I don’t know about you, but my number one smartwatch-related complaint is battery life — no matter how I use it, my Wear OS watch barely makes it through the day.
Now, Google has an update to its Wear OS wearables platform that addresses this issue.
Wear OS 2.2 or H, as it’s called, comes with a feature that automatically puts the watch in Battery Saver Mode after your battery drops below 10%. In Battery Saver Mode, all the smart features are disabled, but the watch still tells the time.
Furthermore, the watch will now go into “deep sleep” mode after 30 minutes of inactivity. That means you’ll be able to take the watch off for longer periods without having to worry about the battery draining to zero in a matter of hours.
These features aren’t exactly groundbreaking; for example, my Huawei Watch 2 also goes into battery saving mode when the battery is low, and my Suunto Ambit 3 Sport goes to sleep shortly after I remove it from my hand. But it’s nice to see Google implementing them at the OS level, which should theoretically make them available to all owners of smartwatches running the latest Wear OS.
Other features of note include Smart App Resume for all apps, meaning your apps will remember what you were doing when you leave them and will let you get back to it when you fire them up again. And you’ll also be able to turn off the watch in two steps, by holding the power button until you get the power off screen, and then selecting “power off” or “restart.”
Unfortunately, it’s not exactly clear which devices will get the update. Google says “you should soon see a system update on your device,” clarifying it should happen “in the next few months.” But the fine print says that “your device may not immediately be eligible for this update and will be determined by your watch manufacturer.”
November 16, 2018 / Comments Off on Wear OS watches are getting some much-needed battery saving features
Wear OS, Google’s smartphone operating system that was once called Android Wear, is getting a new look today. Google says the overall idea here is to give you quicker access to information and more proactive help. In line with the Google Fit redesign, Wear OS now also provides you with the same kind of health coaching as the Android app.
In practice, this means you can now swipe through multiple notifications at once, for example. Previously, you had to go from one notifications card to the next, which sound minor but was indeed a bit of a hassle. Like before, you bring up the new notifications feed by swiping up. If you want to reply or take any other action, you tap the notification to bring up those options.
Wear OS is also getting a bit of a Google Now replacement. Simply swipe right and the Google Assistant will bring up the weather, your flight status, hotel notifications or other imminent events. Like in most other Assistant-driven interfaces, Google will also use this area to help you discover other Assistant features like setting timers (though I think everybody knows how to use the Assistant to set a time given that I’m sure that’s 90% of Assistant usage right there).
As for Google Fit, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Wear OS is adapting the same circle design with Hear Points and Move Minutes as the Android app. On a round Wear OS watch, that design actually looks quite well.
While this obviously isn’t a major break from previous versions, we’re definitely talking about quality-of-life improvements here that do make using Wear OS just that little bit easier.
August 29, 2018 / Comments Off on Google’s Wear OS gets a new look
Raise your hand if you walk 10,000 steps a day or complete 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week as recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA).
It’s wonderful if you do — you’re living a healthy and active life. But most Americans fall short of these recommended fitness goals, putting them at higher risk of getting health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or dementia.
Why? The goals feel unachievable. To help correct this, Google reached out to the AHA to build a revamped Google Fit app and platform that better translates its physical activity guidelines into more achievable goals that Americans can incorporate into their daily routines. Basically: You don’t need to have a gym membership in order to live a healthy and active life.
Google Fit launched in 2014 as an all-in-one dashboard for Android and Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) users to track all of their physical activities and monitor their health.
The app has added numerous features over the years, and while it’s great to have so much data on oneself, non-power users have found it overwhelming.
During a sit-down preview for the new Google Fit app rolling out to Android, Wear OS, and iOS users immediately, Google Fit’s senior product manager, Margaret Hollendoner, told me the drop-off for Fit users was unsurprisingly high. Most users set up their Fit profiles and then gradually over time, they give up on their goals.
“As we talked to our users and tried to learn more about what their experience was, we heard that the flexibility of the app that might have worked for some power users was quite overwhelming for these people,” says Hollendoner.
Hollendoner listed a variety of reasons for why users might become unmotivated to continue staying active, including (but not limited to): dauntingly high goals and seasonal changes or holiday disruptions.
“10,000 steps seemed really daunting to these people who were really far from that total,” says Hollendoner. “They weren’t really seeing any results for the effort they were putting in and so they were losing motivation and struggling to stay motivated over time.
Together with the AHA, Hollendoner and the Wear OS team worked to create a new way to measure success, while simultaneously meeting the organizations recommended guidelines.
New metrics: Move minutes and Heart Points
Though it may be fairly obvious what the AHA’s weekly 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity means, it turns out there’s a larger portion of the American population that has no clue what that really shakes out to.
What’s considered moderate activity and what’s considered vigorous? Hollendoner and her team set about to better define them with the new Google Fit app.
