I’ve been a huge wearables advocate. In 2015, I took an entire year to write a roundup of smartwatches. It took a year, because the devices were reviewed as they were released, and I had to buy most of them myself… Its kinda cool to take a look at the articles to see how far we have come in the past four and a half to five years. In fact, my coverage was extensive…
- Microsoft Band (Part 1 and Part 2)
- Fitbit Surge
- Apple Watch (First Impressions, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
- Pebble Time
- Olio Model One (Announcement, First Impressions, Review, Firmware Update, Demise)
Yes. You’re right. Five years ago is like forever in technology-years; and yeah… some of those products aren’t even available or relevant anymore. For example, both Microsoft Band and the Olio Model One are gone. You can’t even USE the Olio Model One any more. Every time you reset it, it “phoned home,” needing to hit a central server that is no longer up and running. Unfortunately, the Olio never kept time very well, and constantly needed to either communicate with your phone and with its central server in order to sync time. Its unfortunate that the device is completely deprecated. It had a GREAT design as well as look and feel; and it looked GREAT. It was also rather expensive.
By contrast, the Apple Watch is by far the best wearable on the market. Some will say it still is; but that could be debated a bit. Unfortunately, the Apple Watch must be – and can only be – used with an iPhone. You currently can’t use it without one; and the Apple Watch doesn’t support any other kind of Smartphone (Android or otherwise). Its also expensive, with the entry point at $399 for an Apple Watch with either a silver or gray aluminum case and a Sport Band.
However, if you remember, Hell Froze Over in 2015, when Google introduced Android Wear for iOS. This development allowed iPhone users to get access to a vast array of additional smartwatches running – dare I say it – WearOS. This was – and in many ways, still is – an interesting development, as it gives iPhone users access to watches from Samsung, Motorola and TicWatch to name a few. Wearable options just got bigger.
I’m very happy with my Apple Watch. However, I’ve been using TicWatch Pro for a while now and Mobvoi’s latest entry – the TicWatch Pro 2020 – adds a couple well needed improvements. The latest version includes a total of 1GB of RAM (up from 512MB) and Military Standard 810G. I’m certain that the extra 1/2GB of RAM is going to VASTLY improve performance. Military Standard 810G is also going to be a huge benefit to the user on a daily basis, though , in truth, you aren’t going to be able to see or feel a difference in TicWatch Pro vs. TicWatch Pro 2020 with this particular feature. Its completely transparent to the user. However, the standard gives the watch the ability to withstand temperature shocks of between –30℃ to +70℃ (-22F to +158F), with an operational range between -20℃ to +55℃ (-4F to +131F), 57kpa pressure, 44℃ (111.2F) solar radiation, 95% humidity, salt, fog, sand and dust, and shock. So, you could figuratively beat the device with a lead pipe and it would still work.
Apple Watch is still my wearables daily driver; but every now and again I venture outside the wearables walled garden and use my TicWatch Pro. So, what is it actually like using a WearOS watch with your iPhone? Let’s take a quick look and find out.
Android Wear for iOS
Like iOS, the TicWatch Pro and WearOS have their own app. Unlike your Apple Watch, however, you have to have the WearOS app running for everything to work correctly on your iPhone. This can be somewhat problematic, especially if you’re not used to having the app run all the time in the background; or simply needing to start it. I know that I sometimes forget to run the app, and when I miss a notification or event, it usually hits me then. I also have issues at times like this of getting the app and the watch to acknowledge that they are connected and see each other, even though the watch is listed as connected in Bluetooth Settings. At times like that, its usually difficult to get the two to talk correctly, and I have to resort to either restarting the watch or resetting my iPhone XR. If I don’t, they may never connect correctly.
Screens for the app are noted below; and the screens are similar on both iOS and Android OS devices.
The WearOS app home screen. It shows the type of watch connected as well as its connection status. Tap the More link in the Watch Faces section to be taken to the default watch screens available on your watch.
