Google Maps navigation has become indispensable. It faithfully guides travel at home and abroad, so you feel like you know where you’re going even if you’ve never been there before. Roaming off the beaten path has never been so accessible. And it’s even easier thanks to wearables like the ZenWatch 3.
Despite the obvious benefits, navigating with a smartphone is often cumbersome. Checking the route usually involves taking your eyes off the road or purchasing a special mount that puts your screen in view. You need a free hand to hold the thing if you’re traveling by other means. If you’re outdoors, that means exposing your smartphone to the elements, which can be problematic in rain-soaked locales like my home turf in Vancouver.
The traffic around here is challenging to say the least, so I usually skirt the congestion via bicycle. The ZenWatch 3 really comes into its element on two wheels. It keeps your route a flick of the wrist away, which is much more convenient than fumbling with a handset when you’re cruising at speed. The stainless steel body and Gorilla Glass face are sealed tightly enough to survive being submerged under a meter of water for thirty minutes, so you can use the ZenWatch 3 during torrential downpours without a second thought.
How to navigate on the ZenWatch 3
You can initiate navigation from the ZenWatch 3 with speech alone. It’s as simple as saying “OK Google, navigate to [location] by [method].” The destination can be a recognized name or a specific address. Available methods of travel include driving, walking, and bicycling. Google Maps selects the best route depending on your preference.
Although your wrist is technically involved, the process is otherwise hands-free. You can safely ask for directions while driving and riding. The speech recognition is so reliable that I can’t recall it ever misinterpreting my commands.
If you prefer more discretion, it’s possible to initiate navigation manually via the Google Maps wearable app. Access Google Maps by swiping left at the watch face and scrolling through the list of available apps. For a quicker shortcut, the ZenWatch 3 has a programmable third button you can set to launch any app.
Once Google Maps is loaded, select a destination or drop a pin anywhere you like. Then, simply tap the navigate message at the bottom of the display and wait a few seconds while the route is plotted. The recommended path will appear on the watch along with turn-by-turn directions to steer your journey. You can swipe up to see the complete list of directions for your entire journey. Swiping left shows the address of your destination along with the ETA. Swipe left again to adjust the model of travel and once more to end navigation.
A subtle extension of your smartphone experience
To be fair, the watch doesn’t act alone; it leverages the GPS in your smartphone, which needs to be within Bluetooth range for everything to work. Managing navigation with the ZenWatch 3 lets you keep the smartphone’s screen turned off, resulting in longer battery life. When the watch dims its own screen to save power, the route and directions remain visible, just in black and white rather than full color. A flick of the wrist is all that’s required to wake the ZenWatch 3’s screen.
Navigating with the ZenWatch 3 also has subtle benefits—literally. Getting directions from your watch is a lot less conspicuous than staring at a smartphone. Having your route easily accessible on your wrist can also remove the need for dictated instructions at every turn. While spoken directions can be helpful when you’re restricted to a smartphone that isn’t in view, they can be an annoying distraction during conversation and epic lip-sync battles.
Turn-by-turn navigation nicely embodies the appeal of the ZenWatch 3. It’s a useful—and fashionable—extension of your smartwatch that makes certain functions easier to use in the real world. The ZenWatch 3 sells for only $229.00 in the USA and $349.99 in Canada. Look for it at the following retailers: