Aug 14 AT 9:23 AM Brooks Barnard 11 Comments

What’s Android Wear actually good for?

Android Wear Feature

I’ve read in more than one place that Android wear is just an extension of your phone or just Google Now on your wrist. It’s just a way to not have to pull your phone out of your pocket as much. Android Wear does do these things, but I think it’s much more. Maybe we are obsessed with our phones and maybe we are pulling them out of our pockets an outrageous number of times per day, but I’ve never counted nor cared how many times I’ve pulled out my phone. However, smartwatches do offer more than saving you a little arm overuse. Do they offer enough extra functionality that I think everyone should go buy one now? No. But I know your phone does not “already do everything” you can do with a smartwatch. So let’s all stop saying that.

I’ve now had the LG G Watch for a month and it’s definitely left some impressions. Some good. Some bad. Additionally, I wore a Pebble smartwatch every day for over a year before the G Watch. I like what a smartwatch does for me. For those of you that have no idea how you’d use a smartwatch, I thought I’d tell you how I use mine. I’m not saying this is exactly how you would use it, but here are some ways I enjoy wearing a smartwatch, and more specifically, Android Wear.

In the Car

Android Wear 5I’ve felt for a long time that Android needed better hands free functionality. It’s definitely getting better with some recent Google Now updates, but unless you own a Moto X, your phone isn’t “always listening”. In reality, Android Wear also isn’t “always listening”. However, what Android Wear can be is “always on your wrist and ready to listen”. With your phone, when you’re driving you will likely have to take your concentration off the road for a moment or two to find, pick up, unlock, and use Google Now or do whatever. With Android Wear, you know exactly where your watch is; it’s on your wrist. All it takes is a simple twist of the wrist to wake up Android Wear and it’s ready for action waiting for voice input. I use Android Wear in the car all the time to start navigation, open apps on the phone (podcast, Spotify, etc.), send text messages, and initiate phone calls. All this without having to fumble to find my phone and take my eyes off of the road.

In a meeting

Android Wear 1Now, it’s arguable that it’s just as poor of meeting etiquette to be fiddling with your watch during a presentation as it is to be fiddling with your phone. But Android Wear does offer quick responses to SMS and rejected phone calls. No, you don’t need to voice activate and speak to use these quick responses. Android wear has a list of responses that are quick and easy to use to let your friend or loved one know that you’re there and that you care. You’re not ignoring them. You’re just in a place where it’s inappropriate to pull out your phone and answer or text back.

In the home

Android Wear 4What? Who’s too lazy to pull out the phone at home? Not me. But I do use Android Wear all the time at home. I, like many Android users out there, have a phone (Nexus 5) with less than ideal battery life. So, one of the first things I typically do when I get home is throw my phone on a charger. Now, with Android Wear it doesn’t matter where I am in the house or where my phone is, I’ll know if I’ve received a text (and can respond) or if I’m receiving a phone call. I can set timers when I’m cooking and my hands are messy. I can check the weather or the commute times while I’m getting ready in the morning. All with my phone out of reach or on the charger. It’s about always being connected.

Home automation

I admit I’m a huge nerd, and I’ll probably get burned for calling this hackery, but I really enjoy being able to control things from other things. Maybe it’s laziness, or maybe it stems from elsewhere, but I like being able to control things around the house with my watch. Using AutoVoice Pro in conjunction with Tasker, you can get your watch to control all sorts of things just by talking to it. Examples could be toggling your phone’s Wi-Fi, controlling your Nest thermostat, or turning on and off lights. I enjoy getting it all rigged up and I really geek out on controlling everything from my watch.

These are some of the biggest things that I use my LG G Watch and Android Wear for. Do I think Android Wear is for everyone? Is it something you can’t live without? No, it’s not. But I do think it’s something that can be very convenient (and may improve safety) in special situations. Also, it’s dang fun to use. What do you think about yours? What are the most important ways you’re using your Android Wear watch? How would you use it if you had one? Or how do you wish it could be used? Drop a comment down below!

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours Android modding and theming. He has a hot wife, is a father of three, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 6 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms and may or may not be rooted. You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

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  • T. Allen

    It’s interesting how you’ve mentioned home automation as a benefit of Android Wear devices. I’ve never really thought about that aspect since I’ve reviewed smartwatches like the LG G Watch on my blog.Here’s the link to my review if you’d like to check out my thoughts on the LG wearable:

    • Richard Yarrell

      Truthfully I see android wear as a total bore a total reflection of stock android which is dull, and drastically uneventful.

      The Galaxy Gear products kick the Smartwatch industry into another gear especially with the Galaxy Gear 2 Solo on the way.