Its unfortunate that WearOS doesn’t enumerate all of the WatchMaker watch faces. It makes it all that much more difficult to switch faces. You either need to go into your watch to changes faces, or you need to go into the WatchMaker app on your iPhone to send over a new face. You cannot change faces in WatchMaker and have that face be reflected on your watch, without sending over a new face. Native watch faces can be changed on your watch from your iPhone.
Tiles provide you access to additional functionality. Most of these tiles are related to health or exercise related activities. I have a bit of an issue with this, as I see at least three tiles related to some kind of heart related information – activity, heart rate and pulse. Of the six tiles that are visible on the left side of the table directly above, five are activity or heart related. One is related to news headlines. While I recognize that exercise and heart health are important, it seems a bit overboard from my point of view. It would be much better if WearOS or specifically TicWatch gave the user a wider or better variety of tiles.
Notifications available on my iPhone These are the rest of the notifications that WearOS has access to on my iPhone.
Notifications are the life blood of a smartwatch. Here, WearOS allows you to turn specific notifications on or off. Those that are on, show on the watch when they hit your iPhone. The more apps you have on your iPhone, the more options for notifications you get for your phone. This is the second half of the notifications that I have available on my iPhone. I haven’t had RingCentral on my iPhone since mid-December. However, you can still see it listed, above. WearOS needs to do a better job of cleaning up notification options for apps that are no longer on your device.
Calendar settings can be seen above. You get the options to sync one calendar,
but not both.
The Google Assistant has to be installed on your iPhone, from the iOS App Store.
The you can only get one set of reminders on your watch. WearOS will add events from your Apple Calendar or your Google Calendar (if you have one) but not both. This can be somewhat problematic, as I don’t care where the reminders come from, if the calendar is on my iPhone, I want to be reminded of any events on my watch. The Apple Watch can do this without an issue. I’m not certain why WearOS has this limitation; but it does. There are also a few exceptions that I’ve found with this setup.
In order to get things to work you have to install the latest version of the app. After that, you have to use Siri to activate the Google Assistant. You start with
“Hey, Siri. OK, Google.”
Siri opens the GA app, and then you have to say, “OK, Google,” again to get it to actually do anything. Its really kinda backwards.
The GA app will only work while its open and running on your iPhone. Nice, but not exactly what you would want, especially when it only works while active, and you have to use Siri to activate it, unless you grab your iPhone and start the app manually. Why do that at all..? Especially when the focus here is supposed to be your watch. I don’t see the point, especially with the other limitations of the watch – I haven’t been able to get it to work well with phone calls or by speaking to the watch, as you can with your Apple Watch. It just doesn’t seem to be
There’s really only one point that I want to make about notifications on a WearOS watch – or more specifically on my TicWatch Pro – as opposed to on my Apple Watch. When a notification hits on your phone, it hits on your watch as well. However, notifications on your WearOS watch don’t dismiss the same way as they do on your Apple Watch. On your Apple Watch, notifications are dismissed when you swipe down.
On your WearOS watch, notifications are hidden with a swipe down. If you want to dismiss the notification, you have to scroll to just below the last notification on the watch and tap the “Clear All” button. Its not a big difference, but an important one, especially if you’ve used an Apple Watch.
Making and Taking Phone Calls
On Apple Watch, this works very well. When your watch is unlocked, calls ring on your Watch. You can answer them there and speak to the caller through the mic in your Watch. This does NOT work the same with my TicWatch Pro. Calls ring on the watch, I can answer the call on the watch, but it sends the call to the phone. You can’t communicate to the caller on the watch; and after answering on the watch, the call usually drops. At that point, I usually get yelled at, as its usually my wife that this happens with. Lucky me…
Seriously, though… I find this probably the most frustrating thing when working with my TicWatch Pro – it doesn’t handle calls well at all. With the Motorola z4 that I have to review, I tried to do this while paired to that device. The results were a little better but somewhat different. I was able to answer the call with the watch; but the call stayed on the phone. I couldn’t communicate with the caller on the watch while paired with the z4, either. At least the call didn’t drop…
To be honest, this is the weakest point of WearOS watches that I have seen thus far. I’m not certain if this would be a consistent experience with every WearOS watch while paired with every phone. I am going to have to contact TicWatch support and see what they have to say about all of this. I’ll have an update in the hands on review I do of the z4. Hopefully, I’ll have heard back from them by that point.
