Moto 360 — First Impressions
I’ve been wearing the Moto 360 I received at Google I/O for a couple of weeks now, and a lot of people have been asking me whether I like it. The truth is, I haven’t made up my mind yet, and it’s not that easy to do so either. While there are some instances where I’ve been pleasantly surprised by new kid on the block that’s found its home on my wrist, there are times when I’ve been plain annoyed by it. Anyway, here are my top 10 first impressions about the Moto 360:
- The Moto 360 is like a glorified notification filter, but it does its job well. I now don’t have to open my phone to clear those unwanted notifications — I can just dismiss them from my wrist and never see them again. I could be doing this while I’m walking, while standing on the train, while at my desk. It reduces the need to reach out for my phone every time an attention craving notification comes through. Someone commenting on someone’s post that I liked on Facebook, someone following me on Twitter, someone sending me a friend request on LinkedIn, a recurring meeting invite for a meeting that never happens but someone forgot to delete, are all filtered on my wrist and I only need to attend to the really important ones on my phone. Initally, I would get the same notifications on my Mac, my phone, and my watch, tripling the annoyance factor. But having diverted all notifications to the watch, I now have the satisfaction of swiping away the needy, flow disrupting, self-centered notifications for good.
- Great for activity tracking. I either zip up my phone in my jacket, or tuck it into a shoulder band when I go for a walk/run. Being able to start activity tracking from your wrist is kind of handy (pun unintended), because I can completely secure my phone and organize my headphone wires, etc., before heading out, instead of doing this while on the go. I make it sound like using the phone to start tracking is a big chore, but it is more convenient with a watch that’s easily accessible — especially for pausing the tracking at traffic lights, and skipping tracks on the music player.
- Heart rate monitor is buggy. During the first couple of days of using the watch, it would accurately tell me that I had to achieve 30 minutes of “active heart rate” in a day. I would usually go for a brisk 30 minute walk to achieve my daily heart rate goal. However, as of late, by 10am, my watch congratulates me for achieving my daily goal for the day, when all I've done is woken up and dragged myself onto a train and barely made it to work. So it’s either that the heart rate monitor is suddenly buggy, or that I’ve been sleep walking in the wee hours of the morning without knowing it.
- The Moto 360 is not a replacement for your phone. There is a common misconception that you can choose to leave your phone behind because you now have a smart watch on your wrist. A surprising number of friends and family have asked whether I still need my phone. Yes, I do. The watch uses the phone’s internet for all it’s needs — voice searches, contextual google now cards, navigation, etc. The step counter and heart rate monitor work even if the phone is not in the vicinity, but for pretty much everything else, you’ll need your phone nearby. In fact, if you have it really close by, you might find that your phone responds to your “OK Google”, voice command before your watch can. “No not you Moto X, I’m trying to talk to the Moto 360…”
- Doesn't have a concept of a Home like the iWatch. As seen in the Apple keynote, the iWatch has a concept of a “home” or an “all apps” screen. This is the view where you can see all the apps compatible with your watch and you can zoom in or out and interact with the apps using the crown on the side of the watch. Now the Moto 360 doesn't have such a well defined concept of a home. You can still open compatible apps by saying “Start Runtastic”, or navigate to “Start” menu and find the app you want. But the real home is just the watch itself. It tells you the time — like a watch should do. I tried using the Duolingo app on my Moto 360. They have a app that lets you test your knowledge of a new language using flashcards. It turns out that it’s extremely awkward and painful to bend your neck and squint at a small screen to actually use an app for a prolonged period of time. That’s not what the screen size or the device is meant for. It’s not meant to zoom into maps or browse through your flickr photo collection — the screen is not large enough for that use case, and it shouldn’t be. This watch looks way too big on my wrist already. So I can’t help but think that it’s good that the android wear watch has left out the concept of a true home for apps —because if you really needed a crown to navigate through the app and zoom in/zoom out etc., you probably shoudn’t be using your watch for that task anyway!
- Sometimes intrusive and distracting. The watch does try to the best of its ability to show you things contextually. However, there are time when it can be a bit distracting. For example, I was catching up with a friend the other day, and also looking at the stars and enjoying the cool summer breeze. But every time I moved my hands while explaining something, my watch would light up to show me the time. While this wouldn’t be noticeable in daylight, it was extremely distracting at night and it kept pulling me out of the conversation as my attention kept going towards my wrist. I tried to ignore it a couple of times but towards the end, it pulled me out of the moment so much that I decided to take it off so that the person I was with felt that they had my complete attention.
