Controlling the smart home is mainly achieved in one of two ways. Using the digital assistant on your smartphone or smart speaker, or accessing the appropriate app on your mobile device. While it’s not as frequently used as the other options, you can also leverage smartwatches.
Given how smartwatches have been around for some time, you’d think they’d have a deeper integration with the smart home. But, after I put a couple of them to the test to uncover what they can achieve, I realize there’s certainly room improvement.
Whether you’re using an Apple Watch, or any available WearOS smartwatches around, digital voice assistants are still the primary way of controlling the smart home with a smartwatch. It’s honestly not a shocker, given how we’ve come to rely on our digital voice assistants for just about everything in our lives. Plus, it’s just convenient to sit back on the sofa and tell Alexa, Google Assistant, or even Siri to turn on the lights.
As I’ve come to realize, though, there are certain situations when yelling out a command to my smart speaker isn’t practical. When someone is napping nearby, for example, you really shouldn’t be barking out a command, which is why I prefer whispering to my smartwatch instead. When my smartphone is out of reach, of course.
Fundamentally, there’s no difference between using my smart display or smartwatch. The actions are the same.
Philips Hue light bulbs are extremely popular, so you’d expect at the very least that a platform as notable as it would have a WearOS app, but sadly that’s not the case. In fact, out of the handful of smart home related apps installed on my Android smartphone, there was only a single one with an accompanying WearOS app — Xiaomi’s Yeelight, which allows me to control the lights and other lamps in my office.
Even more shocking is the fact that there isn’t a native WearOS app to access Google’s very own Home app for Android. It’s this sort of problem that exposes the systemic problem with smartwatches, seeing that they’re treated more as companions than dedicated devices. The Oppo Watch is no different, despite its impressive hardware, stylish design, and on-the-go LTE connectivity. Sure, I still get notifications about motion detection from a sensor in my home, but I want actionable controls more so than just notifications.
Apple’s WatchOS has its merits, not only because it seems to offer more smartwatch optimized apps that can control the smart home, but also because it natively features Apple’s Home app. Meaning, any and all HomeKit connected gadgets in my home can be controlled by the app on the Apple Watch. I have my Philips Hue light bulbs connected to it, as well as an Eve Energy Strip. Beyond the Home app, there are considerably more dedicated WatchOS apps that I have access to, such as Philips Hue, SimpliSafe, LIFX, Mi Home, Scout, and many more.
I’m frankly astounded to see the disparity between the two platforms. Apple smartwatch provides a solid array of useful smart home apps, but the same can’t be said about Google and WearOS.
Smartwatches are still treated as companion devices more than anything else. Rightfully so, just because chances are your smartphone is always around wherever you go. They’re meant to complement our smartphones, not replace them. However, it’s apparent that Apple is significantly ahead of the pack with treating its smartwatch more as a dedicated gadget.
Google and Apple have shown us how they’re eager to provide accessible smart home controls to its users, evident by the new features in tow with the next iteration of both mobile platforms. I’m hoping to expect the same level of attention on their respective smartwatch platforms because I’m more likely to leave my phone behind in a rush. It’d be nice to have some controls at my disposal in the event when I don’t have access to my smartphone.
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