Smartwatches have been visible to the mainstream for a couple of years now, but their designs have been lackluster, to say the least. I hopped on the smartwatch bandwagon early last year. I am not new to wearable tech. My first dive into wearable tech was when the Nike FuelBand was first launched a few years ago. The Samsung Gear 2 was my wearable of choice. It wasn’t the prettiest smartwatch, but, at the time, it was the only smartwatch on the market that, if you held one eye shut while the sun was in the other eye, didn’t look like a minicomputer on your wrist. Thankfully, manufacturers realize this is a problem. Smartwatch manufacturers are finally turning their attention to design. Asus has done just that with the ZenWatch.
The ZenWatch is a welcomed change of pace for Android Wear watches. It is comprised of a metal body and a brown leather strap. The body is made of brushed metal with a rose gold colored band along its sides. The body features a 1.6-inch, 320 x 320 pixel AMOLED display. The display offers good viewing angles and is flawless indoors. I do find it difficult to view the display in bright sunlight. The display is boxed in by a rather large bezel. I wish it wasn’t as prominent, but it’s not much of a bother for me. I would choose thick bezels over a flat tire any day of the week.
The metal body paired with the interchangeable leather watch band provides for quite an attractive package. When compared to other Android Wear devices, the ZenWatch looks and feels like it should – like a watch.
Android Wear has a ways to go with the OS. Unlike Samsung’s line of Tizen watches, and very much like any other Android Wear watch, you will have to charge the ZenWatch each night or you will wake up to a dead battery. The ZenWatch will last “all day” if you go by Tim Cook standards. Unlike Motorola’s Moto 360, the ZenWatch does not support wireless charging. The watch must be charged via a proprietary cradle connected to a micro USB cable.
Like Motorola’s Moto 360, Asus created a companion app. The ZenWatch Manager will help you change the settings on your watch. Asus also created some other companion apps like their health and fitness app, ZenWatch Wellness. The ZenWatch Wellness app keeps track of your steps, heart rate and, supposedly, your mood. (Oh, great, a $200 mood ring!) The focus on fitness is a curious one considering everything about the design of the ZenWatch says it is not to be worn at the gym, but at the office or a dinner date. Therein lies one of the issues with Android Wear is the inability to have multiple devices. You can’t have your sport watch and your dress watch without having to go through hoops swapping them out.
Despite its shortcomings, I give the ZenWatch a solid recommendation. If you are in the market, have an Android phone and want a smartwatch that doesn’t cost you a daycare payment, give the ZenWatch a try.
The Asus ZenWatch retails for $199 at most retail stores and Google Play.