At I/O 2016, Google revealed that it would be adding text input into Android Wear 2.0. That means people with Android-based smart watches will be able to reply to text messages using an on-screen keyboard. It's something I've always wanted on my Apple Watch, and something I very much hope Apple adds with watchOS 3.0.
My colleague, Daniel Bader, disagrees. He thinks Apple should not add a keyboard to the Watch. I understand his point of view. Apple Watch has a tiny screen, and a tiny keyboard it is probably a cumbersome way to send a message. I want it anyway.
With Android Wear 2.0, Google is handling text input in three ways. You can use canned responses via Smart Replies, a handwriting recognition tool, which allows you to draw letters and numbers on the screen that are turned into text, and a swipe-to-type keypad.
Smart Replies let you respond to text messages and emails but without much personality. Even though I've customized my canned responses, my friends can always tell when I'm using my Apple Watch. They sound broad and impersonal.
Handwriting recognition is still clumsy and awkward technology, especially when you only have about an inch-and-a-half to write. Apple Watch's Digital Touch is proof that there is still a lot of work to be done to advance handwriting on wearable devices.
The swipe-to-type keyboard, however, has advanced leaps and bounds over the past few years. Plus, you can shrink the keys down pretty small and still manage to type the right words. If you've used the Minuum keyboard for iOS, you know it can work almost like magic.
Apple Watch currently relies on Voice Dictation for custom replies, but I don't like talking into my wrist, even when I'm alone. It feels silly. Plus, Voice Dictation doesn't work very well and I oftentimes end up reaching for my iPhone anyway.
The idea of this companion device, like Apple Watch, is to help me stay connected to things that are important without having to stare at a phone all day. But without an on-screen keyboard, I'm constantly pulling out my iPhone to stay connected. That defeats the purpose.
Although an on-screen keyboard would probably be awkward and clunky, it couldn't be any worse than yelling into my wrist, or using a bland pre-made response that makes my friends think I'm mad at them.
With Android Wear 2.0 and the on-screen keyboard, Google is providing an additional option for its customers. I'd love it if Apple used watchOS 3.0 to provide the same option for Watch customers like me.
Do you want an on-screen keyboard on you Apple Watch? Tell me why or why not in the comments!
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