Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Spending Time with a Smartwatch

A typical smartwatch

In November, 2015 I did something quite out of the ordinary for me: I bought myself a new gadget. Specifically, a smartwatch — a Pebble Time, in case you’re wondering.

It’s been years since I’ve worn a watch, and until recently I had no interest in buying or using a smartwatch. While the Pebble Time was a quasi-impulse buy, I thought it might be useful. In what way, I wasn’t sure.

Here’s what I’ve learned living with a smartwatch for the last two months.

Why the Pebble Time?

And not an Android Wear watch, an Apple Watch, or a Samsung Gear device? Two main reasons.

First, price. The Pebble Time cost a lot less than other smartwatches. If I wound up not liking it, I wouldn’t be out of pocket that much.

Second, simplicity. If you’ve been reading posts in this space for any length of time, you know I like things simple. As few frills as possible. Sure, the Pebble Time doesn’t have a touch screen but that’s not a deal breaker for me. Neither is the small number of apps in the Pebble ecosystem.

Initial Thoughts

Most smartwatches aren’t that smart. They rely on a connection to a smartphone to carry out most tasks (aside from telling time). A smartwatch is more a dumb terminal or fancy remote control for a watch than anything else. It’s definitely not the Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio I coveted as a child.

In fact, my smartwatch kind of reminds me of the REX PDA I owned in the early 2000s. Like my smartwatch, the REX had a limited set of functions. I had to plug the device into my desktop computer to sync it.

That doesn’t make a smartwatch useless, though. You just need to adjust your expectations to the limitations of the device.

Using the Watch

For more than telling time, I mean. And, before you ask, I did install a few watchfaces (including a Mickey Mouse one!).

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d use the Pebble Time. I spent a few days exploring various apps, and wound up with a core of three or four that I regularly use.

For the most part, my Pebble Time is a remote control and a notification centre. I use it to control the media player on my phone, and to receive alerts of text messages, emails, phone calls, and calendar events and appointments. The only third-party apps I use are Workmate (to control my calendar and to manage my to-do list via Google Tasks) and a timer app.

None of that is too exciting, I admit. As I wrote several pargraphs ago, the Pebble Time is simple. The watch’s lack of reliance on apps is one of the factors that attracted me to it. I find that the Timeline — which offers a summary of important information like calendar events, my schedule, the weather, and notifications — is more useful than any app.

Can a Smartwatch Make You More Productive?

No tool alone will make you more productive. A tool can help you stay on track, but you need to do the real work. A smartwatch is convenient, though. You don’t have to be constantly pulling out your phone to check messages and notifications — they’re on your wrist.

Even though I’ve been living with a smartwatch for two months, I’m still experimenting with it. I’m still trying to figure out what else to do with it. Maybe there isn’t anything more that one can do for me.

In the end, a smartwatch is just another tool. I treat my Pebble Time that way, and that’s good enough for me.

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