With Apple Watch, once the Watch is connected to your iPhone, you can make and take phone calls on your Watch. With my TicWatch, you have to go to the following:
This function is only available when the watch is paired to an Android phone, and not an iOS device. For Android users, please complete the following steps:
- Please open the “Phone” app on your watch. You should see a message to switch on Bluetooth. Once Bluetooth is switched on and the watch is connected to your phone, you should be able to receive phone calls.
- Go to Settings -> Connectivity -> Bluetooth, and ensure that you enable “play phone voice call on the watch”.
- Please ensure that your phone is not connected to any other Bluetooth devices, otherwise the watch may be unable to receive calls from the phone.
When I did this on an Android phone I’m currently reviewing, it didn’t have the desired effect. Instead of allowing me to make and take calls from my TicWatch Pro, it did nothing but delay the notification of a call to the watch, and then wouldn’t allow me to answer the call at all. I’m not certain what is going on here, and I think more investigation is required, but this should be a LOT simpler than it appears to be right now. I mean, I know what I’m doing here. I shouldn’t have this level of difficulty. This should be a no brainer, and someone like me, with decades of IT and technology experience is left scratching their head.
Watch Faces (Duh..!)
Man, I think I have died and gone to watch face heaven! To say that there are some really cool watch faces available for WearOS watches is like asking if it was cool to be Steve Jobs.
Yeah it is/was!
Regardless of whether your running your WearOS watch with an iPhone or with an Android device, if you have a watch and you’re not using WatchMaker, then there is something DEFINITELY wrong with you. The app in and of itself, is free. For a $20USD annual payment, you get access to over 100,000 different premium watch faces. Some of the faces are really cool. Apple should take note of what these guys are doing on WearOS with watch faces. The guys designing faces could learn a LOT! Here are a few that I have on my watch. All copyrights are owned by the respective face designer.
In all honestly, its all about what you’re used to.
There aren’t a lot of folks that will buy both an Apple Watch AND a WearOS watch. You’re probably going to buy one or the other. While there are differences here that you should be aware of, you’re likely going to get used to the method or process you’re used to and then that’s about it. You won’t have to worry about the differences between the two device OS. How one may work better than the other is largely going to be a matter of opinion, than anything else.
It ain’t perfect, that’s for sure.
However, running Android Wear – WearOS – based watches with your iPhone isn’t difficult. It IS a very different experience than running the device with an Android native smartphone. WearOS watches do not communicate with Apple Health. If you’re wanting to keep track of your fitness and health stats with your WearOS watch, you’re going to need to do it with Google Fit for iOS, or with your device’s native app (TicWatch Pro has an app called Mobvoi, that is available that tracks stats…)
With many WearOS watches costing at least $100-$150 under the entry level price for Apple Watch, WearOS watches are a GREAT way to get into a smartwatch. There are literally tens of thousands of watch faces available for WearOS watches offering a vast array of complications and functions. They put Apple Watch offerings to shame. Most WearOS watches are round, offering a physical face shape and form factor that is different from Apple Watch. While I’m not opposed to either form factor, the round face is ore of an industry standard.
Regardless, there’s a great deal of opportunity here for WearOS watches to make an impact on the market. WearOS is very usable, even with an iPhone. While WearOS watches doesn’t offer the same level of functionality as they do with an Android phone, they are usable. For the price point difference, they may be the best way for you to get into a smartwatch.