So today I did the exact opposite of what most people seem to be doing nowadays: I switched from a full-blown Android Wear smartwatch to a Pebble 2 SE.
And it’s really incredible how positive this change feels.
I was using an LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE since one and a half years ago. I still think it’s the best Android Wear watch on the market: large 1.4" OLED screen, huge 560mAh battery size, it lasts 3 days with LTE on and a few tweaks. By contrast, LG’s newer Watch Sport only has a 430mAh battery.
The big problem with that smartwatch is Google, they simply don’t understand their customers, or, to be more precise, they simply don’t know how to merge their business goals (ads and collecting personal data) with what customers want. Android Wear 2.0 was the last straw for me. Notification support went from bad to basically ruined.
Some examples of incredibly bad Android Wear 2.0 design:
- Two of the most important swipes (swipe left and swipe right from the watchface) are used to…change the watch face, they assume that this is the most important thing that you do with your (expensive) watch. And I really do not understand all this attention for the watch faces when the screen is off most of the time. It’s hilarious
- Taps on the watch face are used to…set up the watch face (so many wasted opportunities !)
- Notifications are really hard to read due to the thin white text on black background (especially in AW 2.0) and any accidental touch or swipe will dismiss them forever. Gone.
- You can’t have your own list of canned responses, you only have what Google provides (some basic useless responses plus the stupid voice reply which you will never use), like 3 years after Android Wear launch this basic feature is still missing.
- It is very hard to reply to a notification. Sometimes you must read and entire notification on the watch, no matter how long, to get to the “reply” actions.
- The order of notifications from the same source (example: Whatsapp) is many times inverted, you can’t understand what a person actually wrote if you read the notifications one by one.
- There is no notification history on the watch. If you dismissed a notification (many times by mistake) it is gone.
- It always bugs you with fitness-related stuff, it is very hard to disable everything fitness-related (but you sort of can if you try hard). I go to the gym 3-4 times a week but I feel that I just don’t need a smartwatch to do my exercises.
Now, onto what I discovered and love about the Pebble:
- The always-on screen - finally I feel that I don’t miss anything by replacing my watch with a smartwatch ! Seeing that black screen of my Android Wear smartwatch was really sad. Now I really don’t think I can go back to a black screen that is only lit up by gestures !
- The great battery life (2.5 times better than my LG 2nd Edition which in itself has a great battery life)
- You can have notifications to never disappear from the main screen until dismissed. Wow !
- You can have your own list of canned responses. Wow !
- You have notification history
- You can schedule a “quiet time” so you don’t have to remember to put the watch or phone in some sort of Do Not Disturb mode manually. Set and forget. That’s what I needed ! And what I like more about this, is that it only quiets vibrations, the notifications still appear on screen, so if I wake up at night I can quickly check if there is something important that happened. On Android Wear, if you enable the DnD mode, the vibration is disabled but you also get no notifications on the screen, despite the fact that displaying a notification would not wake you up. Stupid.
- No heart rate monitor on the SE. This is exactly the reason why I chose it instead of the regular version which was actually cheaper !
- Way, way lighter and slimmer than the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition. I didn’t think this would matter, but it does, a lot.
The things that I don’t like about the Pebble watches: they lack(ed) some more fashionable designs like a round watch with slim bezels and good battery life, or a rectangular watch with slimmer bezels.
Such a watch with a Pebble OS would have entirely turned the Pebble company’s odds for the better.
My advice: if you want great notification support, get a Pebble watch. Android Wear is the worst platform in this area, especially with the 2.0 release which was a huge step backwards, it’s like they did everything against what customers want from a smartwatch. My assumption is that Google doesn’t really want you to use your phone less frequently due to the smartwatch, they need you to stare at their ads, so they try to artificially limit Android Wear’s possibilities and concentrate on gimmicks like watch faces instead of productivity and functionality.
I am so sorry that Pebble suddenly went out of business, they should have lowered their prices way before selling off the business, this way they would have sold a ton of smartwatches and would be at the top of the industry instead of having financial problems.
This is my experience with the switch from Android Wear to Pebble. Thanks for reading !