Entropy Chatter.

Switching from Apple Watch to Android Wear

[fa icon="calendar"] 16-Nov-2015 12:37:40 / by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie Vassallo

So if you've been keeping up with our latest 'Chatter' here at Entropy, you know I've made the rather shocking move from my trusty iPhone 6s Plus to a BlackBerry Priv, the latest handset from the floundering Waterloo-based smartphone manufacturer featuring a full sliding keyboard and Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. This move was always meant to be temporary as we often try and 'field test' any new major new smartphone form factors (and boy does the Priv fit into that scenario!) to ensure our apps look and feel great - but frankly I would be lying if I said that was the only reason I swap out my SIM card on a fairly regular basis.

That shiny new toy thing has just never abated, I'm afraid...

So while I have moved back and forth between iOS and Android fairly regularly the past few years, this move has been a lot more complex as I have been a devoted Apple Watch user since its release in late April. Actually to be fair, I've been more of an Apple Watch evangelist since that time - constantly giving demos and making arguments for the need and utility of Apple's take on the smartwatch. 

That said, Apple Watch was only the latest in a slew of smartwatches I've used and road tested the past 18 months or so. It all started withe Pebble back in 2013, moved into Android Wear in early 2014 with the Gear Live, pivoted to Tizen with the Gear Fit and Gear S late last year, and ended a few weeks before the Apple Watch release with the LG G-Watch R and Moto 360 (2014 Edition).

So you could say, I've been around the block with this smartwatch thing.

So switching (back) to Android last week meant leaving the Apple Watch sadly behind. God forbid I leave the house without a smart wearable on my wrist, so I thought this would be a fine time to check in on Android Wear and try out the updated (2015 Edition) of the Moto 360.

And the early reports are - I'm mightily impressed.

While there are plenty of review sites (and YouTube videos) comparing the Apple Watch and Moto 360, I won't get into technical specs and all that pedantic spec sheet stuff here. Rather, I'll just tell you what I've found in a week moving from the Apple Watch to Android Wear.

Oh, and if you want to see the nitty gritty of Android Wear vs Apple Watch, check out the video below:

So the first thing I'll say is - Android Wear is absolutely at parity with the Apple Watch for most daily requirements of a smartwatch. And frankly, I'm really surprised to discover that. Having used the Apple Watch exclusively for the past 6 months I've come to expect Android Wear to just be...well...way behind Apple Watch in terms of features, apps, user experience and smartphone integration. But boy, was I wrong. 

In fact, the Moto 360 (2015 Edition, mind you) is actually a smoother experience in terms of software and overall speed and performance compared to the Apple Watch. Perhaps it's the jump Android Wear had on Apple in terms of software updates and live field testing, but the latest iteration of Android Wear just seems snappier in every way. From launching 3rd party apps to scrolling through notifications, to taking action on alerts - the Moto 360 is buttery smooth. 

It's really difficult to compare the contrasting Operating Systems as they really handle the smartwatch 'paradigm' completely differently. While Apple Watch is going for the 'independant, autonomous device' approach, Android Wear is squarely focused on complimenting your smartphone with timely alerts and quick actions. But I have to say, given the state of smartwatch apps at the moment, I think the Android Wear approach makes a lot more sense - at least in the short-term. 

In fact, since the release of watchOS 2.0 for the Apple Watch in September, few app developers have really taken advantage of the the ability to run native apps fully on the smartwatch itself. It's really sad that most apps still use the (now outdated and relatively painful) Apple Watchkit style app - meaning ridiculous loading times, buggy and laggy app navigation, and all together weak and very non-Apple software experiences. 

The one saving grace is that a handful of developers have developed watchOS 2.0 complications - small watch face widgets - that allow the apps to provide small bits of information directly on the watch face.

But hold on, Android Wear has this, too! And I was (again) surprised to see that I could quickly set up a few key complications on my Moto 360 (including quick links to my to-do app, weather updates, and pedometer readings.  

What's more, launching 3rd party apps is miles easier on Android Wear - as the 'broken' desktop icon interface of the Apple Watch still makes it next to impossible to find the app you need (much less tap it accurately given the small icon size). 

Sure there's no digital crown or 'glances' on Android Wear (the 'swipe up' information tiles that app developers can use to provide a quick snapshot of app info or status). But honestly, I never used either of those things anyway. I also haven't sent my heartbeat or a tiny sketch to someone since the first day I unwrapped the Apple Watch - as it's simply not useful.  I have no doubt these features will evolve, so it's difficult to be harsh, but as it stands the 'extras' that come along with the Apple Watch experience (digital crown, intimate messaging via touch and heartbeats, glances, and even Force Touch) seem more gimmicks than actual day-to-day necessities. 

Android Wear on the other hand is just (to steal an Apple phrase) unashamedly simple. It provides lovely notifications, allows you to set watch complications, and installs (and runs!) 3rd party apps lickety-split, 

It's not all roses and unicorns in Android Wear-land however. Looking at hardware quality, no one can touch Apple for build tolerance, polish, and overall look. It would be insane to state otherwise. And for those out there who say the LG Watch Urbane is an attractive smartwatch, they simply need to crawl back to their 'lovely' Samsung phones and leave design decisions to the team in Cupertino. 

But I also have to say I really like the design language of the Moto 360. The circular design is a fresh approach (though let's not talk about the 'flat tire' at the bottom) and I feel less like I'm wearing a computer and more like a real watch, which I find refreshing.

In the end, I have no doubt the Apple Watch will mature (as Android Wear has) and ultimately blossom into perhaps the defacto smartwatch platform - especially given the potential of native apps and the unique input options Apple brings to the table.

But for now, I just don't see it that way. For me, Android Wear is a worthy replacement for my Apple Watch - and in many ways, is just much more 'fun' to use. 

So of all the 'pain' I expected from my migration between iOS and Android, the one I expected to be the be the most profound was actually a non-issue. In fact, I'm in absolutely no hurry to jump back to Apple Watch.

Well, at least until my transient smartphone habits compel me to return.




Topics: Android, iOS

Eddie Vassallo

Written by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie is Founder & CEO of Entropy, former Head of Mobile for Discovery Channel, regular Guest Contributor on GigaOm and has been featured on Daring Fireball, CNN, and Strategy Eye.