more for the design, but still it’s not Tag Heuer, so you can afford it without much effort.

    Part 2. Use


    Appearance


    The Android Wear system in terms of management resembles (who would have thought?) An ordinary Android. Svayp on top gives access to some settings, svayp on the bottom shows notifications that are automatically synchronized with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Swipe to the right opens the list of installed programs and settings. It looks like this:


    The first thing that a user can set up in his watch is, of course, a dial, of which there are a great many. They can be selected either from the clock or from the smartphone:


    But there is a subtlety - each dial has 2 modes of operation: “active” and “background”. The most beautiful picture in the screenshot is the active mode, which is activated either by raising your hand with the clock, or by taping on the screen, or by pressing a button. In the usual mode (ie, 99% of the time), the dial will look much simpler, something like this:


    In principle, also not bad, but still not as beautiful as in the advertising booklets.
    This is done to save processor resources and battery charge (for AMOLED screens, current consumption depends on the number of luminous pixels). In general, in real life, the watch will not look as beautiful as on the advertising image. Of course, you can also put third-party dials, for example, in the form of a LED clock or with a weather forecast, the choice in the market is quite large (many good dials, however, are paid).

    Synchronization


    One of the advantages of the Android system is the automatic synchronization of notifications and programs with a smartphone. For example, it is enough to start a video in youtube, and on the clock you will be able to control its viewing. When you receive an SMS, it will automatically appear on the clock, the message can be read and marked as read. In practice, however, it works through time - sometimes messages open, sometimes not. It was not possible to find any patterns ( edit : after upgrading the smartphone to a new one, the problem is gone). It is also convenient to see the name of the caller on the watch (by phone or Skype), you can decide whether to get the phone out of your pocket or not. A notification of a new SMS or e-mail message appears on top of the dial and cannot be missed.

    In general, it is very convenient - for example, you can read the mail without going to the computer, and without getting the phone. Screen size is enough, scrolling is fast and convenient.


    By the way, the quality of the Bluetooth connection is very critical for a watch. My smartphone is over 3 years old (Sony Z3 Compact), and at first the clock simply lost connection every hour, asking again to enter the pin-code for pairing. As the search on the forums showed, you need to turn off the Bluetooth audio profile for the watch, after which the problem disappeared (I can’t take a call from the watch, however it’s not very relevant). Ideally, for the full use of all the functions of the watch is nice to have a modern smartphone.

    Battery life


    The short battery life was a major point of doubt. As practice has shown, there are no special problems. With the dial turned on and background bluetooth synchronization, the watch works 2 days. In principle, this is enough, because still going to the shower, the clock needs to be removed, and putting them in the cradle for charging does not bother at all. Of course, you can turn off all interfaces and turn off the screen - then the operation time will be longer, but the sense of wearing a smart watch in this mode somehow disappears.

    Voice control


    Unexpectedly, it turned out to be convenient to use the “ok google” command - just press the button on the clock, and for example, say “ok google - timer for 15 minutes” and the command will be recognized. Conveniently, for example, in the kitchen while cooking. Of course, this requires that the smartphone is connected to the Internet or to a home WiFi-network, otherwise the “miracle” will not happen. A rather foolish tendency to transfer all that is possible to online services - is the power of 4-core smartphones smart enough to recognize simple commands? But what is, that is ...

    Navigation


    The next very funny moment is the navigation using the clock. The clock displays a full-fledged Google map and the current display, while the navigation itself automatically starts on the smartphone (there is no GPS receiver in the clock itself, except for some models). The map in the clock is very convenient, especially in winter time - without getting the phone out of your pocket, you can see the map and / or tips like “200 meters to the right” on the clock. When walking it helps, on the machine, of course, in such a navigation there is no sense.

    Google maps can use a cache, so no Internet access is required to view the map.


    The main disadvantage of usability in offline mode is that the direction of movement is not shown (in the smartphone version it is shown), in the end, it is quite difficult to understand where to turn, on a small screen. If you enable full-fledged Google navigation (which requires online availability), then everything that is needed is shown, including vibration notification if you need to rotate. However, the question of the availability of the Internet - at home, navigation is usually not needed, and on a trip or abroad, roaming traffic is very expensive. In general, the good old Androzic with offline maps on a smartphone is still useful.

    Fitness Tracking


    The possibilities of hours in the workout board strongly depend on the built-in hardware. Huawei watches have a built-in accelerometer, so that they can count steps and calories, automatically distinguish walking / running.


    The built-in GPS, however, they do not, so they can not measure the pace and write the track movement, unlike Garmin. There are many “running” programs (such as Strava) that support Android Wear, but they require the presence of a smartphone with them (they promised to have a fully autonomous mode in Android Wear 2.0).
    Huawei watches have a built-in heart rate monitor, but it works only at rest and does not work in motion. An attempt to measure their pulse during the run showed a complete craptoo much error. So, specifically, these watches can hardly be recommended as sports, perhaps there are more successful models. Although the clock supports BLE, it has not yet been possible to find out if they work with external heart rate monitors.

    Other software


    There is a lot of third-party software for Android Wear, but we can say that, with the exception of maps and mail from Google, the built-in is quite enough. It is possible to remotely control the camera (alas, without a preview), different timers and reminders. There are also games, although it is completely pointless to play on the clock - if you have nothing to do and there is no smartphone, it is easier to preload the reader of the books. The limitation on the flight of imagination of programmers in the clock software is primarily the limited input on a small screen, and not memory or CPU. Although Google is announcing the presence of thousands of programs in the wear-market, in reality, apart from 3-4 pieces, practically nothing is needed.

    Conclusion


    The overall impression of the watch is very positive. There are of course certain software flaws, for example, only 5 positions for adjusting the screen brightness (at night the numbers are too bright, and in the afternoon, on the contrary, the brightness is not enough), insufficiently modified navigation, even making a screenshot from the clock screen was easier with a smartphone than with built-in tools. I would also like more high-grade fitness functions, such as built-in GPS. On the other hand, from the advantages, very convenient access to mail and messages, a clear and contrast AMOLED-screen with large numbers and a huge selection of dials.

    As for the watch in general, like any smart gadget, its active life can be considered equal to 2-3 years. Most likely, they will continue to work (and the battery will probably really change in service, most of these watches are likely to be the same), but the software and hardware will become quite obsolete by that time. In general, this is not a subject that can be left to the grandchildren, but no one demands this. With an approximate price of these watches in Russia at 21 thousand and conditional service life of 2 years, the price of their use is equal to 29 rubles per day. For those who are expensive, you should probably look for another accessory. Moreover, the watch is not a necessity now.

    For 10 years I haven’t worn ordinary watches - if you need to know the time, you can even get a phone, but it’s smart watches that give extra convenience in functionality that isn’t available to regular watches. Whether it is necessary or not, everyone decides for himself. Interest is also in the fact that, unlike smartphones, which are all externally like twins, the market of smart watches is still young and actively developing. It is interesting to see different design and technical solutions, models unlike each other, adding new functions.

    And once again it is worth noting that in 95% of the watch functions, this is essentially a “remote client” for a smartphone. With an old and slow smartphone, using the watch will be quite uncomfortable.