With social isolation locking me down – here in Victoria, Australia – I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit my first ever smartwatch.
As I posted earlier, for my 40th last year I treated myself to my first ever smartwatch. I wanted a wearOS device because I prefer Google to Apple but I was forewarned that wearOS did not have a very good reputation.
I spent a few months playing with the settings, found a setup that I liked and I haven’t had too many complaints. Even better, there have been some updates pushed out that seem to have reduced some of the lag I noticed early on.
What follows in this article are some “quality-of-life” tips that I have learned over the past year:
- Assigning the Torch feature to a hardware button,
- Screen protectors,
- Cleaning the watch,
- Reversing the watch strap,
- Making an extension strap.
The Torch (urgh… “Flashlight”)
The torch feature of the watch essentially turns the brightness up to maximum with a white screen.
As simple as this sounds I actually use it a lot, more than I use the torch on my phone. I think one of the advantages is that it is always within reach and you don’t have to hold it. The only disadvantage is that it’s on the back of my wrist so sometimes a bit awkward to use.
To make it even more useful, instead of having to find it in the menu…
…you can assign it to one of the physical buttons, the ones that skip forward and back when you are listening to audio.
All you need to do is go into settings and select “Personalization”.
Then in “Personalization” select “Customise hardware buttons”.
Then simply choose the button you want to use and assign “Flashlight”.
This is just a quick note about Screen Protectors. I have bought multiple screen protectors for my watch. I do a lot of work with my hands and I have cracked a few of them. Others have lost their “stick” and fallen off.
I have bought all my screen protectors from eBay and there is some discrepancy when it comes to the size of the protector. At least one seller I bought from thought that the correct size was 34mm. Here is what I have found:
- 34mm – covers the active part of the screen but leaves about 1mm radius of unprotected screen around the edge. It is possible, but unlikely, that you might chip the edge of the screen outside of the protector. I’m not too worried about the edges being damaged but the gap around the edge doesn’t look great.
- 36mm – covers the entire screen. It doesn’t even look like you have a screen protector fitted! The only downside of this size is that if it slides a bit then water can get between the protector and the screen can lose its “stick”. I have had one 36mm protector fall off without me noticing straight away. For this reason I have decided to go for…
- 35mm – the best of both worlds. Looks ok, covers most of the screen and doesn’t fall off! The one I have on my watch at the moment has been in place the longest of all my protectors.
Cleaning the Watch
This might not be necessary for me to address but I noticed that if I got any water or sweat between the watch and my skin, my skin would become very irritated and sometimes develop into a rash very quickly.
Rinsing with clean water can help but thoroughly drying is more important. I often put my watch in my pocket for a while after rinsing to ensure it dries.
Sometimes clean water is not enough. The silicon band picks up a lot of grease. I find a gentle wash of the band with hand soap works well. Sometimes I will loosen the band, soap up my wrist and simply slide the watch up and down my arm.
Finally, don’t use too much soap around a screen protector if you have one fitted. Sometimes water can get between the screen and the protector causing it to eventually lose its “stick” and fall off.
Reversing the Watch Strap
This is the one I’m second most proud of. After a few days of wearing my new watch, I noticed it would “ride-up” or rather around my wrist like this…
I think it is because my big, hairy wrist is a little too big for the strap even though I use the 4th hole from the end. To explain further take a look at these pictures…
The buckle strap is considerably shorter than the one with the holes in it. When the buckle is fastened, the area where the bands overlap tries to lie flat on your wrist which, in turn, pulls the watch face around your wrist away from you.
Fortunately the watch was designed with quick-release straps (so you can change them with your mood 🤨) and you can swap the straps…
It looks a little weird when it’s off your wrist but when you are wearing it the straps will tip the watch face towards you a little.
It’s subtle but it makes a huge difference in the comfort of the fit.
Making an Extension Strap
Before owning a smart watch I didn’t really care about exactly how much exercise I was doing but now that I have one, I was curious. I started taking notice of how much walking and running I was doing but half of my exercise (back in the good ol’ days when I wasn’t locked down in social isolation) was playing basketball and you aren’t allowed to wear watches while playing.
One day, while picking my kids up from school, I commented on a flashy watch one of the other parents was wearing. He began to tell me all about it and then happened to mention that he bought an extension strap so that he could wear it on his ankle while playing sport.
This got me thinking and I even got as far as looking up extensions on eBay when it occurred to me that I might already have exactly what I needed…
…the original “baby-blue” band that came with the watch!
As I have already mentioned, they have quick-release straps. All I needed for an extension, is a piece with a buckle on one end and holes on the other. The first step was removing the quick-release pin because it is too wide for the buckle.
The next step is to trim the edges of the strap so that the buckle will fit…
…then you need to find the middle for the buckle pin…
…and then you simply attach the buckle. I also added the loops to secure the loose end.
That’s it!! I was never planning to use the original strap. The bright blue is much nicer and now I have an extension strap. This is the hack I am most proud of, nerdy as it is 😁.
This is how I wore it for basketball…
…but I usually wore longer socks to cover the watch.
A year on I have no regrets. All the bad press wearOS was getting, I was a little concerned that I was in for trouble but perhaps with lower expectations I have been pleasantly surprised.
I use the torch a lot, I use the timers frequently, I use it as a media remote control for my phone, for my chromecast, I like receiving notifications on it and not having to pull my phone out of my pocket… it has become a piece of hardware I would miss if I stopped using it.
I am hearing/reading that Google are preparing to ramp up the development of wearOS so perhaps that will be good for my watch or maybe a good excuse for a new watch…