The new Google Fit is no less robust than the version it replaces. It still tracks everything the old app did (steps, calories, heart rate, weight, etc.) and still pulls in data from third-party apps like the running and cycling app Strava, but how this data is presented is all new.
“We are still learning what it takes to communicate those guidelines best to Americans,” says Laurie Whitsel, Vice President of Policy Research and Translation at the American Heart Association. “At the American Heart Association, we’re really supportive of companies like Google that are taking that step to incorporate evidence-based recommendations into applications that transform lives.”
Instead of focusing primarily on steps or minutes of any particular physical activity, the new Google Fit uses two new metrics to measure activity intensity: Move Minutes (moderate) and Heart Points (vigorous), represented with a blue and green ring, respectively.
“We learned from the AHA that while steps are a great way to get people moving, the intensity of the activity is really when you start to see health benefits in terms of the effort you’re putting in, more so than the amount of activity you’re getting,” says Hollendoner.
The new Google Fit uses two new metrics to measure activity intensity: Move Minutes and Heart Points.
With Move Minutes and Heart Points, the new Google Fit encourages user to live a less sedentary lifestyle, but also to get their hearts rates up, which has been scientifically proven to be good for your health.
“If you look at the health benefits of people who meet the 150 minutes a week, there’s a 35 percent reduction in heart disease in those people,” Kapil Parakh, Medical Lead for Google Fit and a practicing cardiologist, explained to me.
“It’s beyond just the heart — levels of diabetes are 45 percent lower. If you look at falls, depression, and dementia it’s 25 percent lower. Even cancer is 20 percent lower. Breast cancer and colon cancer in people who are meeting the 150 minute guideline is 20 percent lower. It’s pretty remarkable the spectrum of health benefits.”
Move Minutes and Heart Points are far easier to understand and less overwhelming to process Hollendoner says.
Per the AHA’s Move and Heart Point translations of its recommended time-based physical activity goals, Fit recommends users get at least 60 minutes of movement per day and at least 10 Heart Points. After a week of tracking, the app will slowly suggest higher goals, based on your consistency.
Move Minutes are self-explanatory: For every minute you move, you get closer towards your Move Minutes goal. A Move Minute is any moderate intensity movement tracked by your Android phone or Wear OS smartwatch. Any heart rate that’s 50-69 percent above your max predicted heart rate is considered moderate intensity, Parakh says.
Heart Points, on the other hand, measure vigorous activity. Users get one Heart Point for every Move minute and two points if you dial up the activity if your heart rate is 70 percent or higher than your normal heart rate.
Move Minutes and Heart Points are designed to help motivate users to stay active throughout their day with small changes.
For example, picking up the pace while you’re walking from the train station to the work office could be recorded as a vigorous activity if gets your heart rate high enough. All that gardening work you do every weekend? That counts as vigorous physical activity towards your goals.
The traditional physical workouts still count (Google Fit recognizes up to 120 different physical activities), so if you’re into rowing, or running, or biking, or anything that gets your heart rate going higher than usual, they’ll still be logged and translated into Heart Points.
“It’s not the case that you need to buy a gym membership or suddenly start working out if you’re not doing so today,” says Hollendoner. “That’s the kind of thing we want people to understand — design a metric to help users realize this is something they could do in their daily routines and that that would have a much greater impact on their health than sort of quantity of exercise alone.”
In many ways, the new Google Fit feels like it’s gamifying physical activities. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that. Anyone who uses Apple Watch for fitness-tracking will know that the smartwatch is effective in essentially guilting you into “closing the rings” and completing your daily fitness goals. The new Google Fit is no different than that.
If a user sees they’ve already completed their Move Minute goal, but haven’t for their Heart Points, they may actually take action and walk quicker instead of slowly.
When I asked if these two metrics were exclusive for Google to use, Hollendoner told me they’re not.
“It’s a new concept in Google Fit, but it’s going to be in the Fit platform too,” says Hollendoller. “We are reaching out to all of the partners like Strava — so if I’ve got my activity from Strava that are showing up here we can give people credit for what they’re doing in the Fit app, but we’re also making Heart Points available in the platform so that Strava and other apps can start to pick up on this concept.
“And hopefully other apps will start to use it and it’ll become more reinforcement for the existing recommendations and guidelines. So it’s not intended to be exclusively for Google Fit, but that’s where users will see it first.”
More achievable fitness goals
Google showed me a preview of the new Google Fit app working on a Wear OS-powered Fossil smartwatch as well as on iOS and Android and I have to admit it’s quite nice.
I’m not ashamed to say that I really relate to the majority of Google Fit users. I liked that the old version of the app was so detailed with my fitness data, but I personally found the goals impossibly difficult to achieve so I gave up on using it.
I also like that the app has more emphasis on celebrating successes with features like the trophy section, which includes all of your accomplished goals and detailed breakdowns for them. It seems like such a silly thing – that you’d need little digital awards to provide reinforcement — but it goes a long way to making sure you actually continue to maintain your goals.
