How smart is this watch? Not very
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Dec 20, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

How smart is this watch? Not very

2015 may have been the year of the smartwatch. But next year's model will only be better

OurWindsor.Ca

There is one thing about the Apple Watch I wear most days that never fails to give me delight.

After its first update, the watch now supports the ability to randomly display photos from your phone on the watch's screen. So whenever I check the time, I am confronted by a photo that I took. With the watch's tiny screen, it has become an unsuspecting game, as it usually takes a second for me to decipher what the picture is, but when I do, I am usually reminded of a happier moment.

That is the one function I love from literally all of the smart watches I've tested this year. Other than that, my easy and overarching review: They cost too much and do too little.

But that's not the reason not to buy one this holiday season. The real reason is because they are rapidly changing and likely will only be better — and hopefully cheaper next year.

Take a look at the Apple Watch. It came out in September, and design-wise, it's been lapped by its circular competitors. It literally looks like a first-generation iPod compared to the round and slick-looking Pebble, Moto 360 or Samsung Gear S2.

The other big change is the expectation of just what a watch can do. The original goal may have been a device that mimicked the evolution of the smartphone, but even after a couple of model years, there really are only a handful of things smartwatches do well. They all handle notifications well — except that when you actually want to act on them, you still have to go to your phone for most things.

The variety of watch faces is actually cool, but they’re just like ring tones: while some cool ones are free, this is where they want you pay and buy new ones. But, really, does anyone other than a teenager actually do that?

Android Wear has come a long way, and Google's card system of displaying relevant information to you works fairly well. But what sense does it make that all these Android watches have the exact same screen and software experience? You really are buying the look of the watch. So it’s cosmetics, and really, that’s an area where they just can't compete with the much better-looking “dumb” watches.

Then there is the fitness and health tracking, which basically as a category has a long way to go. Mostly they are glorified pedometers, although heart rate monitoring is becoming more of a standard feature.

But beyond the raw numbers they gather, there needs to be more intelligence in how to use those numbers in a way that helps people live healthier lives.

Beside, if you've bought a family member a fitness tracker last year, I bet they stopped using it as soon as the novelty wore off.

That's what I've found with all the smart watches I've tried this year. If I forgot to charge them, I didn't care, and went about my day without missing them.

So they are currently the definition of a luxury, and at price points of $250 to close $600 plus for the Apple Watch, I find it's just not worth it yet. There's also the fact that this year's models will likely be out of date in a matter of months.

Perhaps the real reason I won't buy a smartwatch as a present is that it just doesn't pass the Dad test. That's specifically, my Dad, who is the best man I know and a watch guy.

If I can find the perfect gift for the man, then money doesn't really matter. A part of me knows he'll fiddle with this for a time, but it's just not good enough for him to use regularly — or worth it for me to add another piece of technology that I'll end up being technical support for.

Maybe next Christmas, Pops.

Toronto Star

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