by Swapnil Bhartiya

Do you need a smartwatch? The wrong answer is no!

May 29, 20157 mins
LinuxOpen Source

Once you start using a smartwatch you will discover all the things you never needed.

Like many, if not most, Linux users, I love technology. That’s one of the many reasons we use Linux and not one of those other operating systems. This love of technology also tends to make us early adopters. I buy (maybe too many) new gadgets, as soon as they are out. The only condition is that there must be some use for it; I don’t buy stuff because of loyalty towards a certain company.

Which brings me to smartwatches. When they started coming out, long before Apple tried to make them mainstream, I was not terribly interested in them. I didn’t see them solving any problem, instead they were looking for one.

But when LG announced the LG Urbane Watch I caved in. The watch was pretty damn close to my Seiko. There was no bezel so it didn’t look like a mini tablet strapped to my wrist. That watch got me hooked to smartwatches.

I used it for a week, but was disappointed in it and sent it back.The disappointment had more to do with that particular watch than with smartwatches in general. At the price of $366, the watch was not delivering what I expected it to.

This week when Motorola slashed the price of the Moto 360 (as I believe Moto 360 2 is in works), I grabbed the opportunity and purchased one. $158 (including tax and shipping from China) was not a bad price to get almost the same features that the LG Urbane offered.

We don’t need no smartwatches!

(To be sung to the tune of The Wall by Pink Floyd.)

I had some interaction with fellow Linux users on my private Google+ page and they believe that these watches make things worse. Here’s one such observation made by a commenter who shall remain nameless:

Some observations from daily life:

~8 years ago those who were watching their watches every 10 minutes, switched to checking their phones every 5 minutes (no matter whether notifications drew their attention or not). Now they’re back to their watches, checking what’s going on on their phone almost continuously. #progress

Is that true? Are smartwatches a solution in search of a problem to solve? There might be a general repulsion from some people towards smartwatches, but the fact is technology is becoming ubiquitous. Wearable technology, implanted technology is the future whether we like it or not.

We have switched a lot of tasks that we had to do from our PCs to smartphones. The benefit: We aren’t tied to our PCs (or landline phones, for that matter). We can move to the living room, to the patio, to the pool or garden without having to worry about missing an important communication.

I call that progress.

Where the watch fits in my life

I spend 90% of my computing time on my desktop PC, running Linux. Most of this time is invested in researching, reading, learning, and creating. In my case every email, every message, every notification from Google+, Tweetdeck, Facebook is a distraction. Once I open my G+, I will be scrolling through the posts for hours (or what seems like hours in lost productivity). I actually waste a lot of time on unnecessary stuff because of notifications.

This has changed with the watch. I actually look at my watch less than I used to look at my phone.

First of all the watch is strapped to my wrist so I don’t have to stop doing what I am doing to check that notification. Just a turn of my wrist and a quick peek is enough to know whether it needs my immediate attention or not. No interruption in the train of thought, no need for my fingers to leave what they were doing. The work resumes as if nothing happened.

I have a Nexus 7, Nexus 6, iPad Air, MacBook Pro, and 2 PCs in my office. I enabled notifications on these devices because I was not certain which device I would be working on at any given time and I didn’t want to miss anything important — imagine the noise! It was also painstaking to customize notifications on each device, or keep turning them on or off. For example I want notifications from Facebook on my desktops (I have not allowed the Facebook app on my mobile devices) because that’s how I get updates from my family.

Once I got the smartwatch, I turned notifications off on all other devices. It doesn’t really matter which device I would be using at any given time because my watch is with me all the time. Now only my watch is allowed to buzz.

I have configured which apps are allowed to send notifications and I can further fine tune them by switching between all, priority or none. The watch has reduced all that noise from around me while ensuring that I won’t miss anything important.

And since the watch is strapped to my wrist I don’t have to carry my Nexus 6 around. I know won’t miss a call, or a message. Since I work from home it was annoying to pick my phone everytime I leave my desk of office. (If you work from home you know how frequent that is.) I actually used to miss many calls prior to getting the smartwatch because I left my phone at the desk in vibration mode and could not hear it; or could not feel the vibration as it was stuck in my pocket.

A cure for distraction

Another productivity enhancing feature of smartwatches is the small screen. There is not much you can do beyond checking that message or getting a glimpse of a website.

I am actually spending less time looking at my watch than I used to waste in picking up my phone and checking my messages. Or being distracted by a post on Facebook or Google+ that will send you to an interesting website. Scrolls, scrolls and more scrolls. Skimming the web.

Now I am checking my watch *only* when there is something that needs to be checked.

The test

I ran a test to see how many notifications I would receive in the time it took me to write this story. I enabled notifications on my Macbook, iPad and the phone (the setup I had before getting my watch). I did turn the volume down so I couldn’t hear them. Once I finished the first draft of the story I checked my devices. I got around 20 G+ notifications, over 45 email (work, personal and newsletters), 10 chat messages, 30 Facebook notifications, and around 30 Tweetdeck notifications.

Imagine what reacting to any one of those notifications would have done to my productivity. It would have taken many times longer to finish this story than it did without those notifications. But didn’t I miss anything important? No, because I was wearing my watch, fine tuned for Priority notifications.

moto 360 Swapnil Bhartiya

I can even view the pictures my wife sent me of my son playing, without lifting my fingers from the keyboard.

My smartwatch buzzed me more or less ten times during this period and it was mostly messages from my wife and 2 important emails. And none of the 10 vibrations on my watch stopped me from working on the story. I glanced at them and resumed work.

I still don’t know if smartwatches truly solve any problems. I don’t even know if notifications are truly a problem. What I do know is that they remove a layer of distraction that stands between me and my productivity.

I have started to love my Moto 360. Because the more I use it the less I am using it!