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Mark Lee
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Mark Lee

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After using Wear 2.0 for couple of days I have to say that I'm very concerned about the future of the platform.

I do understand that what I'm using is a preview build and things might change (I hope they do) and many things are not final. However, what I write here I base not only on the current build but also on what was said in various presentations in the IO.

The initial launch of Wear made your smartwatch an extension of your smartphone. Glanceable information and low amount of direct interaction was the key design principles. To me that hit the nail in the head. I soon became completely dependent on my watch as the information filter as well the device making me confident that I've not missed anything important.

My two most important use cases with my Wear device for the past years have been:
1) Filter my incoming email without having to touch my phone: I feel a notification and I immediately see what's up by glancing to my wrist. From this I had 4 potential actions I can take:

a) if the email is something I need to react to immediately I pulled out my phone and did what was needed.

b) Ignore the notification or swipe down effectively leaving the email to my near-future todo as the notification is still on my phone so I'll remember it whenever I pull out my phone next time.

c) Swipe the notification away. This still keeps the email in unread state making me notice it when I'm next time next to my computer.

d) If I get all the info I need or the email is not important I can achieve it with one swipe & one tap and it won't bug me again.

2) The second of the most important uses of my Wear device is the confidence it gives me that I've not missed anything. Phone notifications are difficult to hear and if you're on the move feeling vibration notifications is often very easy to miss. In fact, before I got my Wear device I kept missing hangout messages, calls etc constantly. I developed this habit of pulling out my phone every few minutes to make sure or holding the phone in my hand if I was waiting for a message.
Since getting a smartwatch that habit was changed to much better. I now only glanced to my wrist from time to time and if there was nothing on the bottom of the watch screen all was good. I ended up keeping my phone permanently on silence. There was no need to annoy others with notification sounds anymore as I got everything directly to my wrist.

Now, 2.0 is changing all that. Wear platform design is making a complete 180 turn and the watch is now becoming a tiny smartphone on your wrist... I wonder if Google has been paying too much attention to the clueless tech-bloggers asking "but what does it do?" when the best answer has always been "nothing, it just creates shortcuts making your life easier."

Both of my important use cases are no-longer available to me. Performing actions on emails now require a tap, WAIT, scrolling, scrolling, tap, WAIT, tap, WAIT. I'm sorry but I already have a phone in my pocket. I rather use it than the tiny screen on my wrist.

The second use case is also no longer solvable with the new Wear. New notifications are on the screen for a while but they soon disappear. With a glance you don't know if you have notifications or not. You have to swipe first to check if you have notifications. Now, this is something that is easy to bring back and it might just be symptom of the preview but let's see.

It's not all bad though. The complication API makes tons of sense. Now watch faces can use complications from other apps instead all of them having to implement their own like they have to in Wear 1.

In general the new design approach really worries me. It looks like the initial very clear vision has gotten blurred and the platform doesn't know what it is anymore. The "simplified" navigation ( doesn't actually simplify anything. It only hides the previously logical swipey navigation behind taps, waits and physical button presses.

Again, before people get annoyed with me again because I'm criticising a preview build I do understand that things can change. What Google is presenting here seems to be a pretty far along though. I hope there's still time to reverse this misstep though. I, however, will be flashing the Wear 1 back to my watch as the 2 is currently unusable due to its design while it is technically very stable.

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Mark Lee

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I had an appointment in an unfamiliar part of town the other day, and was at the mercy of a taxi driver to get me there. I started giving him directions in my smattering of Cantonese when he interrupted cheerfully and confidently in English to assure me he would take me to my destination. ...
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