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My first 2 months with a smart watch

samsung gear live

 Many of my colleagues have asked about my experience with the Samsung Gear Live ever since I got it from Google I/O. With all the hype last week around the iWatch (or just Watch, as Apple seems to prefer), I thought it’d be interesting to rate my watch in a few dimensions that matter to me the most: Wearability, usefulness as a watch, and its usefulness beyond a watch.

Wear-ability: 5

The Gear Live is definitely not designed for those with smaller wrist. It looks bulky on me and it feels heavy. I often find myself taking it off when I’m at my desk or in meetings. It also has a long way to go as a fashion statement.

Usefulness as a watch: 6

It does its job, mostly. My biggest gripe is its lack of option to always show the time. The display is turned off by default, and you can set it up to turn on either by pressing a button or with a flick of your wrist. I don’t want to take an extra action just to look at the time, but the latter always cause my watch to turn on unexpectedly which, coupled with its colorful background, is very distracting.

Usefulness beyond a watch: 8

When I first got the device, I was underwhelmed. It felt nothing more than a duplicate of notifications already on my phone, and it’s still largely true today. What did change, however, was my own behavior. I find myself increasingly relying on the watch as a “triage” device: What’s the news headline? Is it an IM for me or for the whole group? Is this call worth me searching my purse for the phone (btw, that’s a tough thing to do as many women can attest)? After 2 months of usage, there’s no question in my mind that a smart watch is not merely a smaller replica of a smart phone. It’s much closer to you, in a way that your phone never was and never will. The current lack of apps severely inhibits its usefulness, but I’m giving this an eight based on my belief of its potential.

Conclusion

I was not a believer in wearable tech but surprisingly, I’m slowly warming up to the idea. It’s not about a watch, a pair of glasses, or any specific form factors. It’s about distributing components and functionalities that were previously constrained to one single device to enable the best end to end experience. If anyone can elevate hardware experience to that level – Apple can. I look forward to seeing what they can achieve in the coming years.

p.s.

Also published on LinkedIn

Thank you Giovanni Iachello for inspiring me to write this post

 

Apps for commuter

After 2 months of daily commute between South Bay and San Francisco, I’ve accumulated a list of Android apps that I can’t live without, and a list of missing features/apps I wish I had.

Getting there

First up is the good old timetable. CaltrainDroid (free) has a simple interface for looking up Caltrain schedule, and would have been perfect if it could auto-update the starting station based on current location. Similarly I use QuickMuni (free) for Muni schedules, although in my experience it is not as accurate as most reviewers claim on Google Play.

One feature I would gladly pay for is an alarm that sets off automatically as the train gets close to my destination. I doze off pretty much every trip, and one time I woke up only to find the train completely empty (luckily I did mean to get off at the final stop). An auto alarm would have been a life-saver.

On a similar note, I also wish there’s a “set alarm” option directly from the schedule so I can easily remind myself to do the Cinderella dash to the train station (particularly when there’s only one train per hour in the evening, which is what I hate the most about commuting in SF).

Time Killer

3 things that I commonly do during my commute are: News, Music and Games.

Like most people I use my time on the train to catch up on news. However for various reasons (wanting to finish going through my Twitter feed; content not suitable to read on small screen…etc) sometimes I’d rather save up interesting contents to be read at a later time. I recently discovered Pocket that does just that, which also integrates directly with many content apps. However as of the current version it doesn’t save the source of the content, making it hard to respond to the original poster in the case of social media.

I originally switched to the paid version of Spotify while working overseas this summer (required for roaming), but now that I’m commuting it just makes sense to keep the premium account which also lets me play on mobile. The song selection and quality are both excellent, and if you’re a SoundHound user there’s a nice integration that lets you add to Spotify directly from SoundHound once you’ve identified a song.

I love puzzle games and while I’ve tried many on the Android, ilomilo remains my favorite, which unfortunately is available exclusively on Windows Phone (Used to own a Samsung Focus for 2 years and it’s a great phone). You can also check it out on Xbox live.

Keep it running

This is not an app, but one of the worst nightmare for any commuters is to run out of battery on your phone, so I always bring with me an external charger. It’s fairly light and more than fully charges my phone when the battery is full. It also has an external indicator to show how much power is left which is handy.

If you’re a fellow SF commuter, I would love to hear what’s on your phone!

Blog vs. Diary

As a kid, I’ve heard many times from adults the importance of keeping a diary. Memories are short lived, they said, but written memories are forever. I remember buying myself one of those diaries with locks and making grand plans of updating it everyday for the rest of my life. Being the lazy (or busy) kid I was it didn’t last very long. After several moves I’m not even sure if it still exist somewhere in my parents’ apartment.

My first blogging experience began with Xanga (does anyone still use it?) which I updated intermittently from 2003 to 2009. There was no particular reason for starting it other than it being the “it” thing at the time. While blogs tend to be public and interactive, mine was a completely private blog filled with some of my most cherished memories through high school & college which I shared with my closest friends, sometimes even only myself. It was no more than a digitized diary with absolutely no value to a stranger. I didn’t think it was a problem, as I had an inherent distrust of sharing on the internet. Why would I want to put my private life out there for anyone to see, or my own thought for everyone to hear? This also explains why even though I’ve been an avid Facebook user since 2004 (my boss joked that I flood his newsfeed everyday), it took me two years to post my first two tweets on Twitter.

Then something changed in the last year – I went back to school for an MBA. Being away from Tech actually made me want to follow tech news more than I did when I was working, and I found Twitter to be a pretty good platform for following tech blogs and influential people in the industry. Several months later I started recruiting for my internship. Being forced to recruit again meant I had to update my LinkedIn profile, as well as scouring the web (i.e. searching for myself) to make sure I have a professional presence (not that I expected to find anything bad, but you still want to be extra cautious). This process made me realize how much information about myself is already on the web. Where I went to school; where I worked; conversations I left in public forums for my previous job. I thought I was being extra careful with my private blogs and locked down Facebook account, but in this day and age you just cannot be a digital citizen and stay completely anonymous on the web. There’s private information (e.g. password, birthday, relationship), and then there’s personal information. You may not be able to easily connect me with a social security number (a form of US personal ID) by piecing together my personal information from the internet, but you can absolutely build a proxy of who I am with those data.

I blogged and tweeted for my company as part of my internship this summer. It was pretty fun to pick up the pen again, but also slightly unsatisfying given I was writing for someone else instead. The thought of blogging for myself again started to take shape. Given my recent discovery on how little privacy I actually enjoy on the internet, I figured maybe it’s also time I give public sharing an honest try. Better build your own image than have someone imagine it on their own, right? I haven’t quite decided what I would post on this blog. It could be Tech, life as an MBA student, or my latest cookie recipe. I do not, however, intend to discuss topics of no social value (i.e. my private affairs). I may share bits and pieces from my life, but only if I believe that a reader of no relation to me could still benefit from reading the blog.

If you have any suggestions on what I should write about, would love to hear from you. It would also serve as an encouragement for me to actually keep up with it this time round. Maybe no one actually reads this post, which is also fine. Hopefully many years later I will look back at it and laugh at how naive I once was.