The new Google Fit app feels lighter, but still powerful. Power users still have access to an immense amount of data. Most importantly, at a glance, the two new metric goals, Move Minutes and Heart Points, make physical activity feel less like work and more like a regular part of your life (because it is and should be).
August 22, 2018 / Comments Off on Redesigned Google Fit makes daunting fitness goals more achievable
Fossil’s Q watch line is an interesting foray by a traditional fashion watchmaker into the wearable world. Their latest additions to the line, the Fossil Q Venture HR and Fossil Q Explorist HR, add a great deal of Android Wear functionality to a watch that is reminiscent of Fossil’s earlier, simpler watches. In other words, these are some nice, low-cost smartwatches for the fitness fan.
The original Q watches included a clever hybrid model with analog face and step counter. As the company expanded into wearables, however, they went Android Wear route and created a number of lower-powered touchscreen watches. Now, thanks to a new chipset, Fossil is able to add a great deal more functionality in a nice package. The Venture and the Explorist adds untethered GPS, NFC, heart rate, and 24 hour battery life. It also includes an altimeter and gyroscope sensor.
The new watches start at $255 and run the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip, an optimized chipset for fitness watches.
The watch comes in multiple styles and with multiple bands and features 36 different faces including health and fitness-focused faces for the physically ambitious. The watch also allows you to pay with Google Pay – Apple Pay isn’t supported – and you can store content on the watch for runs or walks. It also tracks swims and is waterproof. The Venture and Explorist are 40mm and 45mm respectively and the straps are interchangeable. While they’re no $10,000 Swiss masterpiece, these things look – and work – pretty good.
August 8, 2018 / Comments Off on Fossil announces new update Android Wear watches with HR tracking, GPS
Skagen is a well-know maker of thin and uniquely Danish watches. Founded in 1989, the company is now part of the Fossil group and, as such, has begin dabbling in both the analog with the Hagen and now Android Wear with the Falster. The Falster is unique in that it stuffs all of the power of a standard Android Wear device into a watch that mimics the chromed aesthetic of Skagen’s austere design while offering just enough features to make you a fashionable smartwatch wearer.
The Falster, which costs $275 and is available now, has a fully round digital OLED face which means you can read the time at all times. When the watch wakes up you can see an ultra bright white on black time-telling color scheme and then tap the crown to jump into the various features including Android Fit and the always clever Translate feature that lets you record a sentence and then show it the person in front of you.
You can buy it with a leather or metal band and the mesh steel model costs $20 extra.
Sadly, in order stuff the electronics into such a small case, Skagen did away with GPS, LTE connectivity, and even a heart-rate monitor. In other words if you were expecting a workout companion then the Falster isn’t the Android you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a bare-bones fashion smartwatch, Skagen ticks all the boxes.
What you get from the Flasterou do get, however, is a low-cost, high-style Android Wear watch with most of the trimmings. I’ve worn this watch off and on few a few weeks now and, although I do definitely miss the heart rate monitor for workouts, the fact that this thing looks and acts like a normal watch 99% of the time makes it quite interesting. If obvious brand recognition nee ostentation are your goal, the Apple Watch or any of the Samsung Gear line are more your style. This watch, made by a company famous for its Danish understatement, offers the opposite of that.
Skagen offers a few very basic watch faces with the Skagen branding at various points on the dial. I particularly like the list face which includes world time or temperature in various spots around the world, offering you an at-a-glance view of timezones. Like most Android Wear systems you can change the display by pressing and holding on the face.
It lasts about a day on one charge although busy days may run down the battery sooner as notifications flood the screen. The notification system – essentially a little icon that appears over the watch face – sometimes fails and instead shows a baffling grey square. This is the single annoyance I noticed, UI-wise, when it came to the Falster. It works with both Android smartphones and iOS.
What this watch boils down to is an improved fitness tracker and notification system. If you’re wearing, say, a Fitbit, something like the Skagen Falster offers a superior experience in a very chic package. Because the watch is fairly compact (at 42mm I won’t say it’s small but it would work on a thinner wrist) it takes away a lot of the bulk of other smartwatches and, more important, doesn’t look like a smartwatch. Those of use who don’t want to look like we’re wearing robotic egg sacs on our wrists will enjoy that aspect of Skagen’s effort, even without all the trimmings we expect from a modern smartwatch.
Skagen, like so many other watch manufacturers, decided if it couldn’t been the digital revolution it would join it. The result is the Falster and, to a lesser degree, their analog collections. Whether or not traditional watchmakers will survive the 21st century is still up in the air but, as evidenced by this handsome and well-made watch, they’re at least giving it the old Danish try.
April 16, 2018 / Comments Off on The Skagen Falster is a high fashion Android wearable