My first encounter with the wearable kind

Posted by on October 31, 2014 · 5 mins read

I have finally received my Moto 360 (thanks to my couriers!). That happened a little over a week ago, and now feels like a good time to go through what I like and dislike about it.

Yes. I am hairy. No. I will not wax them.

So what is it? It is a wearable device that is able to show messages, notifications, give directions and perform web searches. You can also install applications that run on the watch that provide further functionality like fitness tracking. It is also a watch, but that is not really the point. Being able to tell time with a watch has not been a main reason why people wear them in this millennium. Watches are jewelry. For the purposes of wearable technology, a watch is also a universally recognized and understood form factor.

Motorola seems to have understood these aspects of watches well. Their designers have succeeded in making a decidedly 21st century device that is yet connected with the history of fashion and watchmaking. Its design is beautiful and its smarts are relatively stealthy - it does not look like a gadget.  In my opinion, no other smart watch on the market competes anywhere near this level. The Apple Watch is an interesting endeavor, but it has not impressed me so far. Especially since there is not even a release date for it and I am wearing the 360 as I am typing this.

First impressions of how such devices can affect day to day life are promising. Apps on the 360 have mostly been fleeting curiosities while the the notification functionality is where the magic lies. I am usually pretty bad at noticing when my phone chirps or rings - especially when I am outside the house. This has lead to me compulsively checking my phone whether I have missed a message or a call. With the watch on my wrist, I never miss a notification. This gives me enough confidence that I do not have to check my phone every 5 minutes. This restless behavior has been put to .. rest.

There is a valid concern with getting overwhelmed with notifications. Checking your notifications while in social situations is at best awkward. It can also break your focus when concentrating on a task. However, I have found the user interface of the watch to be really fast and fluid. This allows me to check a notification in a matter of seconds without causing interruption to the conversation at hand. And when really necessary, you can mute the watch with a single stroke.

I also find the timer functionality very useful. Especially when you are cooking, you can easily set timers so you remember to check the grill, pan, or whatever. I have used this countless times over the past week. This to me is further proof that voice recognition is a really important step in mobile user interfaces. We just have to get over the social stigma of to talking to devices in public. Oh, and Google: please make voice recognition work properly in Finnish. The watch is completely unable to understand Finnish names!

It’s not all roses though. My main concern was of battery life. It was widely reported that the 360 did not manage an entire day on a single charge. This was fortunately fixed before I received mine and the battery holds up for a day. Not a drop more, but it’s okay for a day.

The biggest problem is disrupted connectivity. For a few times during the past week, the watch has stopped communicating with my phone. This renders the 360 pretty much incapacitated and worse, it eats away at the main thing I love about the experience. If the connection is disrupted, I will not get notifications and I may lose trust that notifications appear on the watch. The watch has also rebooted itself a few times and I have a hunch the connection disruption is also related to this issue. Thankfully these are not problems in the design or concept of the device. As Android Wear, the operating system that runs the 360, matures, I’m sure these kinks will be worked out.

While I am sure the next generation of devices will improve on these themes and more, I find myself surprisingly content with this device. Not just content, actually, but really happy with it!

Oh, have I used it as a watch? I think I have told time with it almost as often as I have swapped the watch face.