The Advantages of Sailing with a Smartwatch
New version of SailTimer Wind Gauge™ app for watches
One of the big advantages of e-readers like the Kindle is that they often use an E-Ink reflective screen, which is easily visible in direct sunlight. Unlike an iPad, smartphone or LCD tablet display, the pixels on this kind of transflective display do not try to shine brighter than the sun to be seen. They don't need a backlight; they get even more visible when sun shines on the pixels. No backlight also means low power consumption.
For sailors, who need to see displays outside, this is pretty important. Marine GPS devices have always used waterproof reflective displays, which is their main advantage over smartphones/tablets. But tablets and smartphones can run apps, use Android or iOS for a wide range of functions, and can connect to Bluetooth Low Energy devices like the SailTimer Wind Instrument™. In the absence of any accessible tablets/smartphones with a reflective screen, a smartwatch with a reflective waterproof screen is a good solution.
There are lots of smartwatch choices around, with a wide range of prices. The Sony Smartwatch 3 is a great choice for sailors, because it has a reflective screen that is easy to see in direct sunlight, and it is waterproof. It is a mature product, which is unusual for this kind of technology, so you can easily find it in stores and there are low-cost used ones around too. Unlike LCD screens on tablets/phones, reflective displays also work fine with polarized sunglasses.
We have therefore added a smartwatch display to the SailTimer Wind Gauge™ app on Android. We haven't added an iOS version, since the Apple Watch does not have a reflective screen at this point -- although there are a number of watch apps that work with the SailTimer Wind Instrument™ for iOS and Android (see list of apps).
It is pretty handy to be able to glance down at the watch and see your boat speed and wind data wirelessly. The SailTimer Wind Gauge app has choices for Apparent or True wind, wind angle or direction, and Magnetic-North or True-North reference. Whichever of these is shown on the tablet/phone is also displayed on the watch.
You can tap the screen to toggle the SailTimer Wind Gauge app from a light background to a dark background (as in the top photo above). You can turn the backlight on for 5 seconds or optionally keep it on, but the reflective screen is the default display to save battery power.
On centerboard sailboats that may not have mounted electronics displays, a waterproof watch with a reflective screen is also an excellent solution.