A couple of days ago I saw on twitter a link to this post form Gizmodo about the Sony SmartWatch. Given that I wear two Sony SmartWatches daily (one for the GNote and one for the N7), I was surprised. However when I read the article I cannot disagree with the comments made by the author. I actually do not use any of the apps from Sony or other 3rd party developers, nor do I use the watch in interactive mode at all (i.e. I don`t touch the watch when using it – I always simply `glance`at it). I am also surprised that Sam (the author) didn`t comment on the terrible battery life or the proprietary battery charger :)
The SmartWatch movement is in the very early stages, the Pebble will open it up to the iPhone world and it will gain traction. However the various SmartWatch manufacturers (Sony, Motorola, WIMM, I`mWatch, MetaWatch, Pebble, Cuckoo) all have different visions for how consumers will use their devices and their SDKs and applications vary quite significantly and hence the resulting use cases.
I strongly believe the killer use cases are those that require almost no interaction with the watch and must be “at a glance” – effectively being “100% hands-free” since the times when one will value the watch is when their hands are mostly likely “busy”. If one wanted to “touch” a device they should/would just use their normal smart phone. Yesterday I had an interesting request for my app from someone who sleeps with their phone under their pillow with the sole purpose of being woken up when their phone vibrates on an incoming SMS (apparently their job requires them to be on call 7/24 and they are not able to “hear” an alert for personal reasons). They inquired about using the Sony SmartWatch to instead vibrate to wake up on an incoming SMS, but with a customizable vibration pattern and count (since the default Sony SMS app only does one weak vibration which is not nearly enough to wake someone up). I quickly scanned the market and saw that indeed there were no other app for Sony that does this, so I quickly added this for this individual. My point about this is that the use cases for the Sony SmartWatch will be quite personal in nature and not necessarily obvious.
I only use my Sony SmartWatch with my Augmented SmartWatch app. While the use cases for this can be found scattered throughout my other posts, I do believe if I did not have this app, I would not be using either Sony watch and I would be using a MetaWatch while waiting for the two Pebbles I pledged for on Kickstarter.
The Motoactv has two fundamental issues. Note I do also wear a MotoActv daily, but I do not use it for anything other than fitness related purposes. The two issues are lack of a vibration and a spotty connection with wifi/bluetooth (i.e. notifications are delayed due to this). Note that when the notifications do work they are beautifully rendered on the Motoactv watch for a brief period of time before disappearing. However with the two issues mentioned earlier, the Motoactv cannot be used reliably for notifications (nor is it intended for this purpose primarily). Note Motorola reduced their price of this watch by 100 this week and I do highly recommend it for fitness related purposes.
Pebble announced their SDK/API @ Google IO a few weeks back. The guys behind the Pebble are brilliant and their SDK reflects this. Their vision is also spot-on. I truly hope they can execute. That said I will still use the Sony & Pebble as the color is worth the battery life sacrifice for me. However the Pebble will have the superior outdoor visibility and hopefully a more active developer ecosystem (and hence more/better 3rd party applications). Depending on when their emulators are released, I may enhance the Augmented SmartWatch app to support their APIs.
Finally I have been tweaking the Google Now integration with my Augmented SmartWatch app:
- Interestingly the Google Now “hack” works quite well on Android 4.0 on my GNote. It actually works better than on 4.1 since it doesn’t have the accessibility bug I have encountered on 4.1 that requires a on/off/on toggle to work around.
- Google Now issues a fair amount of notifications (especially when one is due to commute from work back home and there is a lot of traffic).
- So I have tweaked the Google Now notifications as follows:
- I have added a “manual tap” option – which requires a user to tap the watch to remove the alert on the watch. I only require this if the estimated travel time is > 0 (i.e. there is a traffic delay) and the last such notification was > 5 minutes. Otherwise the notification is only shown for a few seconds with one vibration pulse. Note in the manual tap option the vibration keeps pulsing until the manual tap disabled the alert. Note to save battery life, I do eventually time-out after a few minutes (if no manual tap is detected).
- I am quite excited by the Google Now potential and the ability to optimize the notifications with the Sony SmartWatch/Pebble via my app. However the development/test/optimize cycle will literally take weeks if not months as I have to wait for Google Now to adapt to my patterns and for me to figure out how to optimize the resulting notifications for display on the Watch. However by the time the Pebble is released, I hope to have a nicely “optimized” Google Now integration for the Pebble (and Sony).
Full disclosure: I did received one free Sony SmartWatch and one Free Sony Smart Headset as part of their developer contests.