4 min read

Considering An Apple Watch? Try This First

Will a small, wrist-mounted device lead to an Apple Watch -- or to a wrist with no watch at all?
10 iPhone, Android Apps To Keep You Healthy
10 iPhone, Android Apps To Keep You Healthy
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Perhaps you've heard of the Apple Watch. Depending on who you listen to, it's either the device that's going to change computing as we know it or the next great failure in the long history of technology failures. I decided to see which camp would welcome me by taking a small, skinny step on the road to the Apple Watch.

My skinny step came courtesy of the Oregon Scientific Ssmart Dynamo 2+ -- a $99 intelligent "fitness band" with additional features that make it a useful test for my interest in strapping an Apple Watch to my wrist. The additional features are straightforward, but I'm beginning to be convinced that the arguments for and against the Apple Watch could be straightforward, as well.

So what does the Ssmart Dynamo 2+ do? It starts out with the basic fitness band functions -- keeping track of how many steps I take, how much of the day I'm active, how much of the day I'm a slug, how much I'm sleeping, and so on. So far, so good, but I have a Timex Ironman that does all of this and a bit more. The Dynamo 2+ really starts to show its smarts when it connects to the app on my smartphone.

The Ssmart Dynamo app connects to the wrist device and records all the data in a form that lets you review your activity, compare one day to another, and share the data with others (say, a coach or a healthcare professional). That connection goes both ways, though, and that's when it gets interesting.

When the phone and device are connected (via Bluetooth), a variety of alerts from the phone will show up on the band. When new texts or calls come in the band vibrates. It vibrates when email comes in (if you've set your email to alert you when new messages arrive), when a new message comes in via social media, or when an app (such as a news app) sounds an alert. There's a small display on the device where the first characters of the alert scroll across. And that's it.

There's no real interaction with the phone via the wrist device: It's a read-only display for the phone. And I've been surprised to find that this secondary display has become absolutely addictive.

[Apple Watch is getting new apps. Read Apple Watch Gets Email, IT Support.]

I have a fairly large smartphone (an iPhone 6+), which lives in one or another of my pants pockets most of the time. When I'm driving or in a public place, I've found it very helpful to have my wrist buzz so I can quickly look at the band and decide whether or not I need to deal with what's just happened on my phone. Even when a phone call comes in, the little Dynamo 2+ shows me who's calling, allowing me to decide whether to reach into my pocket to grab the phone or simply let the call go to voicemail.

It only took about three days for me to start depending on the Dynamo+ to let me know what was happening on my phone's main screen. And that's why I think the Apple Watch might have a great deal going for it. I can easily imagine enterprise applications with a fixed set of user responses that display on the Apple Watch and allow the user to send a canned command in response. I'm actually looking forward to seeing more information from more apps displayed on my wrist.

Now, is this a perfect solution? No, it's not. Those of us coming to the Apple Watch from fitness watches will need to get used to the fact that the more advanced devices are more delicate. The Ssmart Dynamo+ regularly admonished me to stop sweating so much and dry off the device -- an annoyance when I'm in the middle of exercise and a warning of disaster in water sports. The more activity that comes through on your phone, the faster the battery spirals toward zero.

Even with the cautions, the Dynamo+ is a very useful little device that left me wanting a bit more. It's that "bit more" that probably comes wrapped in an Apple Watch wrapper. I'm looking forward to reporting on the combination -- eventually. I'll just let the Ssmart Dynamo+ hang out on my wrist for a few more months -- if it can stand my sweaty arm.