Wearable tech

Aug. 31 Update
Well, what do you know? I was right – Google just announced official Android Wear support for iOS!

Wearable technologies have been around for a number of years now and has yet to be an area that has really taken off in a palpable way. I know that many expected the release of the Apple Watch as the tipping point but, clearly, that isn’t quite the case.

Regardless, I believe there IS a place for these devices in our lives and I’ve dabbled enough with various options to recognize three different “levels” of wearable devices and have come to some conclusions…

FitBit

fitbitI got a FitBit step tracker back in 2012 or 2013 and, though I was excited by the notion of this tiny little device, I have to admit that I never really got the bug – it never led me to being compelled to get my 10k steps in every day. As a result, I was very sporadic about having it on me. Then I’d lose it. Then I’d find it in the laundry (still working, FWIW).

I also found that the device was a bit too limited – if I’m going to be putting a piece of hardware somewhere on my body, I always felt that it should do more than be a completely passive function.

This led me to…

Razer Nabu

home_bandI was very excited about this one – I got in to the beta program for it and got mine as a Christmas  2014 present from my wife. The Nabu, like the FitBit, tracks steps but also features Bluetooth connectivity with your smartphone so that it can show you notifications, be they incoming calls, calendar reminders or incoming SMS messages. Basically, this is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for!

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the shine to wear off (literally) of the Nabu. First and foremost was the shoddy construction – though it looked cool, the rubber surface scuffed very easily and it didn’t take long for it to look messy. Then the rubber itself began to peel off.

Then there was the manner in which information was presented – the limited space available was wasted by large icons, poor data mapping and a limited buffer.

And, to top it off, support was atrocious. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who had issues with the device as, rather than address them, Razer silently abandoned the project in favor of a newer, more limited model.

Motorola Moto 360

Speculated-Release-Dates-for-the-2015-Moto-360-300x200So this brings me to my current device, the Moto 360. Of course, the Apple Watch became available back in June – my Razer Nabu had already fallen apart at this point. The truth is I don’t really like the Apple Watch – not the physical look of it, not the very cute-sy interface and not the pricetag. But it’s arrival DID pique my interest in the idea of smartwatch and I decided to give Motorola’s Moto 360 a try.

Now, the catch here is that I’m an iPhone user and there’s no official iOS support for the Moto 360, as it’s an Android device. However, at the time, there were strong rumors that Google was wrapping up an iOS app to provide compatibility, so I took a leap and bought one.

Until that app arrives, I decided to rely on a known hack that enables Bluetooth connectivity with the iPhone. Unfortunately, it’s too unreliable, requiring constant re-pairing. “No matter” I thought, “That app should show up soon!” Now it seems that, if the app even existed, that Apple is blocking it from their App Store.

In lieu of abandoning the device altogether, I went another route: I bought a cheap Android phone (w/ no plan), set it up at home and paired my watch to it. Since the Moto 360’s wifi chip was finally enabled with the recent release of Android OS 5.1.1, my watch can now communicate w/ that phone, even when I’m not home.

Now, this is a very incomplete solution, as well – some of the glaring deficiencies include:

  • no access communication w/ the phone unless I’m within a known wifi network
  • no SMS or incoming call notifications
  • no ability to use the “OK Google” search function
  • no access to contact info

Conclusion

I still hold out hope that Google has, indeed, created an Android Wear app for iOS and that Apple will someday release it  (perhaps the expected release of the Moto 360 2 at IFA Berlin 2015 in early September will bring the app’s release along with it?). However, if it becomes clear that that will simply never happen then wearing the Moto 360 really isn’t worth it. At that point I think I’ll go back to the wristband option, which I feel is the best solution of all in the first place as, personally, I just don’t feel like I need two-way communication from my wrist device (my phone is right there there in my back pocket, after all!).

Fortunately, there are already a few viable options out there:

I’ll be sure to write an update once I make a move in one direction or the other…

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