Edward Swift - Hands on: ASUS ZenWatch

Publish Date
Wednesday, 3 June 2015, 5:32PM
By Edward Swift

Wearable technology is starting to become more commonplace. Apple has finally jumped on the bandwagon with their Apple Watch (however that’s still not available in New Zealand), Samsung has been around for a while, and other brands are starting to come to market with new products.

I still believe smart watches are relatively gimmicky. Talking loudly into your watch to send a text message, or asking it to make a call when you’re ultimately going to have to pull your phone out of your pocket to make that call does seem a bit silly.

However there are some great features for wearables – you can track your fitness, see your calendar notifications without having to find your phone, and quickly read emails on the go. If you’re like me and in a situation where you need to see if you get an urgent text or call but can’t have your phone out, it’s very helpful.

As more app developers come to terms with Android Wear and build add-ons to make them compatible with smart watches, the technology becomes even more useful. An example is ANZ’s goMoney app – you can open the app on your watch and check your balance in a matter of seconds.

Over the last month or so I’ve been trialling the ASUS ZenWatch, and it’s a pretty good piece of kit. The design certainly stands out, but it’s received mixed views with friends that have seen it. The brown leather strap some have commented looks odd, while others think it looks very stylish. There is the option to change the 'orange' strap to a dark brown, or even attach any standard watch strap - great if you want to customise it. I personally like the current 'orange' strap, however I think ASUS need to come out with a few more of their own options for those that might not want to fuss around buying and changing straps.

The AMOLED display is good and the fact the watch face uses scratch resistant Gorilla Glass 3 is great. There’s nothing worse than accidentally scratching the screen while doing something ordinary like reaching under the car seat to find that loose change.

The thing I do like about this is that ASUS have actually come up with their own suite of apps, including their own watch manager and a fitness app. It gives you the ability to customise your watch a bit more including setting custom functions when you perform certain actions on your ZenWatch.

But the app I really like from their suite is the Remote Camera. If you want to use the rear camera to take a decent photo, you can open the Remote Camera, see the shot on your watch and simply flick your wrist to take a photo. Helpful if you’ve set it up on a tripod (or balancing it on a shelf) or taking a selfie.

However what I don’t like is that it doesn’t connect to a standard Micro USB plug for charging. They’ve built that in to a cradle which clips on to the watch, and then plugs into your standard Android charger. That means if my watch runs out of battery (which is around every day and a half) I need to make sure I have the specific charging attachment with me to charge it. It really should’ve been built into the watch.

ASUS have recently announced the ZenWatch 2 – a tweaked design and a brand new strap options, a battery life of up to four days if their reports are to be believed, and a new magnetic charger. While it will give consumers more choice about what they want to have on their wrists, sadly it means that they’ll need a completely different cord to charge the watch. 

All being said, I still think smart watches are in their “gimmicky” stage. But as the manufacturers improve the technology and the app developers come to the party, they might become more useful as time goes on. After all, remember when having a cellphone was considered gimmicky?

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