Call me crazy, but I’m warming to the smartwatch concept

From the thumbs-down I handed out to a Microsoft “SPOT Watch” in 2004 to last year’s “try again” dismissal of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, I have not looked too favorably on the idea of wearing a smartwatch with a data stream of its own.

Android Wear watchBut now that I’m wearing yet another one of these devices, the Samsung Gear Live loaned to me at Google I/O, I find myself thinking of reasons why I’ll miss this thing when I have to send it back to Google PR.

Here’s the key thing it does right: provide a no-hands-required external display for my phone’s notifications list. If I’m cooking, gardening, biking or holding my daughter’s hand as we cross the street, I often have no ready way to get at the phone and so can only wonder if the beep or buzz of a notification is something I need to check or not.

Now I can see for myself. In some cases, I can dictate a reply by voice, but I’ve only done that once or twice; just knowing if what’s new on my phone is important enough to require taking it out of my pocket is good enough.

(I have, however, been surprised by how often I’ve leaned on Android Wear’s voice control while grilling: “OK Google, set a timer for five minutes.”)

Android Wear’s unavoidable updates are not always advantageous. As I noted in a Yahoo Tech column, I did not need or appreciate having the watch light up to alert me of a new e-mail (of course, spam) as I was putting our daughter to bed.

And that’s where Google could do a better job. Gmail has multiple ways to prioritize your e-mail–starring messages, marking conversations as important, displaying them in the “Primary” inbox tab–but none of them seem to inform what pops up on an Android Wear watch’s screen.

Should Apple surprise absolutely nobody by introducing an “iWatch” next month, I trust that such a timepiece will have an option to only notify you of new mail from people on your “VIP” list.

I also expect that any Apple smartwatch will be thinner than the Gear Live–which at roughly 3/8th of an inch thick, itself represents a welcome advance over the nearly half-inch thick Galaxy Gear and the 3/4-inch thick Microsoft-powered Suunto I hated in 2004.

That, in turn, should push the next Android Wear–or Pebble smartwatch, another promising contender–to get smarter and sleeker. And with these things costing $200 and change, that may be enough to get me to buy. And then you all can point and laugh at the nerd who decided he had to walk around with not one but two interactive gadgets.

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Weekly output: LG Optimus F3, Samsung Ativ S Neo, Galaxy Gear (x2), piracy, e-books, iOS 7 on an iPhone 4, apps near me

Courtesy of a few stories I’d written earlier all getting published in in the same 30-hour period, Monday and Tuesday had me looking vastly more productive than I normally am.

9/30/2013: LG Optimus F3 (T-Mobile), PCMag.com

This compact Android phone had some terrific battery life, but LG’s questionable additions to the stock interface were an especially poor fit on its smaller screen.

9/30/2013: Samsung Ativ S Neo (Sprint), PCMag.com

A phone vendor can’t alter the Windows Phone interface, so this Samsung phone did not suffer from the UI alterations I grumble about when reviewing this manufacturer’s Android phones.

10/1/2013: Galaxy Gear Watch’s Time Has Not Yet Come, Discovery News

The first of two reviews of Samsung’s connected Android watch took a higher-level assessment of the thing and suggested ways that upcoming smart watches could do better.

Boing Boing Galaxy Gear review

10/1/2013: Samsung Galaxy Gear is a timepiece with an agenda, Boing Boing

In this review, I could get a little more into the weeds. I also had fun coming up with that photo–the corrugated tube those watches rest on is a bendable flashlight you can wear around your neck for hands-free illumination.

10/1/2013: NetNames Piracy Study Follow-Up: Even Incorrigible Infringers Can Still Be Good Customers, Disruptive Competition Project

The author of the study I questioned at DisCo two weeks ago wanted to chat further; our conversation led to me reading a different piracy study that found that habitual infringers are also great paying customers.

USAT Best Years story10/1/2013: Turn the Page, USA Today Best Years

I wrote an introduction to e-books for USAT’s quarterly magazine for 50-and-over women. I made sure to spell out the usage limits created by e-book DRM early in the story (on sale in print, not available online), but I could not stop Amazon from shipping an improved Kindle Paperwhite a few days after the story went to print.

10/6/2013: How to help iOS 7 run faster on an older iPhone, USA Today

A reader query about sluggish typing on an iPhone 4 led to me to offer some general suggestions about improving iOS 7’s performance on older models–but then a reader pointed me to the unlikely fix of disabling iCloud’s “Documents & Data” sync, which he swore fixed the exact problem the first reader had reported. I left a comment passing on that tip, and a third reader said it worked for him as well.

On Sulia, I chronicled my so-far-unsuccessful attempts to set up an account at HealthCare.gov, reported that the clunky USB 3.0 connector on the Galaxy Note 3 doesn’t charge the phone all that much faster from an outlet, noted a case of my agreeing with one of the RIAA’s tech-policy positions, and called out Samung and Sprint for including an unnecessary second browser on the Note 3 and then tarting it up with an adware toolbar.

Weekly output: IFA (x2), Windows optional updates, OS X Automator

This post may contain more typos than usual, on account of it being typed almost 23 hours after my day began in Berlin (give or take a few naps on planes).

9/6/2013: IFA Electronics Show Features Some Gadgets Behaving Badly, Disruptive Competition Project

Having already decried TV and smartphone resolution overkill in earlier DisCo posts, I had to tee off on the IFA show floor’s examples of extremism in pursuit of a captivating, buzzword-compliant spec sheet. I liked this comment from somebody whose handle reminds me of one of my favorite commenters at the Post: “We need a 4K OLED refrigerator we can use to read our UHD grocery list.”

Discovery IFA post9/7/2013: Samsung Smart Watch Leads IFA’s Gadget Parade, Discovery News

This show recap led off with Samsung’s Galaxy Gear (allegedly) smart watch, then noted such other high-profile IFA debuts as two Sony camera modules designed to work symbiotically with smartphones. I had to leave some details out, which is why I devoted a third post to the show on my blog.

9/8/2013: Are optional Windows updates necessary?, USA Today

An overdue round of system-update installations on my ThinkPad reminded me that other people were probably as puzzled as I to see fading apps like Silverlight get a prominent spot in Windows’ “Optional Updates” list. Then I further remembered that I hadn’t written a Windows-specific Q&A column in a while. The tip part of the piece offers some encouragement to try out OS X’s Automator scripting tool, but I suspect not many readers will follow it.

Sulia was an all-IFA proposition this week: I posted a report about my first impressions of the Galaxy Gear, kvetched about the radically better selection of cable- and satellite TV hardware in Europe, complimented one convertible laptop concept and cast doubt on others, wondered about the utility of Sony’s add-on cameras for phones, and suggested some manufacturers’ rush to sell curved OLED 4K sets was best intrepreted as a call for help.

Update, 9/11: See also my Flickr set from IFA; slideshow is after the jump.

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