Smartwatches are the most overhyped new category in tech. I wore Android Wear and Apple Watch for a month to see if there are productivity benefits for professionals. Here's what I found.
Smartwatches are the most overhyped technology of 2015, thanks to the arrival of the Apple Watch. Of course, Google's Android Wear has already been at this for over a year.
After the launch of the Apple Watch, I wore both an Apple Watch and an Android Wear device for a month. That's right. I walked around looking like a dork wearing Apple's smartwatch on one wrist and wearing the Moto 360 on my other wrist in order to compare and contrast the two of them. (My friend Owen JJ Stone threatened to beat me up and steal my lunch money if he bumped into me on the street wearing both of them.)
I haven't worn a watch for about a decade so I was taking one for the team to bring you the best perspective on Apple Watch vs. Android Wear, and what they can do for professionals who use these tools to be more productive.
I'm going to break down the three big takeaways from my extended look at Apple Watch versus Android Wear.
Alright, so first let's talk about functionality. These smartwatches are primarily about two things: notifications and activity tracking. Both Apple Watch and Android Wear do these well. For activity tracking, Apple has more glanceable visuals while Google has simpler, easier to access data.
As far as notifications go, I've written before that notifications are Android's biggest advantage over the iPhone. And on the watch, Google continues to have notifications that are more nuanced and useful. Apple has more kinds of notifications because of all the third party apps, but Android Wear's core notifications for things like texts, emails, and calendar are more robust.
2. Ease of use
With both of these watches, I was pretty lost for the first 24 hours. I didn't understand how to navigate either one and so I just kept tapping, swiping, pushing buttons, and trying things. Neither one was very intuitive.
I initially had an easier time with Android Wear because it's simpler and doesn't do as much—and a lot of it is powered by Google Now, which works on its own in the background and then simply presents useful data.
The Apple Watch had a longer learning curve because it can do more, but the longer I used it the more I appreciated its power and potential. Over time, I also found that the Moto 360 was more unpredictable and weirdly unresponsive at times, while the Apple Watch was more fluid and consistent.
Plenty of people claim to be blown away by the design of the Apple Watch, but I'm not one of them. It's thicker and heavier than I expected. I also don't like the square shape, which reminds me of the calculator watches of the 1980s.
I generally find the circular design of the Moto 360 more appealing—if it wasn't so massive. It feels like it should be about two-thirds the size that it is. Of course, style is a very personal and subjective thing, so I see a pretty even split between those who prefer the Apple Watch vs. those who lean toward Android Wear devices like the Moto 360 or the ASUS ZenWatch or the LG Urbane. But, with both the Apple Watch and the various Android Wear watches, it's definitely a case of substance over style for now.
The productivity question
In terms whether these devices can help you get your work done, their two biggest benefits are:
- Keep you from missing important messages
- Keep your phone out of your hand so that it doesn't become a distraction when you glance at a notification, decide it's not important, and keep doing your work.
For a look at the visuals of Apple Watch versus Android Wear, check out my photo gallery:
- Apple Watch in the enterprise: Why Apple entered the fray on wearables and the Internet of Things
- Has Apple lost its religion of simplicity?
- Why I bought a $10 band instead of waiting for the Apple Watch
- Android Wear smartwatches: The benefits for professionals
- What the Apple Watch means for Android Wear