moto watch

When it’s your own, it’s just different somehow. No one can honestly tell you what it’s going to be like to have one in your life. Admittedly this is because so few people actually have smartwatches.

Sure, you can read the forums. Do the research. Watch introductory YouTube videos. But it’ll only drive you mad. Is it really true, what they say about how frequently you’ll have to charge the battery? More than once a day? Gosh, that would be annoying.

I’ve had my Android Wear smartwatch for a couple of months now. The bond with it is strong. Is that normal? In any case, I didn’t realise how attached I’d become until I left it at home one day. Since I have to charge it overnight, I take it off in the evening, and that morning I failed to put it back on when rushing to catch a train to work.

As I jogged to the station in office attire, it dawned on me that I’d have to take my phone out of my backpack in order to read email, check the time, get calendar notifications and see if I didn’t actually have to be jogging because the train was delayed.

I swear, it’s a conspiracy – the manufacturers are making all the nice mobile phones bigger so that we buy smartwatches rather than having to fiddle constantly with these bricks. I’m lucky the phablet even fits in most of my jacket pockets.

Truthfully though, the biggest advantage of having a smartwatch right now is how much it piques people’s curiosity when they see that you have one. I am a walking smartwatch demo and don’t I know it. Forget the “smug marrieds” of Bridget Jones’ Diary, for a couple of hundred pounds one can be a “smug early adopter”.

There is, of course, the risk of assorted bugs and breakdowns. The watch often gets stage fright and fails to perform in front of assembled audiences. It’s clearly not ready for the mass market, but if it was, there’d be nothing to be smug about. And let’s be honest, the bumps in the road make you feel a little hardcore at heart.

Another advantage of a smartwatch is that the Google Glass people make us look restrained when it comes to blatantly frivolous consumer electronics. Oh, and at least my wrist isn’t constantly staring at you. Want to know if I’m using my watch? Then look at whether my eyes are aimed at my wrist. This is straightforward and infinitely less creepy than those face computers. Even if I point my watch in your direction it won’t help me google you while we’re talking.

Cultural norms haven’t even been established yet for smartwatches so no obligation is felt to act with decorum, whatever that would be.

“Stop looking at your watch! Are you even paying attention? I don’t know why I bother taking you out if you’re just going to play with your watch the whole time.” I haven’t heard anyone say that . . . yet! For now, it’s a golden era.

Smartwatch owners cannot only be smug but also feel safe in the ambiguity around whether glancing at email on one’s wrist is all that impolite. In the same way that functionality decreases with smaller screen sizes, perhaps perceived rudeness also goes down. It’s not like you can play Angry Birds on this thing. But Flappy Bird might not have been much of a stretch. And God help us if Candy Crush extends support to smartwatches. Pedestrian fatalities would skyrocket.

Speaking of which: navigation. In navigation mode, the watch buzzes when I need to exit deep-in-thought National Public Radio podcast mode in order to rejoin the world for just long enough to turn corners.

This closely mimics the sensation of what it was like to actually know where I was going. You know, in the days before the old sense of direction gasped its last breath, having finally succumbed to the years-long beating it received at the hands of Google Maps and satellite navigation.

Come to think of it, somewhere deep in the Amazonian rainforest, there are probably still people who look around when they walk, as if driven by some sort of natural curiosity about their actual environment.

Perhaps unusually, it’s clear when the fun with smartwatches will come to an end and the smugness will fade into the sands of time. The golden era forgotten. Two words: Apple Watch. One more word: spoilsport.

lisa.pollack@ft.com

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