I Joined The Cult

You heard me, I joined a cult and bought a smartwatch.

I picked up a TicWatch Pro 2020 (obviously). I went with a WearOS device for two main reasons:

  • I don’t do Apple
  • I don’t do Samsung

Now don’t get me wrong, Tizen watches can work on Android phones other than Samsung; but as to be expected, it’s not as smooth or integrated. iOS devices don’t work outside of Apple’s ecosystem. There’s Fitbit…but I actually didn’t want a fitness tracker. So even right from the start I had pretty much decided on WearOS. This of course also meant filtering through the very tempting plethora of knock-offs. Was that $80 smartwatch running some kind of integrated BS? Would a watch running full android do half the stuff a watch does or just be a “phone on my wrist.” I mean…it was tempting to pick up a watch for about the same price as what I paid with some impressive specs running what they claimed was Android 10; but it would likely have some very hacky interface to make it “watch compatible” and never see updates. There was also this issue of wanting NFC payment capability…which I didn’t really see on non WearOS devices.

The Pro 2020 is an upgraded model of the original Pro, which came out just before the TicWatch Pro 3. The upgrades to the Pro 2020 largely boils down to doubling the ram from 512MB to 1GB. The Pro 2020 still has the Wear 2100 SoC where as the Pro 3 has the newer 4100 with 8GB ROM vs 4GB ROM. But as someone who was totally new to the experience and unsure if he’d like it; I figured it was worth saving the $100 and getting the older model. I still really didn’t have much of an idea of what this thing would do. I could watch videos and read reviews all day long…that’s nothing compared to how it actually works and feels “in my hands”.

So let me just say…for something I had no idea what use I’d have for it; it’s quickly found some. I used to wear a watch almost religiously as a teenager; that gradually got replaced over time with cell phones. But I found as soon as I put this thing on…tons of old habits came flooding back. As cool as it is to do some things on the watch….it’s the “passive use” that has really impressed me. But first let me tell you about this really cool feature of being a normal watch that this thing does:

So…let me just start off that my mind is still blown by this feature; this watch has a layered display. It has a twisted nematic LCD display over the OLED. In non-tech terms; it has a standard watch LCD display in it. When the OLED is “asleep”, or the watch is in “essentials mode”, it activates this LCD; they call it ambient mode. I did not realize after wearing a watch again at how quickly I went back to wanting to glance at my wrist; and I quickly discovered how ingenious this was. I don’t have to actually use the battery running the screen just to see the time. I don’t have to simulate this with “tilt-to-wake” and burn 5 to 7 seconds of screen time. I look at it…like a standard digital watch; and provided I’m not in the dark, I see the time. I’m also not burning my OLED out as much with an always-on display.

Like…this feature alone was something I didn’t even knew I should have required. I really didn’t give enough thought in to this. I initally looked at that feature of the TicWatch and put it on the “kinda cool but not necessary” list. I don’t think I want a smartwatch without a layered TN LCD.

A Natural Extension Of My Phone

I know these things do fitness tracking and have various health sensors…that’s totally not why I bought it. Honestly the main things I wanted was a bluetooth device to keep my phone unlocked and NFC payments. Sleep tracking is something I wasn’t interested in either. In fact I disabled most of the access to the various health sensors that draw power; also disabling most, if not all, of the health oriented stuff. I’m not going to throw rocks at you if that’s why you bought it…just don’t throw them at me for not wanting those features.

But let me talk to you about phone notifications. Ladies and gentlemen…as quickly as I went back to naturally looking at my wrist for time; the same has happened with my phone notifications. It probably helps the thing vibrates…drawing my attention to it. Even with tilt-to-wake disabled…if I get a notification; it will wake up and show me the notification. This. Is. Fantastic. Glancing at notifications and glancing at the time are the most common activities I do with this watch. It just feels so damn natural. There’s also something “less obtrusive” about glancing at your watch around someone than pulling out your phone.

Look…I could go on and on about what this thing does; I can make phone calls from it; I think I can respond to text messages; It’s got a compass and GPS for maps; NFC payments are cool; I haven’t found too many good WearOS compatible apps other than a compass and calculator, but I also haven’t looked; and don’t even get me started on the culture surrounding watch faces….the other little unknown addiction I’d discover.

I mean…that is just beautiful.