Google got the smartwatch right

These days I keep hearing about how the interest in the Apple Watch is waning, not just from consumers but also from developers. After the initial rush, it seems things have gone rather quiet on the development side, which might not be surprising as it is related to the general enthusiasm in the product itself.

After watchOS 2, one would think things would be looking up for the Apple Watch. But turns out the first version left a bad taste in the mouth for a lot of users, many of whom would have noticed just how slow the apps were to load before native apps came along.

The thing is, one would assume being the last to the smartwatch game, Apple would get it right, as it usually does. The Apple’s implementation would be the best and the company would once again show everyone how it’s done. But turns out, it didn’t. But you know who did? Google. 

Android Wear had a good lead over the Apple Watch but it never quite saw the same developer enthusiasm that Apple Watch did. I’m sure there are still more people interested in developing apps for the Apple Watch than there ever were for Android Wear. Add to the that a relatively lackluster collection of initial devices and Android Wear never really could show its true potential, which is unfortunate, because Google truly did get a lot of things right, better than even Apple.

For one, the apps work better (all four of them). Compatible apps would install a component on the watch itself, which meant the apps were always running natively and there was never any delay in opening them. Why Apple didn’t have this from Day 1 is anybody’s guess, especially since Google had already done it. Not to mention Pebble that came even before.

Second, the interface is substantially better. It baffles me how much of a clusterfuck the Apple Watch interface is, and that something so messed up could have come from Apple. The company that prides itself in simplifying things thought it was a good idea to basically have the equivalent of an entire phone OS running on a tiny watch display, with a myriad of gestures to remember that most people wouldn’t even know about to begin with. Android Wear on the other hand has always been dead simple, and subsequent updates have only made it better. It doesn’t feel like you’re using Android on your watch. It feels simple and elegant and there are only really a couple of gestures to remember, which are explained immediately after you setup your watch. It doesn’t have buttons and dials and whatnot because it doesn’t need them. The touchscreen is enough to navigate all the functions. And there aren’t a lot of them, because at the end of the day, it’s a watch, not the phone and it doesn’t need to do everything your phone does, like phone calls. And what the shit is up with that heartbeat and drawing nonsense on the Apple Watch?

Third is an always-on display. Apple packed so much into the Apple Watch, there was no space left for a big enough battery. The result? The display cannot be on all the time, even though it’s an OLED panel that wouldn’t consume a lot of power if it kept the relevant pixels on. My first generation LG G Watch lasts 2-3 days with always-on display. The Apple Watch will go a day and a half at most. Always-on display is convenient. You don’t have to do anything to wake up the screen, not even that tiny flick of the wrist. You can just glance down and see the time. Just like you would with a regular watch.

Speaking of seeing time, Android Wear also had support for custom watch faces from Day 1. This is another thing that confuses me about the Apple Watch, and why Apple refuses to open up the watch faces to developers. All they added in watchOS 2 is custom complications, which is okay but got nothing on an actual custom watch faces.

It’s a shame developers didn’t take to Android Wear the way they did with Apple Watch. Twitter had an app for Apple Watch on day of the launch. There is still no Twitter app for Android Wear. Same goes for Facebook and Instagram. This despite the fact that Apple clearly pushed out a substandard offering, which in spite of being last to the game still felt like a rushed job. Unfortunately, it’s also the best selling smartwatch of all time, and if people are losing interest in the Apple Watch, they might be losing interest in smartwatches altogether. Which sucks, because I think they are quite useful and definitely deserve to be around. Let’s hope Apple didn’t kill off an entire segment by releasing a shitty product.