Just under a week ago today the much anticipated Apple Watch arrived in our office. If there’s one thing we could all learn from Apple, it’s how to build hype around a new product launch (even the delivery man hung around to see it opened). It was (as ever) not the first device in this category, but certainly the most anticipated. So a week later, how does it compare to the Android Wear devices we already had in the office?
The first difference is something of a given with Apple, it’s a lot prettier. Particularly compared to the LG G Watch we had which was just plain ugly. For something that you wear, that’s important. Secondly, and also something we’ve come to expect from Apple, the general interface for navigating around the watch is an improvement on Android Wear. This is largely due to the addition of the crown and button on the right of the watch that give simple scroll and select interfaces, but also the layout of the home and other screens. There’s also the built in heart monitor. Apart from the obvious applications for sport and health apps, this also means the watch knows when it’s being worn so alerts don’t fire at night when your watch is on your bedside table.
Which brings us neatly on to alerts. We’ve discussed many times in this blog that it’s alerts that really differentiate smart watches from other tech. You never miss your watch vibrating on your wrist, but nobody else is aware of it. As such they provide a more reliable yet less intrusive alerting mechanism than our smart phone. We’re interested in these devices because DataPA OpenAnalytics allows “citizen developers” to build almost any alert capability into the business process. Combine this with a smart watch and a factory shift manager could be notified immediately, regardless of his location and surrounding noise levels, if a large order was placed that will significantly raise demand. Or a retail area manager driving between stores can be notified immediately when demand for a particular product rises suddenly across several shops he manages. Or your database administrator can be notified immediately when a database is close to filling its allotted disk space.
It’s in this regard, which we believe is critical to the real value of the smart watch, that Android Wear perhaps retains an edge over the Apple Watch. From the developers perspective the Android Wear alerting framework is much more flexible, easily allowing us to display a custom alert that the user can swipe to see the chart, then tap to open in the app on their phone. These things can be achieved on the Apple watch, but it’s more difficult to engineer and the behaviour on the watch is less predictable.
However, these are small differences and only time will tell which of these two market leaders, if either, dominate this space. It’s early days for this tech at the moment, but in our opinion more companies like ourselves will see the possibilities it offers for both business and consumers, and a few years from now smart watches could be as ubiquitous as the smart phone.