For the past year, I’ve noticed more and more moments that I wish I had a smart watch. I have followed MetaWatch and Pebble from their inceptions but always held off to see how well they really worked. Initial reviews showed they had limited features and poor integration, and rumors have been flying for months that Apple has it’s own iWatch on the way that would certainly do a better job.
After this fall’s set of Apple announcements failed to produce a watch (and I think I know why), I finally decided to give in. I decided to go with a used watch off eBay to save some money, especially in case Apple surprised us sooner than later. While Pebble is the more popular pick with its endlessly interchangeable watch faces, I went with a MetaWatch Frame, and so far I have been mostly happy with it.
I want a watch to simply be a notification extension for my phone. With a quick glance while walking, driving, or during a meeting, I can easily see if I just received an important email or just some status update. Important news alert or spam. Event reminder or text message. I don’t need or want it to do much else, and certainly don’t want battery life wasted to do the extra bells and whistles. While the Pebble only supported email (with its own mail client), Metawatch sent me an email months ago saying it supported ALL notification center alerts immediately with iOS 7, and it does so perfectly. Furthermore, the Frame is a much nicer metal with glass, not plastic case and screen like the others. It is also the thinnest, and lasts more the five days on a charge.
In fact I find I no longer miss calls and messages because while I sometimes don’t feel the phone vibrating, there is no missing the watch buzzing on my wrist. It’s not rude to quickly glance at your watch during a conversation or meeting. And frankly I love the classic low-res screen with perfect pixel fonts and Susan Kare icons. While there are many choices for layout positions, unfortunately they only offer the one watch face.
But I think I know why Apple hasn’t announced a watch yet. Everyone thinks it’s the watch’s limited battery life. That’s not a problem at all, and apple conquered that long ago with he iPod shuffle. No, the problem is the iPhone’s battery life! Despite using Bluetooth Low Energy, the phone is down 50% by mid-afternoon on a work day, where it might normally be at 85%. Not a problem during normal days when I can top it off, but no good for those longer days or traveling.
So I love the watch for workdays and my usual schedules, but there are plenty of improvements needed. I still think Apple will appease us geeks with a more perfect watch sooner or later, and I’ll be first in line for it.