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Nerd Alert: My Month with a Smartwatch

About a month ago I made my first major gadget purchase in quite some time, joining the wearable technology revolution with the Asus Zenwatch (pictured above with the nerdiest watchface I could find.)

While it does occasionally make me feel like I’m from the future, I can report that my life and productivity have not, sadly, been dramatically revolutionized. In certain situations, the device sings, and the promise of wearable tech’s effortless access to information begins to show itself. However, just as often, I find myself barely noticing it (which, granted, is part of the point) and sometimes, especially on weekends, I won’t even put it on.

Regardless, it’s worth taking a stroll through my thoughts on the watch so far:

Experience vs. Features

What’s interesting about smartwatches is that what you’re really being sold is an experience rather than a unique set of features. To illustrate this a bit, here’s how my first conversation with someone interested in my watch usually goes:

Person: “Is that a smartwatch?”

Me: “Yes!”

Person: “What does it do?”

Me: “Basically gives me access to all my notifications and information from my phone, but on the watch itself.”

Person: “…But isn’t your phone like, right there beside you?”

Well…yes.

But the experience here of being able to glance down and instantly gauge the importance level of a notification is pretty key, and particularly shines in a business setting like a meeting, conference or workshop. Normally in a meeting setting if my phone buzzes to signal a new email has come in, I have no way of knowing whether it’s a mission critical, “all hands on deck” email or spam until I pull my phone out to check (a status that will henceforth be referred to as “Schrodinger’s Email.”) A quick glance at my watch lets me see who the email is from and whether they’re important enough to warrant interrupting what I’m currently doing.

This may seem like a minor advantage. But, as The Next Web discovered, we’re checking our phones an average of 110 times a day. If you could cut out 50-75% of those, how much time would you be saving? More importantly than that, how much more focused would you be?

Here’s some other fun stuff:

Customization

Being able to change my watch face whenever I want has yet to get old, and some of them feature intensive customization options to literally display whatever information I want, from steps taken to phone or watch battery life readings to current weather conditions. There are entire apps and sites dedicated to custom watchfaces, and while the community of face-makers is small it is steadily growing. Whether you want something nerdy (like my Star Trek face pictured at the top) or a painstakingly pixel-perfect recreation of a Rolex, you can probably find what you’re looking for.

(For anyone interested, the Pujie Black face shown below is my current watchface of choice.)

Did I mention I’m a terrible photographer?

However, what’s really intriguing here is some of the more outside-the-box customization methods. For example, I just learned about “DressWatch,” a watch face app that will literally create a custom-colored face for your watch based on a picture of the outfit you’re wearing. That’s next-level geek fashion stuff right there.

Voice Control

The voice recognition on the watch is pretty killer. Instead of pulling my phone out and typing something in (and risking a Texting While Driving ticket here in Georgia), I can just say “OK Google” and tell my watch whatever I want it to do, whether it’s respond to a text or setting a GPS destination.

Where this particular feature shines for me personally is setting reminders. When I’m driving to or from work and remember something that I’d like to not forget later, I simply use the voice controls to add a reminder (it helps that Google’s parsing of phrases like “when I get home,” for example, to create a location-based reminder has gotten much better). It’s simple and easy.

Remote Control Options

The first time I was casting Netflix from my phone and realized I could Pause/Resume playback directly from my watch, it was like a little nerd epiphany. Unnecessary? Maybe. Cool? Oh yeah.

And while I haven’t had a chance to try it out myself just yet, you can also use your watch as a presentation remote to advance slides. So I can finally live out my dream of simultaneously crushing a presentation while feeling like a super spy.

The Bottom Line

As much as I love my Zenwatch, I can’t say I’d unabashedly recommend that anyone and everyone immediately rush out and buy a smartwatch. There’s definitely enough cool features, “wow” factor and as-yet-unrealized potential to justify a purchase for the gadget-obsessed out there.

Do most people need one of these devices right now? Probably not – we’re very much in early adopter territory. I’ll go entire days without really “using” the watch for anything, other than, you know, as an actual watch. But I continue to find situations like the aforementioned meetings and workshops where my watch really comes into its own.

And, of course, let’s not forget that this is the first segment of technology devices that are intended to also be a fashion statement. So if you’re already looking for a new watch and happen to fall in love with one of the existing form factors, that’s another thing to consider (alas, Moto 360, if not for my tiny wrists we might’ve been together).

Ultimately, with the continued evolution of Android Wear, Pebble and, of course, the impending 800-lb gorilla from a little company called Apple, this class of gadget is slowly but surely being brought into the forefront for 2015.

Looking for more insights and analysis on wearable tech in the workplace? Download our free eBook, “The Future of Business Collaboration 2015 Edition.”

About Joshua Erwin

Josh is a content creator and strategist with a passion for all things tech, such as the latest gadgets, apps, games and more. Josh loves listening to and playing music and is a big college football fan, especially for his alma mater Georgia Bulldogs. When not writing for PGi, you’ll find him gaming or drumming on Sundays for the Atlanta Falcons.

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