Smartwatches may be superfluous to you, but not to everyone

BY Rita El Khoury

Published 17 Jul 2014


Every time I write or read an article about smartwatches, there’s a legion of commenters that always discredits the need and usefulness of such gadgets. “Another screen on your wrist? Because you can’t take your phone out of your pocket?” “It’s just tech for the sake of tech, isn’t it?” Yes, to a certain degree, it is. But there’s a real argument to be had in favor of smartwatches and their usefulness. And it starts with me, or people like me.

Beside being the editor of AndroidBeat and an avid mobile enthusiast, I am also a pharmacist — I know. My average day, Monday to Saturday, includes working 10+ hours at my pharmacy, driving about 90 minutes, and swimming or running. My Sundays are spent swimming and walking during the summer, or hiking in the spring and autumn.

I listen to podcasts several hours every day, I am always communicating with my friends and my colleagues on the AndroidBeat team, and I never really know when a patient is going to walk into the pharmacy, requiring my undivided attention. I succeed, on most days, at juggling everything with ease and grace, but there is always the odd time when I forget to silence my phone and it starts beeping uncontrollably while a patient is trying to talk to me, among other snafus.

I have always wanted a better, handier, way to manage things, “all the things” in my life. Manage the music when I run, the track when I hike, the podcast when I drive, the calls and messages when I work. You could say that Android Wear was almost made for me, or at least with people like me in mind.

I didn’t buy a Pebble, always feeling that there was something missing from the platform, not knowing what that was exactly. Then Android Wear was announced and I realized it was voice, voice controls specifically, and a way to send things other than canned messages or click preset buttons. A way to do more. 

I received my LG G Watch today and I am in love. Wear is everything I expected it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t earth-shattering, but it has quickly become the thread that holds my digital life together, and the best part about it is that it disappears into a regular watch when there is nothing to be acted on. That’s minimal friction.

At work, I can leave my phone on its dock, silent, and get notified via vibrations of new emails, messages, and calls. If they need to be acted on and I am not busy with a patient, I can do that. But if I am with a patient, I just feel a little vibration and don’t get distracted by loud notification sounds. I can also control iTunes on my iMac through the watch, pausing the music when patients come in. I also installed Wear Aware which notifies me when I leave my phone behind, a handy feature when I’m closing the pharmacy and heading home.

Controlling iTunes on the Mac through the watch

Controlling iTunes on the Mac through the watch

When walking, running, driving, the controls of my music or podcast apps appear on the watch so I can pause, skip, or repeat as needed without having to unlock the phone. I even installed musicXmatch on the G Watch, which only appears when music is playing and lets me read the lyrics in sync — English is only my third language, so I need some help getting the right lyrics sometimes.


musicXmatch displays the currently playing song’s lyrics on the G Watch

And I can’t wait to see how useful the G Watch is during a hike with Runtastic, or when I travel to London next month and Google Now kicks in high gear for public transport and travel-related cards.

Could I live without Android Wear or the G Watch? I most certainly could, and I did for a long time. But there’s a convenience — and admittedly coolness — factor that grows exponentially the more I use it. I may be one extreme use case (cases?) scenario, but there must be other people like me for whom a smartwatch will make a lot of sense.