Last week, a Pebble classic smartwatch came into my possession through winning a contest. I had never found the appeal in a smartwatch; but, since I got it for free, I decided to give it a shot. This post is a rant about my short-lived, horrid relationship I had with the watch. It is not meant to convince you that smartwatches suck; rather, it is meant to explain why I, personally, have no need for one.
tl;dr Don’t get me a smartwatch for Christmas. An Amazon gift card will suffice.
Getting set up
Most of this rant applies to smartwatches in general, but this section is specific to my Pebble. I define being “set up” as being in a state where I could wear the watch, have some apps on it, be able to receive notifications, and be comfortable with the basic functionalities. Getting set up is something that every user must complete; and ideally, it should be clear and easy enough that it is almost impossible to mess up.
It took me almost an hour to get set up with my Pebble. I think that this should have been closer to ten minutes. I don’t know why exactly it took me so long. The app on my phone crashed a couple of times, and I got into a weird state where the phone said that the Pebble was connected, but the Pebble said it was not. I had to look online for help and reboot the watch a few times.
Being a developer myself, I understand that it is very hard to have a product that “just works”. The Pebble supports connecting with so many different Android and iPhone devices, multiplied by the countless number of operating systems that they could be running on. I’ll give Pebble the benefit of the doubt and assume that my experience was worse than the “average” onboarding experience.
I could not get over the discomfort of wearing the smartwatch. I was a regular watch-wearer up until a couple years ago, so it’s not that I wasn’t used to wearing a watch at all; I just wasn’t used to wearing a watch that was so big. The flat, rectangular watch face was much too bulky for my wrist. That day, I happened to go shopping where I tried on a couple different shirts. Each time I put on or took off a shirt, the watch got caught in the sleeve. The only way to fix this problem would be make the watch face smaller; but that would make the already limited screen even smaller, so that is not a feasible solution.
Set-up is just a one time hurdle, and the discomfort is maybe something I could have gotten used to. But ultimately, I would wear the watch if the benefits I gained outweighed the disadvantages. After 12 hours, I realized that I gained zero benefits from the watch.
So I ask the question: Why do people wear smartwatches?
Well, there are many fancy things you can do with a smartwatch. You can play games, you can search for nearby restaurants, it can track your exercise, and you might even be able to make payments through it. However, the main feature of the smartwatch, the reason why 90% of users wear them, is the notifications. (This is an arbitrary stat that I made up. I’m 46% confident that it’s correct.)
The watch gives you a buzz every time you get a notification on your phone. The benefits of this feature are mainly dependent on the following:
1) Where you normally keep your phone.
2) Whether you normally put your phone on vibrate or not.
3) How often you get urgent messages/calls.
1) I normally leave my phone in my pocket, which means that I can feel vibrates from my phone, without the need for a watch. In fact, having the watch made checking for notifications more annoying.
Checking a notification from my watch on my wrist rather than from the phone in my pocket saved me around half a second of time. However, the problem was that if I wanted to do anything about that notification, I had to take out my phone to do it. I kept getting notified on my watch that I got a new Facebook message or a Snapchat, but then I subsequently had to take out my phone to reply to that message or view the snap. So ultimately, it cost me more time having two devices to check for notifications instead of one.
2/3) I think I am in the minority in this aspect, but I always have my phone on silent. This actually makes me miss 50% of all phone calls I receive; however, I only get one call per month on average, and 99% of those calls are not urgent, so this has a negligible effect on my life. I do not like constantly getting vibrates on my phone, so it makes zero sense for me that I should get a smartwatch. I like to check my emails and messages when I want to check them, and getting more real-time notifications on the watch will make me more obsessed with social media than I already am. If you are the type of person who wants to respond to messages and phone calls right away, then I think the smartwatch makes more sense.
My experience and opinions are very biased, and I acknowledge that there are probably a ton of things that I could have done or could do in the future to have a more pleasant experience. But ultimately, it is the core functionality of the smartwatch that I currently have no use for, and therefore I will not be needing one in the near future.