Even though Android Wear devices typically only require Google’s “Android Wear” app, this watch won’t run without the Asus app “ZenWatch Manager” installed, something we’ve previously noted in this review, but which also reveals itself to be a bit of a problem when the watch faces lose their connection to the phone all too easily. When that happens, your weather information will just cease to exist, changing to dashes and hyphens, and you’ll still get the time, but no real connection to the phone.
You will go into ZenWatch Manager and see the watch isn’t connected, and then you’ll go into the Android Wear app and find that it is, which will make ZenWatch Manager work.
It’s this form of synchronisation requiring two apps to work that makes the ZenWatch a little problematic in how it’s used and how it’s synced, and means that if something in the watch decided to stop working, you need to go into these apps to check what’s working and what isn’t.
You won’t really have to be tech support for your watch, we’ll be honest on that, but this checking to see which app works and which doesn’t can be a bit of a pain in the proverbial, because while you could just hope for things working out of the box and staying that way, the Asus ZenWatch is more trying than that.
And we get why: Asus wanted the ZenWatch to be special, and Asus wanted the ZenWatch to be different. It has that, with extra watch faces that can be customised and made to look a little different, and with support for extra apps such as being able to turn the wristwatch into a sort-of-wireless-mouse or a camera controller.
But it also comes with its fair share of pain, and while the other Android Wear watches are all similar and don’t quite offer a point of differentiation, they’re also all very easy to install and keep working, and the Asus ZenWatch just isn’t, or at least not to the same level.
There’s certainly something intriguing about the Asus ZenWatch, and it’s not a nod back to the skeuomorphism of circular smartwatches. Indeed, it’s something else.
It might be the two-tone style, with silver and bronze utilised in a design that tries to be bolder and yet different, and even offers the slightest of curves just to be that word again: “different”.
Perhaps it’s the watch band which is classic and comfortable, and elicits a feeling more like that of a watch and less like a smartwatch, with a metal fold-back clasp and high-quality brown leather that outshines the other Android Wear watch bands with a band that oozes quality, as opposed to convenience.
One wonders if its the watch faces, with quite a few of those offered, and many more stylish and design-focused than just the options that hark back to a real watch that so many other devices offer.
It could be all of them, because Asus certainly has that going for its first-generation ZenWatch, with the gadget providing enough differences to make this a worthy choice for someone keen to take a gander at the whole smartwatch craze.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the poor reliability and issues between ZenManager and Android Wear, we’d have more to look forward to here, but there’s also one less thing going for the ZenWatch now that we’re ready with our review: a new model.