Android Wear is Terrible

The watches themselves are nice, but it’s time to face facts: having a touchscreen on my wrist is just plain awful. I can’t imagine that an Apple Watch is much better, but I’ve almost no firsthand experience with that platform. As for Android Wear specifically, here’s how I’ve come to my conclusion…

My Pebble is far from perfect. With its low resolution screen, massive bezels and lack of designer watch faces I frequently get smartwatch envy. Making matters worse is that my Pebble been mistaken for an Apple Watch more than once—for an Android fanboy this is entirely unacceptable. Plus, watches are supposed to be round, right? Android Wear is clearly the better choice. I frequently make plans to re-pair one of the three Android watches in my possession, only to back out at the last minute, deciding that it’s not worth the hassle.

This past Monday I didn’t back out: I re-paired my Nixon Mission and installed the necessary apps to enjoy my morning walk. While I’m out I listen to podcasts, and have to skip through ads more often than I’d like. Here’s the first place where Android Wear fails. Once you swipe to the appropriate screen there are software buttons to skip ahead or back, but on a touch screen they just don’t work reliably. On a Pebble you can accomplish this without even looking at the watch—provided that you’ve assigned its built-in music player to a shortcut key. The steps are (1) long-press your shortcut key, (2) press the down button to skip ahead 30 seconds, (3) continue enjoying your podcast.

Notifications on Android Wear are fine unless, like me, you depend on the native reminders built into Google Calendar and Inbox. Dismissing a notification on an Android watch will also remove it from your Android phone. The problem is, dismissing a Google reminder will also mark it as completed. This means that when a reminder pops up on my Android Wear watch I’m basically unable to use it until the reminder goes away on its own. That’s some pretty terrible UX right there…

Finally, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a $500-plus smartwatch to be always on. The standby screen on my Nixon Mission doesn’t really count, as it shows none of the complications selected for my chosen watch face. And even the standby screen sometimes goes dark as well, leaving me with nothing else to look at other than the smudge-fest you see above. This is also problem with Watch OS; as I see more and more Apple Watches on peoples’ wrists I can’t help but notice their dormant displays, and can’t help thinking to myself: “What exactly are you people paying for?”

Again, my Pebble is far from perfect. But as a smartwatch, even a timepiece it’s so much better than Android Wear. In fact, I’ve yet to see anything out there that’s as intuitive and downright enjoyable to use.

3 comments:

  1. I decided earlier this year that “round” is an anachronism for watches. It’s only desirable for purely aesthetic reasons that are based in obsolete technology. I intentionally steered away from round when shopping this year and wound up finding myself back in the Pebble camp. I’ve purchased two new Pebbles this year.

  2. I’m a huge iOS and macOS fan. But I can’t stand the Apple watch for all the reasons you mention, and I’m sure all android wear watches are equally if not more disastrous.

    I’m a Pebble fan. I’ve bought three Pebble 2 SE watches even after Pebble went out of business. Physical buttons, always-on screen, and 7 day battery life for the win.

    1. Wondering if I should do the same… I’ve prepared for the Pebble Apocalypse with an extra Pebble Time Steel, Pebble Time and two Pebble Time Rounds. Does the lack of colour on yours bother you at all?

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