Cool New Tech: What Time is It?
Last article I wrote about the coolest new bracelet to hit the markets, the Nymi Band. This time the coolest new gadgets on my mind would form a nice complement to the Nymi Band – smartwatches. Totally geeky and fashionably so? Check. New and intriguing? Check. Only going to get better? Double check.
The Samsung Gear Live was released at Google I/O (for those of you who don’t know, attending this prestigious tech and developer conference is every techie’s dream – including mine) this fall and has recently been released for sale to the general public. It features a very distinctive square face and futuristic vibe, which is a design that you either love or hate. Personally I kind of want to look like I have a gadget from Star Trek on my wrist, so I’m into it. But if that’s not your thing, you may prefer the Moto 360, which was recently released from Motorola and features a round face and classic design like a normal watch. Both smartwatches run the Android Wear operating system, which is Google’s newest innovation in Android. They have an interesting array of features, including a responsive, beautiful bright LED touch screen, a heart rate sensor, a pedometer (which measures how many steps you take), and a microphone so you can dictate to them using voice control.
At the moment they’re mostly useful for receiving notifications and doing things you normally do with voice control paired with Google Now, like simple Google searches and checking the weather forecast. You pair them with your smartphone using Bluetooth and they’ll vibrate on your wrist whenever a notification or incoming call is received on your phone. There are also some developers creating apps specifically designed for these smartwatches, including fitness apps, calculators, flashlights, specialized watch faces, games, music controllers (skip to the next song, play, pause, volume control for the music playing on your phone), and more. One app I’m particularly intrigued by would enable your watch to keep your phone unlocked while you’re nearby, and lock it when you walk away. However I’m not sure how well it works, and whether you can unlock your phone without the watch present, so I couldn’t say how useful it is as of yet. But already you can see the potential for Nymi Band-like features from these cousin gadgets. I’m particularly intrigued to see what other functionalities developers can come up with for these devices.
One aspect of these watches that I particularly enjoy is their water resistance. They are both rated at IP 67, which means they can be submersed in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes. This means you could take a shower, hang out in a pool, wash your hands, and etc. without having to worry about getting the watch wet. One use I can see for this, personally, is being able to change the song or volume of music playing from my phone while I’m in the shower. I like to listen to music while I shower but I typically don’t because if I do, I’ll be tempted to change the song or need to adjust the volume, which means reaching out with wet hands to do so and risk damaging my phone, which is not waterproof. But if I can wear the watch in the shower and use it to control the music playing from my phone, I won’t have to risk damaging my phone and can rock out to my heart’s content.
The Gear Live also features an always-on screen, which means you can set it so the watch face will dim after a while but never turn off, so you can always see what time it is. If you want the screen to turn off, like if you wanted to conserve its battery, you can also set it to turn off. I particularly like the screens of these watches, as you can customize the watch faces using third-party apps or the built-in options. The Moto 360 in particular will look just like a super expensive designer watch with the right face illuminated on its classy screen, but even the Gear Live with its square face can be set with an awesome background so that it looks like a designer watch. You can also set them to have colorful backgrounds and the time displayed in either digital or text format, depending on whether you want it to look like a Rolex or something from Star Trek.
Both of these watches are currently pretty cool, but their functionality is still limited and their battery lives aren’t fantastic. As more apps are developed for this new family of gadgets and as the hardware and software improvements are made to extend the battery life beyond a day or two, these watches will be more and more interesting to own. Particularly, when smartwatches have evolved to the point where they no longer need to be paired with a smartphone, will they become more versatile and functional? I’m intrigued to see in what directions this new technology heads over the next few years, and what smart-device improvements it can make in our lives. One thing is for sure – they’re made for more than just telling time.
Samsung Gear Live
Motorola Mobility makes Android smartphones and Bluetooth accessories to keep people connected.