I Bought a Smartwatch, Then 2 Months Later I Bought a Regular Watch

Key Takeaways

  • Scratches on my Pixel Watch screen pushed me away.
  • There isn’t much diversity among the physical look of Wear OS smartwatches, with the software limiting options further.
  • Charging daily grew old, and notifications on my wrist began to feel less like a perk as time went on.

My first Android Wear smartwatch was the Moto 360. My second was the Google Pixel Watch. Smartwatches have gotten a lot better in that time, but I still didn’t keep one on my wrist for more than a few months. Why?

My Smartwatch Looks Like This

A Google Pixel Watch with scratches on the display
Bertel King / How-To Geek

The primary reason I’m not wearing my Pixel Watch anymore is because of scratches across the screen. I read the reviews. They warned me, but I didn’t think it would get this bad this quickly. I apparently should have bought a screen protector, but I didn’t know that was a thing I should buy for my watch, nor do I necessarily want to.

We all feel differently about our watches. Some of us will strap on a $20 digital watch because it is filled with features. Others will pay substantially more for a timepiece that only tells the time.

I’ve never been someone to spend a bunch of money on watches, but if I’m going to buy one, I’m closer to the latter. If something will be strapped to my wrist where I and everyone can see it, I want it to look nice.

There Aren’t Many Alternatives to Pick From

Durability isn’t an issue that all smartwatches face, but the Pixel Watch was the option I found most attractive. It’s relatively minimalist. It features a stock version of Wear OS. It doesn’t require installing a companion app from an OEM different from my phone’s.

Sure, the Apple Watch is considered the gold standard, but I have never liked how it looks. Besides, you need an iPhone to activate one, which I don’t have.

If you want something Android-compatible with stock software and good software support, your options are rather limited. Software updates are the Mobvoi TicWatch’s weakness. Samsung’s watches come with One UI, which isn’t bad, but I don’t want that unless I’m also running One UI on my phone. Plus, there are certain things Samsung watches can only do with Samsung phones. Motorola’s smartwatch runs a different OS entirely.

The OnePlus Watch 2 is a decent option, but it wasn’t out yet. It’s also on the big side, like most other smartwatches. I have small wrists, and I want a thin watch. My wife found one in the Garmin Lily, but that doesn’t run Wear OS, nor is it quite the look I’m going for.

I Gave Up Finding a Watch Band I Like

I can’t say I loved everything about how the Google Pixel Watch looked out of the box. One of my intentions from the very beginning was to replace the plastic strap. Unfortunately, Google used a proprietary standard incompatible with most third-party watch bands.

Removeable watch band on the Google Pixel Watch 2
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

I ordered a few bands, but the experience was rather frustrating. I took a chance on the official metal mesh band from Google. At $129.99, it cost nearly as much as my Pixel Watch, which I snagged during a Black Friday sale. The band uses a magnetic clasp that simply does not hold a strong connection. My watch constantly slid up my arm and needed tightening throughout the day. I returned it.

I then took my chances with a cheap option from Amazon. Though also metal, it looked and felt as cheap as its price. I returned it, too.

Before I found a winner, my watch was already too scratched up for me to want to continue. Why put lipstick on a pig?

To be clear, this would have been much less of an issue with a watch that works with any standard watch band, like Samsung’s. So if you don’t mind installing Samsung’s companion app, or you already own a Samsung phone, that’s the direction I’d nudge people in. In many ways, Samsung’s Galaxy watches are better Pixel watches.

A Digital Watch Face Isn’t As Nice as the Real Thing

A digital watchface on the Google Pixel Watch
Bertel King / How-To Geek

One advantage of a digital watchface is that you can change how it looks at any time. Instead of buying a new watch, you just switch out the watch’s face with a few swipes and a couple of taps. Boom, you have a new watch.

Do these watch faces look better than the displays on digital watches? Absolutely! Yet they also can’t quite replicate the look of an analog watch. A physical watch face has depth. There are shadows. The light hits the glass differently depending on the angle.

Digital watch faces lack texture, and while they might look attractive while you’re checking out the options, once you look at your wrist from a distance, it still looks like a screen attached to your arm.

I Grew Tired of Charging My Watch

A full-featured smartwatch has battery life measured in days, not weeks, and certainly not months. The first generation Pixel Watch is one you need to charge roughly every day if you want peace of mind. While the Pixel Watch has slightly less battery life than others, keeping any smartwatch charged is something you need to work into your routine.

That’s not inherently an issue. I’m fine with making charging a ritual. I drive an electric car, and it’s not a big deal. But I do want to feel that the payoff is worth it for having to make a lifestyle change.

Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Once I looked at the number of features I still cared strongly about after a couple of months of smartwatch ownership (sleep tracking, mainly), I just no longer felt like making the effort.

I Don’t Want Every Notification on My Wrist

One of the advantages of a smartwatch is the ability to receive notifications on your wrist. When you’re washing dishes, you can glance down and know what’s going on without needing to dry your hands and go find your phone.

One of the big annoyances of a smartwatch is also the ability to receive notifications. My watch would buzz at times when I really don’t want to glance down: when I’m playing with my kids, in moments of quiet meditation, or when I’m talking to anyone face-to-face. Long before pulling out a smartphone was rude, glancing down at your watch was how you showed people you weren’t all that interested in what they had to say.

Yet it’s second nature to look down at your watch when a notification arrives. I wasn’t aware I had done it until after I’d done it. Sure, there are ways to limit which notifications arrive on your smartwatch. You can silence it for times when you don’t want distractions. Yet this is something you have to consciously remember to do, and even the notifications that I consider important, I don’t necessarily want to receive right away for most of the day.

It’s really a non-issue to leave my phone in the other room and walk off to go play with my kids for a moment. It’s rather weird, however, to take off my watch and leave it on the table. I wouldn’t actively choose to silence my watch for a few minutes of play because there’s a good chance I’d forget to un-silence it until several hours later. As is the case with charging, notifications become something else to manage.

There’s No Buy-It-For-Life Smartwatch

I may not have had a great experience with my most recent watch, but let’s assume for the moment that I did. Let’s say I loved it and wouldn’t want to go back to life without it. I can hope for two, three, maybe four years of use. Then, once the software support expires, I need to replace it with a newer model.

Setting aside the issue of digital waste, Wear OS watches are generally in the range of $200-$300 hundred dollars. For that much money you can get a really nice timepiece, one that will last long enough for you to hand down to your kids some day. A smartwatch simply does not offer a similar long-term value proposition.

Like many smart gadgets, smartwatches turn something that lasts a long time into something that has to be tossed out and renewed every few years. Looking ten years ahead, I don’t know if I want to keep spending that much money on watches when I can just buy a nice one now and be done with it, maybe swapping out my bands a few times along the way. For now, I’ve decided to go with the Mudita Moment, which is stylistically and sustainably everything I’ve wanted from a traditional watch.

I don’t fundamentally dislike smartwatches, and I haven’t ruled out the possibility of buying another one. Maybe the next time there’s a good deal, I’ll give one another shot, but I don’t have the confidence that I will want to use it long-term the way I do when purchasing a regular watch that does a good job of telling the time, fitting my wrist, and looking nice while doing it.

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