Business Today

Wristful Thinking

A bevy of smartwatches in the market promises to make your life easier - whether at your desk or on the treadmill. Read on to know if you should buy one.
By Nidhi Singal   Delhi     Print Edition: June 19, 2016

Since the advent of wearables, smartwatches have been the talk of the town. In the early days, big and small technology companies - be it Samsung or Pebble - tried their hand at smartwatches, with scant success. The first generation of smartwatches ended up being gimmicky as the functionality was limited. Apple, too, was expected to launch one for a long time, but did so only in 2015.

Although a relatively new category, the second generation of smartwatches comprising Apple Watch, Moto 360 2nd gen, Samsung Gear S2 and Pebble Time are garnering success, but are yet to go mainstream. Users are often heard lamenting about these being too complicated and merely duplicating their smartphone's content. In lieu of this, companies are designing applications especially for these watches and emphasis is being given to the operating system, too. Perhaps, 'smartwatches' is an idea whose time has come!

Here's a low-down on what you can expect from smartwatches, should you choose to buy one:

Productivity

Smartwatches are designed to enhance productivity and save time. What looks like a fancy piece of technology sitting on your wrist actually features a host of special apps designed to make your work life easier - whether you are using an Apple Watch, Android Wear or Samsung Gear S2 (Tizen OS). For instance, Evernote, the most popular note-taking app, is available on Apple Watch and Android Wear watches. It takes notes over voice dictation and is handy to capture quick thoughts at the press of a button. The reminders set on the phone or desktop appear on the watch at the stipulated time. Fantastical 2 is an excellent natural language calendar companion app that works on the iPhone as well as Apple Watch, allowing you to add appointments directly on the watch, eliminating the need to even touch your iPhone. It can even process date and time. Wunderlist is a simple and effective list-making app available for Android Wear, useful to make lists, set reminders, programme notification and even access it all through voice. Google Maps can be accessed for directions between home, office and other locations on both Android Wear watches and the Apple Watch. There are numerous apps that allow you to keep a tab on stock prices and dollar-INR conversion rate, access translation, voice recording, calculations and more - all from the watch face.

Mirroring

Smartwatches are an extension of our smartphones. When paired with a smartphone over Bluetooth and apps, smartwatches can fetch notifications from your phone, eliminating the need to take your phone out of the pocket. It displays every incoming call, which you can accept or reject from the watch itself. But to speak to the caller, you will have to either pick up your phone or rely on a Bluetooth headset. You can add your favourite contacts on the watch for quick dialling. Smartwatches fetch notifications for incoming messages, e-mails, WhatsApp, tweets and more. You can even customise the face of the watch. On Apple Watch, you can choose the face and add the apps for which you wish to receive notification - such as activity stats, water reminder, date, time, battery percentage and voice recorder, among others. Other apps can be accessed by pressing the crown of the watch. Google, too, is incorporating this feature of customising app access on the watch face itself with its next OS update, Android Wear 2.0.

Fitness

Fitness bands have become quite a rage with their ability to measure step count and sleep cycles. Now, smartwatches have gone several steps ahead by incorporating sensors to track further details, more accurately. For instance, a heart rate monitor on a smartwatch can measure heart rate throughout the day, during a workout and even when you are stationary. It even helps in accurately calculating the calories burnt during a workout. There are special fitness apps that remind you to consume water every hour to stay hydrated (WaterMinder for Apple Watch) and eat meals at regular intervals. The Activity app on Apple Watch allows you to set goals and reminds you to stand for a minute every hour. When the watch vibrates to notify you, it is hard to ignore. Then there are certain watches that are focused on fitness and less on extending smartphone functionality. The Fitbit Blaze smartwatch, for instance, specialises in fitness tracking and only fetches call, messages and calendar notifications. It can track steps, distance, calories burnt, floors climbed and active minutes. It also has GPS connected to map your routes and record running stats, like pace and duration, on display when your phone is nearby. Garmin's TomTom, however, doesn't get into fetching notifications from smartphones. It focuses purely on fitness activities.

Fashion statement

Smartwatches are increasingly being worn as an accessory, thanks to their good looks and design. Most smartwatches today have changeable watch straps that can be used to match your attire. Most companies are keeping it simple by incorporating watch bands that can be replaced by anyone at home in just a few seconds. They come in all forms - rubber straps, silicon straps, metallic bands and more. The range of bands available for the Apple Watch is the largest - from bands ranging from `5,000 for a silicon strap to link brackets costing over `30,000 ($499). French luxury products company Herm├Ęs also offers leather bands. Watch bands are also available for other smartwatches, but the range is not as extensive. Some of them offer bands in different sizes to suit men and women.

Smartwatches are addictive. Once you get used to accessing notifications on the watch, you will not feel the need to pick up your phone on every notification alert. A quick glance at the watch lets you stay updated on matters related to work, health and fun.

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