Some people think nothing of spending thousands of pounds on a watch. I can't see myself spending that kind of cash personally. But I do like gadgets. If the MVP Summit and my Microsoft Fitness Band shenanigans taught me one thing it's that I really wanted a wearable of some kind. Snag is that the Microsoft Fitness Band is slightly harder to get hold of than powdered unicorn horn. And to be honest I'm a bit nervous about wearing anything with Fitness in its name. I might give being fit a bad name.
Anyhoo, I decided that I really wanted the proper wearable experience. Unfortunately that there is nothing wearable that you can get which works with my Lovely Lumia 1520 Windows Phone. So, one Android phone and two watches later I am now part of the wearable revolution. I make no (well, perhaps some) apology for buying two watches. Their combined price is considerably less than a single Rolex (not that I could afford a Rolex I suppose). And anyway, the watches complement each other very well. Although I'm not planning to wear them both at the same time.
The first watch I got was the Moto 360. The round one on the left. This has a screen to die for and an air of style that completely belies a first generation product. It looks like a slice of tomorrow, particularly when you get notifications that go all the way to the edge of the watch screen. The effect is spoiled slightly by a cut off area at the bottom of the watch screen which gives full screen displays a "flat tyre" appearance, but in general it looks terrific. If you want to feel that you are part of the future, this is a great watch to have.
The second one I got was the Sony Smartwatch 3. The square boring looking one on the right. It has a much less impressive screen than the Moto. But, being square, it can show you more text. And it uses an LCD technology called "trans-reflective" that means two really good things for a Smartwatch. The first is that the screen is visible in direct sunlight. The second is that it is readable when it is not lit up, saving battery life and making the device usable as a watch, which is nice. The Sony device also has a better processor, larger battery and more internal gizmos including GPS, NFC and WiFi. Not that any of the software lets you use much of these features just yet. From a style point of view it looks just like a sports watch in a plastic strap. Because that's essentially what it is. There is talk of more straps becoming available, and a metal wristband too, which might make the watch more acceptable as part of your formal dress. They'll have to come from Sony though, because the watch module fits inside the strap and is all very custom.
Both watches run Android Wear and are pretty much functionally equivalent. The Moto 360 has been given a bit of stick by some reviewers because of its slower processor, but I didn't notice anything running slowly. The watches pair with the phone and you are notified of incoming email, texts and phone calls along with calendar and program alerts too.
The setup is fairly reliable, although I've had the watches reset a couple of times and sometimes you have to reboot the phone to re-establish the connection to the watch. The idea is that you use the watch to be alerted of things that you read and dismiss very quickly. In fact you have to work like this, because time spent on the watch quickly drains the battery. And therein, as they say, lies the rub.
The Moto 360 has a battery that will last a day with good luck and a following wind. And as long as you turn off the "ambient mode" that makes the watch tell you the time. The Sony is better in this respect. The battery is larger and the "trans-reflective" display means that you can leave the screen on and be able to tell what time it is just by looking at the watch. I reckon these watches need to be charged every night. This is easy enough with the Moto 360, it comes with a nifty stand that charges the watch if you just plonk it down on it at night. With the Sony watch you have to fiddle around the back, open a tiny waterproof hatch and plug in a standard USB cable. Much less fun. Although easier to take on holiday.
Choosing between the two is very hard. The Moto is very stylish and formal, but you worry about bashing it into things and running out of battery life. The Sony looks built for fun, with a bouncy plastic strap (which attracts dust like nobodies business) to match. It also runs for a lot longer on a single charge. At the moment I'm using the Moto in the week and the Sony for the weekends. You can't use them both at the same time, but it turns out to be the work of seconds to switch from one to the other. No information is stored on the watch (although you can put music there if you are prepared to grapple with Google Play, which I'm not) so you just have to re-pair with the phone to change from one to the other.
I was initially very skeptical about the whole wearables thing. If the phone is in your pocket, why do you need notifications on your wrist? Well, it turns out that this may be true, but you can triage your incoming messages and stuff on the wrist really easily, which saves on getting the phone in and out of your pocket. And you can turn the phone ringer off without fear of missing a call as your watch will alert you without disturbing anyone else. And you will know who is calling, so you can respond appropriately.
But the convincer for me was the response of number one wife to the Pebble watch I connected to her iPhone. She loves it. Finds it very useful. The phone stays silently in her bag and she can get texts and phone alerts really easily. I'm the gadget person in our family and I'd be expected to love a new device like this. But number one wife is much more pragmatic. If it is not useful she just won't use it. Now she is looking forward to having a "proper" Apple watch in the future. She sees wearables as a progression. And I think a lot of folks will agree with her.
As for missing Windows Phone. I'm doing that. A lot. Android is nice enough, but it is a bit like riding a bike. All very well, but if you know there are these things called cars that can get you where you want in more comfort and with less effort then you have to find the cycling experience a bit unappealing. For me at the moment the hassle of using Android, the inconsistent user interface, the wasted screen space and even the "lumpy" fonts is more than compensated for by the amount of fun I'm having with the wearables. When Windows 10 lands on the Lumia that will definitely change though. And I might even have a Microsoft Band by then.
But a Windows Phone with a watch. Now that would be something. And would result in a flurry of activity from me on Ebay....