Fun times ahead with the smartwatch

Fun times ahead with the smartwatch
A range of smart watches.

For almost a decade, I have not worn a watch - or just about anything else - on my wrist. Who needs a watch when one's phone can tell the time?

Although I am right-handed, I grew up wearing a watch on my right hand. That made it uncomfortable when I played tennis, squash or badminton.

So, ditching the watch seemed to make sense.

I wish I could say that my participation in sports is still the reason I am not wearing a watch. However, I have to confess that the habit of not being encumbered by a watch persisted long after I stopped playing the sports regularly.

When the fitness-tracker trend started two years ago, I tried out several of such gadgets. However, most lacked a screen and looked more like black bracelets than tech gadgets.

They also had limited functions and were glorified pedometers and rudimentary sleep monitors.

The early trackers also needed connection with a smartphone app to display activity data. Later versions had tiny screens and better connectivity options.

However, they never caught my fancy because they had to look minimalist to appear small and cool.

Then came the smartwatch.

Instead of trying to minimise the size of the device, the idea was now to make it big.

A big display could show cool stuff right on your wrist, including time, turn-by-turn navigation, heart rate, reminders and notifications from your phone.

However, the killer feature was something more basic - the ability to change the face of the watch to suit your tastes - and mood.

In a digital world where our individual preferences and choices are increasingly hidden within our gadgets, the smartwatch is a refreshing change.

E-books are convenient and weightless, but no one can tell at a glance if you are a history buff or a video-game fanboy from your reading choices, as there are no longer any book covers to show.

Without Blu-ray or DVD covers to show, people can only guess whether you are a fan of action-adventure flicks or a romantic at heart.

Nor can they figure out what content you consume and, therefore, your individual preferences, as digital content was hidden within the devices.

Themes and wallpapers can express your individuality, but it would look strange if you constantly flashed your smartphone at your friends.

With the smartwatch, however, everything is there for all to see, unlike a phone, which sits in your pocket or bag, or a tablet where the screen is dark when not in use.

The smartwatch can offer a lot of useful information to the user, but the coolest thing is that it gives you the chance to show off the latest watch-face design which you have just bought from the Google Play app store.

You can change your style on the fly - going from a sleek black chronograph to rugged khaki camping mate to playful rainbow-hued digital timepiece with just a few taps on the screen.

You can even switch designs according to what you are wearing - without having to buy another watch.

With Apple all set to launch its Apple Watch smartwatch this year, Google has already geared up for the battle ahead.

At the end of last year, Samsung, Sony, LG, Motorola and Asus all launched smartwatches which use Google's Android Wear software.

However, only the LG G Watch R can be bought here for now.

So, just as with Android smartphones, you can shop for smartwatch apps at one store, regardless of the brand.

More importantly, I can now access dozens of exciting watch faces from the Android Wear store - some for free, and others for a small fee.

There are even independent apps, such as Facer and Watchmaker, which act as mini app stores for smartwatch faces, letting third-party designers peddle their wares there.

At a time when geeks may be getting jaded by yet another smartphone, yet another tablet, yet another laptop, or yet another camera, the smartwatch injects a new excitement and sense of fun which gets people all warm and fuzzy.

I could go on, but my LG G Watch R has just arrived and it's time for me to join the smartwatch revolution.

ginlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 14, 2015.
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