Life with a Smartwatch

Excuse the potato shot

For most of my life, I haven’t been one to wear a watch. I don’t know why, but for some reason I always felt like it was a big hassle just to put it on every morning. In fact, I stopped wearing watches for such a long time that having one on my wrist felt unnatural and I would constantly leave the house without putting it on. However, that has changed over the past two months. At the end of June, I got myself my very first smart watch, and now it’s something that I miss whenever I walk out of the house without wearing it.

I avoided the smartwatch craze for a while because the idea of having to charge your watch every night seemed unappealing to me. I mean, who wants to do that right? Since then, smartwatch battery life has improved and you can go for a couple of days before having to charge it (at least with the higher end ones). I decided to get one after reading rave reviews about this entry-level watch from Ticwatch – the Ticwatch E/Express. It had a reasonable price tag (RM 699 on Lazada), ran on Android Wear, and looked pretty nice. Since I had no experiences with smartwatch prior to this one, I thought the cost wasn’t too high to give it a shot.

Setting it up was pretty straightforward – install Android Wear on your phone, sync it up with the watch and you’re good to go. Look around for some watch face apps if you’re unhappy with your current theme and download it to your watch. I’m currently running a modified version of this Adventure Time Watchmaker theme and I think it’s pretty rad. I had some issues getting data to work when not on wifi, but after troubleshooting via the official forums and Reddit I did a system reset and it has been working fine ever since.

Since I’ve been using the watch for about two months, I thought I could give some of my opinions on it, for those of you interested in getting one for yourself.

  • My watch has about 33 hours of battery life based on my usage – it’s not great, but it’s not bad either. It definitely has enough juice to power through a full day (even with heavy usage) but if you don’t charge it, it’ll die in the middle of the following day unless you decide to charge it at some point before that. It’s definitely not 48+ hours as advertised (or I have a defective model – I’m not sure what the case is).
  • The fitness features are useless for me. It was fun to play around with the heart rate monitor or check how many steps you’ve walked initially, but as time went on, I stopped using those features. I’m sure if I lived a more active lifestyle, they would be really useful. As it stands, I had no use for them. The reminders every hour to get out of my seat to walk around let me know it’s time for a cigarette.
  • Phone notifications without pulling out your phone – very useful. Responding to messages without using the canned responses: not so great. Writing text by tracing letters out on your watch is too cumbersome to be useful. Especially if you have a long reply. Responding with your voice is a step better – it works well, however the times when I have to use my voice instead of typing them out on my phone’s keyboard are very limited. When you’re in public, you don’t want to be speaking replies out loud – not to mention, sometimes it’s just too noisy as well. When you’re in a meeting and looking at messages on your phone instead of your watch, you’re definitely not in a place to be responding with your voice.
  • My favorite feature so far – making reminders or phone calls with my voice. Now that’s a feature I can get behind. Especially if you have a headset on, you can do those things without pulling your phone out of your pocket. Great when your hands are full or when you’re on the move.
  • Using it as a navigation device is pretty nifty as well. It’s definitely better than walking around with your phone in front of you. The screen’s display is also bright enough to be used outdoors during the day.
  • The watch is pretty much more of a notification responder than a full-blown mobile device. I understand its limitations due to the hardware and software, but I think this will improve in the coming years. In the future, it’ll probably be good enough to replace your smartphone by itself.
  • The performance of the watch definitely leaves a lot to be desired. Especially when you don’t leave it in always-on mode – it takes a couple of seconds to wake up. While it may not seem like a long time, it does add up over time – especially if you’re like me and forget the time very often. To solve this issue, I just leave my watch on always-on mode and have a dim display for the idle mode.
  • I like the fact that you can change the display to pretty much anything you fancy – assuming there are themes available or you’re savvy enough to create something on your own.
  • I’ve gotten used to charging an extra device every night. It’s not a huge hassle, but the watch’s proprietary magnetic charger might be a pain point in the future if it ever stops working. I think having a regular micro USB port would have been a better idea.

Those are my thoughts on my smartwatch so far – I know a lot of people have more uses for it than me (i.e. controlling presentation slides) so depending on your usage habits, it may or not be more useful. I’ve only had two months with it so my opinion might change in the future. It’s something that’s nice to have, but definitely something you can live without.

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