Since the rise of science fiction movies, we’ve dreamed of being able to communicate to people through our wrists. In almost every case of wrist-worn gadgetry, fictional or real, that dream is met by voice dictation, or video calling. We don’t get excited by the prospect of typing in long messages to people using a tiny onscreen keyboard. Despite several attempts by tech companies in the past, it just hasn’t caught on. So it’s a little baffling when a company decides to release an app for smartwatches with the keyboard as its primary input method. I went hands on with Messages for Android Wear to find out if it was any good…
Messages for Android Wear is a free download from the Google Play Store and is compatible with virtually every Android Wear smartwatch. It has in-app purchases to enable features like configurable signatures, pre-defined texts and adjustable vibration feedback, but is a pretty feature rich app even as a free download. Users can view hyperlinks and emoji, view conversations as traditional threads, view contacts and it even has Hangouts support.
Unlike most onscreen watch keyboards, Messages for Android doesn’t try to cram them all in to one screen. Credit has to go to the developers for that, but it still isn’t an entirely stress-free or easy experience. Because it doesn’t display all the letters on one screen you’re forced to swipe from left to write hunting for letters. There is predictive texting which, sadly, isn’t aware of context and doesn’t appear to learn your habits. This means, like predictive texting on mobile phones of old, it only shows suggestions based on the letters you’ve typed, regardless of the context within the sentence. Woe betide anyone who’s keen on proper punctuation and use of upper and lower case letters. You can use them, but finding them means cycling through keyboards, and swiping some more to find your desired character.
It may not be as hard to hit an individual letter as it might be on a ‘traditional’ onscreen watch keyboard, but it’s just as frustrating. In the end I found that the most reliable way to respond to, or write messages, was to use voice detection. It was quicker and easier. More importantly, it didn’t leave me wanting to blast my Moto 360 in to oblivion. Sadly then, the only reason for buying the app is also the reason you probably shouldn’t.
Still, early reviews on the Google Play Store have generally been quite positive, so there’s always a chance this is just me being old and grumpy. It’s a free download, and won’t cost you anything (except maybe your sanity) to try it out for yourself, and see if you like it.
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