Smartwatches are more than just “useless beauty”

February 25, 2015

No one was surprised by the uncontainable geek glee Apple unleashed when it announced the upcoming Apple Watch, which we’re told will be available in “early 2015.” It sure is pretty, but tech writers immediately questioned whether it had any value — calling it “useless beauty.” Why the hell do you need a smartwatch when the smartphone it’s necessarily linked to is just a pocket or a purse away?

I’ve been the proud owner of an Android smartwatch — the gorgeous Asus ZenWatch pictured above — for a month or so, and I can confidently say it’s more than just useless beauty. Is it an essential device for getting through my day? Of course not. But does it make me a little bit more efficient and productive and happy? Absolutely.

This purchase was part 2 of my 2015 Muse It Or Lose It stipend, with the first part being that Amazon Echo I won’t receive until the middle of summer. And in the short time I’ve had this smartwatch, I’ve become a huge fan of a few very simple things it does for me. For example:

  • Faster and easier to delete emails. You know the kind. The emails you get and either just delete immediately or maybe only need to glance at before you’re done with it. With the smartwatch, this sort of triage is simply a matter of a quick swipe and tap — sounds silly, but it’s far, far quicker than using a phone, even if the phone were already in your hand. It’s pretty slick, and for me, it’s made even better with a great smartphone app for Exchange email called Nine.
  • Faster and easier to send simple text messages. Voice commands make it really simple — usually — to let my lovely wife know I’m on my way home or to tell a friend I’m running a bit late for coffee. I say usually because every once in a while, the voice recognition just seems to give up on me. But it generally works surprisingly well. And a rad little app called Coffee makes it easy to send quick text messages without voice commands, which is great in a lot of settings. Again, these are things I can do with my phone, but it’s noticeably faster and easier from my wrist.
  • Helps preserve my phone’s battery. My watch is basically a second display for my phone, and I get to keep my phone in my pocket more and the screen off more. Who doesn’t want to milk their phone battery for a few more precious minutes or hours a day?
  • It generally makes me happy. It looks great. It’s fun to mess around with. It’s a conversation starter, something I didn’t really expect until I started wearing it around. This might wear off after a while, but I genuinely look forward to wearing and using my smartwatch. It’s not the most powerful piece of technology in my life, but it feels, by a long shot, like the coolest, most James Bond-y, George Jetson-y thing I’ve ever had.

The bottom line: If those few simple benefits sound compelling, you’ll probably like having a smartwatch of your own. If not, they’re probably not big enough benefits to win you over. It’s as simple as that.