So google news has let me know about the new HP smartwatch, designed by Michael Bastian (whoever that is), and it looks sharp. The Apple watch seems to be, if anything, a little overdesigned. Long-term, that's probably a good thing for Apple. Part of the beauty of the iPhone, and what's allowed it to change the way all phones are made, was that it left buttons behind and allowed you to create any sort of app on the machine's small canvas. That is, no matter what sort of inside access you get, you can't do much with a Head-to-Head football game's controls. You might squeeze out a marginally different race car game or something, but you're basically stuck. When the screen is as wide open as a blank slate, you have lots more flexibility. The Apple watch seems ready to do things we haven't thought of yet.

But what do you really want from a smart watch? There are only two things everyone wants, I think. The time (if only for historical reasons), and a place to read timely message highlights. I imagine that, like me, everyone has their own third. Me, I want built-in GPS so I can track a run without carrying a phone around.

Oh, there probably is a third everyone wants: Don't look like a dork wearing a calculator watch from the 80s. Let's face it, having a calculator right there whenever you need it is really kinda neat, but only during those times when you need it. The rest of the time? Doooork-E. Kinda like a chunky square watch with an oversized crown would look now.

This HP watch dodges the calculator watch feel awfully well. It doesn't have traditional hands like iHands I was kinda hoping to see implemented well, but it's close. There's a dedicated watch section on the face at the top left, which gives a similar feel. Here's an image from Gilt.

So the "watch widget" ring and the tick marks are permanent, but the hands come from the admittedly not retina-quality screen. Also note the orange arrows I added, pointing at the edges of the square watch screen. That's a little cheap looking, though not quite as silly as black bottom bar on the Moto 360, but in a similar, "We botched the implementation," vein.

The permanent clock ring makes that square a little less obvious, which is at least clever. That should visually break up the feeling of the watch as a square screen shoved into a round hole/face, which is pretty important.

Ultimately, this is a much nicer looking watch than Apple's, at least speaking conventionally in 2014. Kicks the pants off of the Pebble. Always tells time. Battery lasts a decent while -- apparently around a week. And it gives you a nice way to check highlights of recent messages. I like it. Right now, I'd probably buy the Microsoft Band or a Garmin running watch instead, as they both have GPSes, natch, but if I was important enough that missing a message could be expensive and didn't want to look like I didn't realize fanny packs are supposed to be worn on your fanny,* this watch would have my attention.

*Btw, folks who don't seem to understand this simple truism -- that fanny packs are to be worn on your fanny -- really bother me. I don't even know if fanny packs are inherently dorky. They're insanely useful when you're hiking and don't want to carry a full pack, or need to get to part of your gear quickly and are wearing a high pack. It's not the accessibility that makes a fanny pack dorky. That, like a calculator watch when you actually need to double check some nontrivial math, is useful. It's the fact that you need to neurotically dip into the pack so often that you allow it to symbolically replace, well, you know, combined with the style faux pas of accentuating your belly, that causes our visceral reason to the dopes that wear fanny packs on their font side. STOP IT, for heaven's sake.  ;^)

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