[Edit – I had Jerry’s “run them off the road” quote on the wrong context earlier – fixed.]
You know, I like the Android Central podcast. I drive a lot for my job, hours at a time, so I have time for their long, rambling webcasts. Phil Nickinson is an engaging, energetic host, Russell, Alex and Andrew lend different perspectives and Jerry Hildenbrand is epic in his technical insight and cagey warnings against dodgy tech.
But in a recent ‘cast (I think it was 272, Rumors and Allegations) I heard Phil say, “We haven’t figured out a use for Android Wear yet.”
And in episode 263 they were all freaking that people actually called in to record their voice messages using their watches. Why not? And finally, in last Friday’s ‘cast, number 273, they mulled again about the applicability of Wear, with Jerry grumbling (38:08) “My phones in my pocket…my watch can’t do anything my phone can’t do and I can have it either vibrate on my wrist or in my pocket. I don’t have that use case where I need it yet.”
[Note: I agree on his argument earlier (33:52) regarding using the phone to text while driving: “I feel like running them off the road.” And putting the car in park to use the phone at a stoplight, good idea. (But keep an eye on the light.)]
Please, stop going on about why Wear has no use cases, you guys are supposed to be forward-thinking, on-the-edge-of-technology supergeeks. (Credit to Russell Holly, who at least admits to wearing a Moto 360 v2.) But the rest of you haven’t figured out how to make use of Android Wear yet? I think you guys should get out more and talk to some folks and help spread the message. I mean, you’re Android Central — aren’t you the crossroads of tech? Maybe it’s just me, but I have conditions in my life that make Wear not only useful, but damn useful:
A. A family with kids who love to text
B. A hectic job that keeps me on the run, to wit:
– A lot of time behind the wheel of my car.
– A lot of time in meetings
– Things I have to remember
C. I have a separate work phone. Why? Because my company has draconian oversight and security rules for their phones.
D. I have my personal phone in a bracket on the dash where it runs Car Home Ultra, which is a super-helpful interface for doing things with a single button-press. Like playing Android central podcast.
So maybe the Android Central guys are just thinking about Wear too hard. They often go on about things the phone can do fine by itself, why use a watch to do stuff? What can the watch do the phone can’t? Hey, it’s in my pocket — close enough, I’ll just take it out. Android Wear watch as an extension to my phone, not a replacement, and it is useful because the phone is not always convenient.
So, here are seven legit use cases which, for me, occur daily, and I didn’t even break a sweat cooking these up.
Wear Use Case #1: Responding to texts
Let’s take condition ‘A’. My kids are texters – they’d rather text than call. If I’m out on a walk, I don’t want to have to stop and start typing — I tend to walk into trees when I do and besides, it ruins my walk to have to type. And it’s probably raining (Portland, OR). Wear lets me respond by voice, keep walking and keep the phone dry.
And it’s more than walking where the watch helps. I’ll be driving down to the campus to meet Kid1 and he’ll text me as I’m driving — what time will you be here, etc. Yeah, he knows I’m driving, and he texts. Nice. Now, my phone is in a cradle, I can see that I have a text, but responding while driving is not sensible. I could use my bluetooth to initiate a call, but likely as not, he won’t answer, because he’s chatting with friends, multitasking.
Hence, I use Coffee, an app I have covered before on the blog. You can use Hangouts to respond to texts, but that requires voice. I like Coffee because it has categorized responses, preset and modifiable — it does not always rely on voice recognition, which is not always reliable. With a few swipes on my wrist, eyes still on the road, I can reply with something sensible — there is a ‘car’ category, for responding with all kinds of ‘I’m moving, where are you and when’ responses. Mods can be a single word, which Wear is pretty good at getting right.
Wear Case #2: Taking notes while driving, or drinking (never both)
I take calls when I drive. It’s pretty easy — I have an app with my regular concalls pre-set. Two clicks and I’m in. And I get calls from clients and co-workers while I drive. I have to follow up on these calls and there is no way I’m going to type out a reminder while driving. I have a driving app on the phone that does a lot of cool stuff but it does not have a ‘take a note from voice prompt’ feature. Android Wear does. The voice-first interface afforded by ‘OK Google’ is excellent, as I can record a note without taking my eyes off the road. I use the Keep note-taking app. Clean quick, view on phone or browser, and written notes are more accessible and scannable than voice memos. Wear kills it. Works fairly well in noisy locales (restaurants, conferences) too, when I don’t want to fumble with my phone. Flip up the watch, take a note, back into the conversation.
Wear Case #3: Responding to texts/checking stocks/news/weather while in meetings
Like case #1, but here you’re dealing with family issues or a date request or who knows what, and you’re in one of those “screens down” meetings. Or with a customer, and your team-mate is talking. Client has no idea you’re texting, they think you’re just checking your watch. Nice. And this is not limited to texts: Is the commute home starting to back up? The stock indexes going wild? Snow coming? That hot date asking you if you’re free? Okay, I’ve been married a long time, but just sayin’, for other folks, could be. Staying in sync with your world during long boring meetings is a use case.
Wear Case #4: Media control
So, you get a new bluetooth speaker or maybe even direct-connect your phone to an oldstyle stereo. Whatever reason, the phone is over across the kitchen or under cover as you are at the barbeque in the rain (hey I live on Oregon, we BBQ in the rain), and someone wants to talk and hey, you can pause the music with a tap on your wrist. Start it up again when you’re done. Sweet. This is also helpful when driving — my personal phone has the media app running, usually playing a podcast like Android Central, so to mute that when my biz phone rings, Wear does the job the fastest and with minimal distraction.
Wear Case #5: Unlocking the phone
This was actually my primary reason for wanting a Wear device and now I cannot imagine being without it, as my phone does not have a fingerprint scanner. The only way to unlock is entering the password. Hey, I check my phone a lot. Entering that passcode every time is horrendous. But having no password is dumb (my world is in that phone, ain’t leaving it unlocked). But with the watch as a trusted device, the phone stays unlocked until I leave it in a bathroom or something.
Wear Case #6: Staying in touch with my personal life
With a work phone being ‘on deck’ all day, I don’t get personal calls or emails. My personal phone is on mute in my bag. Android Wear is my little window into what is going on in the personal side: I see texts like “pick up some whisky on the way home, I had to pay for a plumber”, reminders like “movie group tonight don’t be late”, and I know if someone has tried to call.
Wear Case #7: Step tracker
I used to wear a Fitbit to get me motivated to move. Trust me, as a desk jockey, I need it. But the Fitbit was…unremarkable. Had some lights, sometimes it thought I was asleep. To see if I was getting anywhere I had to open the phone up and check an app. Tiresome. The Wear experience with step tracking is far better – steps right on the watch face, nice!
Bonus use case: Directions
I wrote about my trip to New York, when the wife and I were doing a lot of walking. Wear has really nice integration with Google Maps, naturally. The workflow for us was to set our destinations for the day as favorites on Google maps so it’s quick to select them on the phone and start navigating. At that point, I put the phone in my pocket, so as not to risk having it jostled and dropped or even stolen. We just followed the watch. Cool, eh?
So, there you go, Android Central gurus. Eight good uses for Wear. Spread the news.
Note: I do not represent or profit from any of the apps mentioned in this blog. I just like socializing good software.