      The Galaxy Gear 2 Solo is not a silly Smartwatch notifications device it’s a Wrist communicator independent of a smartphone.

      Android Wear means nothing substantial.

      • Brooks Barnard

        Tell Samsung to stop making their watches exclusive to their phones. I’m never going to purchase a Galaxy Gear watch because I don’t want to use a Samsung phone. Plus, Samsung has had a little bit more time to mature their product compared to Android Wear. I’m really excited for Google to release all their APIs for Android Wear. I think things will get super exciting real quick.

  • Juan Amaya

    I had the Pebble for 8 months and now I’m wearing Samsung Galaxy gear 2 which is awesome with my s5. 1st off the biggest thing I love about my gear 2 is while I’m driving I literally have hands free phone call. I accept or reject calls thru my voice, recieve and send text, open apps thru my gear 2 or get my navigation directions on my gear 2. There’s awesome games such as Tetris, pac man, solitaire that I play on a cigarette break. I love recieving all my notifications to my wrist cause I never miss a thing. Oh and I love how I can customize my gear 2 with different bands and skins.

    • Richard Yarrell

      The Galaxy Gear 2 is currently the BEST legitimate Smartwatch on the market today.

      When the Galaxy Gear 2 Solo arrives with the Galaxy Note 4 it ushers in the independent Wrist watch communicator and it’s mines on day one of launch for the Galaxy Note 4.

      Enjoy you’re Galaxy Gear 2 it’s a wonderful product.

  • Thomas Sim

    I believe it’s like smartphone, years ago people deny the needs to smartphone but now everyone must have one. I think the same with smart watch.
    Rocking pebble smart watch, I admit I will never go back to traditional watch, even if battery life last whole year. It’s just simply a revolution of watch that you can’t stop.

  • Todd

    I have been an iPhone/pebble user for about a year. I just moved to an HTC one M8 and am wondering I would get more use out of the android wear. I am as geeky as they come, everything in your article seems like I would use it.

    Is it worth changing?

  • Chuck

    Finally! A tech writer who understands tech.

  • Monk

    I used a Pebble for almost a year and a Samsung gear live since a month. My note 3 battery now last for almost 3 days (more than my android wear… ;)
    Apart from the article, I like that almost every day there is a new interesting app for wear. Examples of apps I use are :
    * wear mini launcher. Yes, a launcher that you can open with a gesture. In some situations it look silly to talk to your watch to start an app…
    * poket calculator app. Being a engineer that was a kid in the 80s make it a must have to me. My first geek watch was a casio calculator watch.
    *pictogram streams video from the cameras in your phone to your watch even when it’s off and you can take a picture or record remotely without anyone noticing.
    * browser is a Web browser for your watch. Useful in sites where phones are forbidden…
    * mini maps shows a Map with your location in your watch and the streets names near by . Useful in places where is dangerous to use your phone (I live in South America). The same for the built in music control to change tracks without using the phone.
    *wearable widgets, to stream any Android widget to your watch.

    And then you have ever note, calendar, keep, fit, runtastic, ifttt, birdie wear (floppy bird clone)

    • Todd

      Wow there seems to be way more I can do then change watch faces on my pebble.

      Might have to get one of.these.

  • Phil

    I feel naked now without my smartwatch (I have a Samsung Gear Live, and a Pebble before that), just like how I felt naked without my smart phone…

    I use it for a lot of the same things you mentioned in your article – checking and responding to SMS when pulling out your phone isn’t appropriate as well as around the house while the phone is charging, checking my notifications and quickly triaging them (including emails).

    I love using my watch to check the weather in my current location, checking my upcoming appointments, setting timers and alarms, setting reminders for myself (to take out the trash later for example, and now I actually listen versus just dismissing the notification on my phone).

    I also love using Glympse. If I’m meeting someone, whether for a business / work meeting or just catching up with my wife when either of us go out for a walk with the kids, I just send out a Glympse to let them know where I’m at so they can find me (or let them know where I am if I’m running late or on my way to meet them). It’s so quick and easy to use with Android Wear, versus pulling the phone out of my pocket, unlocking it, navigating to the app, and then sending the Glympse.

    In fact most of the things I do with my watch (checking calendar appointments, sending SMS messages, etc) is way faster using the smartwatch for the same reasons above – I don’t have to dig the phone out of my pocket, unlock it, find the app, open the app, complete whatever action, put the phone back in my pocket. Instead, I basically just lift the watch up, speak the action, potentially do a swipe or tap or two and then it’s done.

    The smartwatch doesn’t do everything, but the funny thing is, I only really find myself pulling out my phone for time wasters (playing games, browsing Facebook timeline, reading news, etc)