The Asus ZenWatch, released on November 9th last year, is one of the nicest looking Android Wear watches on the market, particularly when compared to other square smart watches. It is also one of the cheapest, coming in at $199, which is very competitive for a stainless steel smart watch with a genuine leather strap. However, despite its low price tag, Asus is not simply resting on their laurels and are continuing to offer customers more value for their purchase with significant software updates. The latest update to their ZenWatch Manager app, the companion app for your smartphone, contains bug fixes, new watch faces, and some additional functionality. They have also released ZenWatch Music, which gives users the ability to store and listen to music right from their smart watch.
As many of you already know Google has not given manufacturers the ability to alter the core Android Wear experience like it has with Android smartphones. This hasn't stopped manufacturers, such as Asus, from trying to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Many have companion apps that can be loaded onto your smartphone that give users the ability to tweak the way their watch behaves or looks via watch faces. The ZenWatch Manager app gives users the ability to toggle "cover to mute", "find my watch", and "forgot phone warning", which will alert users if they stray too far from their phone. The app also gives users the ability to customize the colour scheme of the watch faces Asus has created for the ZenWatch.
The latest ZenWatch Manager update introduces the "dim screen after" function, which gives users the ability to alter how long it takes for the watches display to go from fully on to off or to ambient mode (if enabled) after the watch hasn't received any input. It basically functions the same way as the screen timeout setting on an Android phone. In addition to this new feature the app now contains six new watch faces. One of which has been designed by Asus, while the other five are from developers who won a watch face design competition held by Asus. The update also contains bug fixes but Asus did not list any details, nevertheless it is good to see they are consistently optimizing their software.
The software update users will probably appreciate the most is the launch of the ZenWatch Music app on Google Play (see images below). Syncing music to Android Wear via Google Play Music and playing it back has been a feature supported in Android Wear for a while but the functionality of Play Music is rather limited. For starters, you cannot select what music you want to sync to your Android Wear device; the Play Music app on your smart phone simply sends your most recently pinned items to your watch. This is where ZenWatch Music steps in. It gives users the ability to create a playlist that automatically syncs with their ZenWatch, giving them full control over what music is loaded. Once your watch has music stored locally you can listen to it natively via a Bluetooth headset, there is no need to be tethered to your smartphone.
The new ZenWatch Music app and update to ZenWatch Manager should be welcome improvements for owners of the ZenWatch. Asus is currently working on the ZenWatch 2, which was expected to be released in the third quarter of this year but has been pushed back to 2016. It is nice to see Asus showing adopters of its current smart watch some love despite having their hands full with the ZenWatch 2's development. Potential buyers should keep this in mind when shopping for their next, or first, smart watch.