Smart Watches – What Are Your Options?

Smartwatches are getting more and more mainstream these days.  With prices coming down and more options to be had, I have noticed more people sporting this wearable tech.  Smartwatches pair with your phone, and so the phone you have is pretty much the base starting point as to what your best options are for a smartwatch purchase.

Phone Specific

If you have an iPhone then you can still use Androidwear watches.  Thanks to the advent of Androidwear 2.0, the compatibility with the iPhone has been greatly improved.  However, there are still some limitations, thanks in part to Apple’s shitty attitude towards working with any other companies.  This is annoying, however Androidwear has workarounds to deal with these issues.  You will not be able to take calls on your watch nor reply to iMessages.  This is annoying but not necessarily a dealbreaker.

Can Androidwear Work?

The best part about Androidwear watches is that you have so much more variety to choose from.  From surf and snow smartwatches (check out the review of the Nixon Mission here) to more stylish watches such as those from Fossil, you can get a smartwatch that suits your personality and goals.  There are also fitness-centric smartwatches from Garmin that track your every movement and detail.

Of course, if you have an Android phone then you’ll have more in the way of usability.

Apple Watch Pros And Cons

The Apple Watch has come a long way and the Apple Watch 3 is awesome, especially the one with LTE connection – you can take calls and answer texts right from the watch.  The Hey Siri functionality has been reported to be even better on the watch than on the phone.

Of course since it’s within Apple’s “ecosystem” it will work a bit better with the iPhone than Androidwear watches will.  However, the Apple Watch aesthetic is not for everyone.  With only one style (square) to choose from, it’s pretty plain and everyone has the same one.  For me personally this has been a big reason that I haven’t gotten one yet, opting instead for the Nixon Mission Androidwear watch.

Personal Considerations

There are also other considerations when choosing a smartwatch.  You have to think about what you want the watch for – do you want to remain connected to your texts and calls?  Or do you want to track fitness?  Do you not care if you can’t respond to notificiations on your watch?  Is style more of an issue to you?

These are the important questions that anyone getting a smartwatch must answer for themselves.

Personally I don’t necessarily need to be constantly at everyone’s beck and call.  I do like receiving notifications on my watch, however I am glad that I really don’t have to reply on my watch right away.

And again, the style and monotony of the Apple Watch is a huge turnoff for me.

Amazon Echo: Your New Best Friend?

amazonechoAt first you may think it’s a tall thermos or a regular Bluetooth speaker— but this sleek black cylinder is so much more. Amazon Echo is a home automation controller, a cloud-connected smart device, and an electronic companion that you’ll enjoy using.

The Look

It’s about 9.25 inches high and 3.27 in circumference. You can stick it almost anywhere— on a shelf, beside the TV, on the coffee table. Near the top of the unit is the volume control, but with the included remote and voice controls for volume, you may never have to touch it. On the top side are the microphone and action buttons.

The Lights

Want to know if Echo is active or not? Check the ring around the top. If it’s glowing, you are currently in control of Echo. If it’s unlit, Echo is currently dormant. In most settings, Echo responds to the direction of your voice by lighting up more intensely in that spot.

The App

To set up the Echo, just download the app. It walks you through the easy steps. After you link Echo to your Wi-Fi, you don’t even need your phone, your tablet, or the remote in order to use it.

The Voice

Now for the fun part. You get to talk to Alexa, the operating system voice of Echo. According to users and reviewers, Alexa’s smooth tones sound more human and natural than Siri’s. Generally, owners find that Alexa understands them very well and that errors are few and far between. No need to say “Alexa,” and then wait for the device to wake up; you can pose your question immediately after saying her name. “Alexa, what’s the weather?” “Alexa, how is traffic?” And she can hear you from all the way across the room.

The Drawbacks

Alexa isn’t Google or Siri, however. You can’t say “Alexa, what is a metronome?” You need to be more specific, as in “Alexa, Wikipedia metronome.” Also, Alexa can’t pull up your messages or emails, although she does have access to your Google calendar. You cannot add appointments, but you can make notes or lists using Echo’s list feature and then access that information through your Echo app.

The Potential

Alexa sets alarms, pulls up audiobooks instantly, offers news, weather, traffic updates, and sports scores. She accesses your own music as well as Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, TuneIn, and similar stations. The music quality is excellent, with Echo projecting sound throughout the whole room.

Interested in controlling your home’s switches and lights? If you have those connected devices, Echo works with systems like Wink, Belkin WeMo, and Philips hue to give you voice control. Imagine saying, “Alexa, turn off the kitchen light,” and watching it happen from your comfy seat on the couch.

The Future

Amazon plans to expand Echo’s features and abilities in the future. With such a strong start, it’s easy to see how Echo and similar devices could become common, much-loved staples of the modern American homes.