- Others can read notifications on your wrist — potentially embarrassing. I was at a dinner party last night, and my watch drew quite a bit of attention from all my friends. I fielded all sorts of questions including, “What is that?”, “Is that an iWatch?”, “Make it do something cool”, “Will it respond to my voice too?”. But here’s the thing with Android Wear. I can't really make it do any tricks — by design — I need to wait until a notification appears on it to be able to demo it because it is more of a receiver. Anyhow, I showed off the “Ok Google” capabilities, and the heart rate monitor and the step counter. But sometime in the middle of the dinner, I received a breaking news headline from Circa on my watch. I didn’t notice it because I was engrossed in a conversation, but my friend noticed it and even read it from where he was sitting across the table. He then drew everyone’s attention to it and a couple of other people read it too. They concluded that if the watch could show them breaking news like that, they would totally buy it for that use case. But what I was concerned about was that it just so happened that it was a news headline that he read. However, it could also have been a potentially embarassing WhatsApp message or Email he could have read on my wrist — not that I get any of those — but it’s possible. So this truly personal device wasn’t all that personal as anyone sitting near me could read notifications while I get them and see exactly who it’s from, as a picture of the sender’s face also covers the watch face! Note to self — set watch to no notifications mode during office meeting to avoid potential embarassment.
- Awkward to talk to my wrist. I’m still not very comfortable talking to my wrist in public. The sight of whispering (and then shouting) “Okay Google”, “OKAY google”, “ok GOOGLE”, “OKAY GOOGLE”, at my wrist while on the train is still not something I’m comfortable with. I usually just default to using the menu to navigate the watch. And given that we have an open seating layout at work, I’ve chosen not to have conversations with an inanimate object while at my desk. I have however used voice search and voice commands while at home when I could very easily just reach out for my phone. And I’ve also found it useful to start navigation while I’m driving.
- Google now is sort of irrelevant. For a person who has a pretty standard routine, the Google Now updates start to get quite repetitive. The watch obediently shows me the weather everyday — which is sort of useful. I would never really check the weather before and would always head out of the door with the foolhardiness that the weather would adapt to what I was wearing that day. Given that I take the Caltrian often, Google Now thinks that I care about public transport in general, and religiously notifies me twice a day that I am 35 minutes away from a bus stop. I have never been to that bus stop before and I haven’t caught a bus in the past year and a half, but it thinks I need to know that, should I feel like taking a bus that momentous day . It also tells me I’m 135 minutes away from work every morning, and 135 minutes from home every evening— it hasn’t figured out that I don’t take public transport to and from the Caltrian station so it accounts for that time, rendering both notifications useless. I can see how this can be really useful for those that drive to work. Also, people with varying routines and those that travel a lot for work would probably receive more relevant, contextual notifications such as their flight details, time to get to the airport, boarding times, gate number, weather in the destination city etc. But for a person that has a predictable routine, it’s hard for Google Now to show anything that I already don’t know. For example, I just reached work and Google Now thinks that I need to know at 9am that I am 126 minutes away from home by public transport. It doesn’t realize that people don’t go all the way to work, just to catch the next train back home.
- Not really designed for a woman’s wrist, but... When I looked at the Moto 360 videos, it didn't really looks as large as it really is in real life. When I first wore it, it looked rather out of place on my skinny wrist, and I wasn’t sure if it went with any of my clothes either. I didn’t like the black bezel at the bottom of the watch which completely destroys the truly circular nature of the screen. The screen is also not completely flat like it looks in the videos, and rises out of the frame. I was expecting it to look way more beautiful, but after wearing it for a week, I’m actually quite used its size and design. I just wear it all day, every day, and it sits quite comfortably even when I type. I was almost completely used to it when someone pointed out yesterday that it looked rather large on my wrist. Darn it! Anyway, customization options would help.
Having written this up, I realized that I had more positives than negatives. So maybe I do like it after all. But would I have bought it myself? Probably not. I probably won’t miss my watch if I forget to wear it for a couple of days, because my use of the watch isn’t that heavy. But would I recommend the watch to a consultant friend that travels for work 5 days a week, or someone in BD that has partner meetings all day? Yes!