Google's smartwatches get one critical thing wrong

Huawei watch android wear notification emailAntonio Villas-Boas/Tech InsiderAndroid Wear on the new Huawei Watch doesn’t display notifications well at all.

When notifications in Android Wear get in the way instead of being helpful, there’s a problem.

Android Wear is Google’s smartwatch operating system that runs on several different smartwatches models from companies like LG, Motorola, Huawei, Asus, and Sony.

For the last week, I’ve been using the Huawei Watch, which runs Android Wear. It looks great and I love being able to chose my own watch face.

But using the Huawei Watch made me realise a fundamental flaw with Android Wear. When I get a notification, it appears as a “card” that takes up about a third of an Watch’s display. It covers up some important parts of watch face, like a complication on the bottom, and even the minute hand.

Most importantly, it covers the beautiful watch face I chose.

Notifications are arguably the primary reason to get a smartwatch, and it’s nice to check a notification on your wrist instead of pulling your phone out of your pocket. Just not when it takes away the “watch” part of a smartwatch.

The problem here is I get too many notifications, especially from emails. And to get rid of each notification to see my watch face, I need to swipe right.

Sometimes, notifications just appear there without me knowing I had one, and I need to swipe right to dismiss it to see my watch face and tell the time properly. It’s not something I want to do when I was to glance at my watch to check the time.

Check out what I mean with the images below:

Just look at this beautiful watch face on the Huawei Watch.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Tech Insider

I'm a huge fan of the silver bezels and blue face combination, and I love complications (although, there's one more complication than I usually like).

And bam.!It's obliterated with this hideous notification card.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Tech Insider

The notification card takes up a third of the Huawei Watch's screen and watch face, and it completely hides the complication at the bottom, which tells me which day of the week it is.

If I wanted to check what day it was, I wouldn't be able to tell unless I swiped down to remove the notification card.

The notification card itself is about 85% white background, which is totally unnecessary. The other 15% are the words that actually serve a purpose in notifying me.

And notifications in the power-saving mode, which you see more often than the screen at full brightness, looks like it's just patched on like an after-thought.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Tech Insider

The card is gone, but the notification text overlaps the complication and the minute hand, which looks terrible.

But some smartwatches like the new Moto 360 handle notifications in Android Wear a little better. The notification card is still intrusive, but at least it's slightly transparent to show you some detail behind the card.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Tech Insider

It looks better, but the notification card is still comprised of useless white background and takes up a third of the screen.

And the notification in the low-power mode looks a lot better than on the equivalent on the Huawei Watch. However, you still can't see where the minute hand is pointing, so it's not great either.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Tech Insider

And when you swipe up to expand a notification with all Android Wear smartwatches, you get a horribly pixelated version of a contact's Google profile photo.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Tech Insider

It just doesn't look like the type of experience anyone would expect from a device that starts at $US300.

Still, Android Wear's notifications are better than on the Apple Watch, where the watch face is completely overtaken by the notification and you don't get to see your watch face at all until you dismiss the notification.

Dave Smith/Tech Insider

It's clear that the Apple is focusing on the 'smart' part of the smartwatch rather than the time-telling.

Wouldn't you prefer to see this gorgeous watch face with notifications displayed in a more discreet and tasteful fashion?

Antonio Villas-Boas/Tech Insider

It looks like Samsung has figured it out on the upcoming Gear S2 with notifications that wrap around the bottom edges of the screen. They don't obstruct the watch face and let the beauty of the face shine.


It's a much better balance of the traditional time-telling role of a watch and the notifying duties of a smartwatch. It's a lot better than the way notifications are show in Android Wear.

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