Over the weekend I spent a bit of time looking into existing smart watches and their capabilities, especially since I’m interested in getting a smart watch for some non-traditional reasons. What I found wasn’t overly encouraging. I found a couple of personal blogs by people using the MetaWatch and Sony SmartWatch the way I would – with Tasker – and I got the distinct impression that these devices are very far from being optimized for user customization. You basically have the stock functionality, and then you have custom apps. What you don’t have is any way to make your own “software” using methods that don’t require “true” programming, be it a WYSIWYG interface editor, Tasker plugin, or simple HTML support.
This concerns me, as I would primarily be using a smart watch for things I need to set up myself. Specifically, the watch would be used to control a lot of features on my phone, whereas the existing compatibility with Tasker seems to be a one-way deal where Tasker can write info to the watch, but not the other way around.
That got me thinking that perhaps smart watches are inherently flawed in that they’re designed to be slaves of the devices they’re tied to, which also means they don’t support existing software that ironically is better suited for slave devices than they are for master devices. Give me a full version of Android, and I can give it a custom interface that controls another Android device is less time than it takes most people to install and configure a normal app. My phone already talks to – and controls – my tablet and my computer, so another device wouldn’t be an issue.
That made me think of the (by now) old Xperia X10 Mini. It’s a ridiculously small, albeit thick, Android phone – and yes, it’s a full Android phone. If somehow it could be stripped down and rearranged to become an armband, it would basically make the ultimate “smartwatch” as far as functionality (that I personally need) goes. That would give you something very close to the Pip-Boy 3000 from the two most recent Fallout games; a small computer you wear on your wrist. It would be bulky, but if somehow you got it to run off some smaller batteries that form around your wrist as part of the band, you might just be able to shrink it down enough so that it isn’t totally ridiculous.
The benefits over a smartwatch are obvious. It’s a fully fledged Android device, capable of maintaining its own internet connection, receive notifications directly, and respond to them directly. It can run existing software for everything from Tasker to things like security camera streams, the latter of which I’ve actually seem people use smartwatches for. It would have its own memory for media, allowing you to play music directly from it, even using Bluetooth. In essence, a device that by now is extremely outdated as a standalone phone might actually make a great accessory to another phone.
There is actually a smartwatch that is a self-contained Android device, the i’m watch. In theory it would be something in between strapping an X10 Mini on your wrist and using a normal smartwatch, the only problem being that I have less than no faith in the i’m watch. The website is truly horrible, offering no useful information about the device whatsoever. It seems like a design object more than anything else, with idiotic naming schemes for features taking priority over actual functionality.