Tuesday, December 17, 2019
The Pushtracker E2 - First Impressions
Last month saw the release of a long-awaited update to the SmartDrive, the all-new Pushtracker E2!
If you’re looking at a power assist option for the first time, or you’re an experienced user of the SmartDrive with the previous Pushtracker, you might ask “why make the switch? What makes the Pushtracker E2 a must-have?” After using the previous Pushtracker for almost 3 years, I took the E2 through its paces and my usual route to university!
The first thing you notice is that the E2 is a smart watch, using the Mobvoi TicWatch E2 as the foundation. This new hardware ups the build quality and gives the user additional functionality such as apps on Google Play Store, phone and social media notifications, weather and all the rest. Like me, if this is your first smart watch you’ll appreciate getting your phone messages straight to your wrist. As a wheelchair user I keep my phone in a bag rather than my pocket – meaning that this is a game changer!
It also looks like a device that anyone would wear, which is important for many of us. I also can’t wait to change the wristband to something more stylish. The Pushtracker E2 is compatible with most standard 22mm bands. While on the topic of aesthetics, you can choose from dozens of watch faces and customise it to show both Pushtracker and SmartDrive Battery.
The instructions were simple enough – download WearOS on your phone, turn on the Pushtracker E2, and pair the two. Sign into your Google account on the E2 and go through the prompts. It takes a short while to update all the software, during which the watch may feel slow. Once set up, head into the Play Store to find your Permobil apps.
Permobil developed two apps for users to download onto the watch – Pushtracker to keep track of your wheeling activity, and SmartDrive MX2+ - your main control to activate your SmartDrive. The apps look sleek and are much more intuitive to use on the AMOLED touch screen compared with the old Pushtracker. You’ll want to Favourite the SmartDrive app so you can quickly press the menu button and launch the app before you tap.
How does it feel initially? If you used the old Pushtracker it’s both familiar and different. In my case it was too sensitive by default, so I fiddled with the Tap Sensitivity setting until I found the sweet spot. For me that’s 70%. Be sure to go through Tap Training in the app settings menu to become familiar with the responsiveness. In any case, the first trip out with the Pushtracker E2 was like a mini retrial. I recommend everyone to carefully get the hang of it before using it in tight places. Pretty soon I was using it just as intuitively as before.
The trek to my university is almost one, giant hill, so I can't imagine tackling it without a power chair or power assist. It's a 5 minute ride from the station and just accessing the library at the top means there's a hill from every direction.
From my experience so far, I didn’t experience any disconnection with the Bluetooth while in-use, unlike the frustrating black spots I encountered with the old Pushtracker. The new hardware sports an antenna that’s 8 times stronger than before and it definitely feels like it.
The only trouble I had was in the initial tap to go during the first day or so, getting used to the new feel of the watch. The different sensitivity also meant the speed unintentionally set too early making have to stop and start again.
Finally, and crucially, is battery life. I noticed when not in-use the battery is far more capable than the old Pushtracker. How fast the E2 drains depends on how you use its smartwatch functions. Like a phone, I noticed it can get dangerously low towards the end of the day if the display is always in use. I recommend turning off the always-on display, reducing the brightness a bit and always turning off the SmartDrive app, away from its ready-to-tap screen whenever you stop using your power assist.
But with so many devices I now carry with me, a powerbank is an essential item in my backpack. It will also win you some friends! Charging is very fast and the E2 comes with a USB charger to plug into a computer or power adapter. If you charge with a computer, a blue USB 3.0 port will give maximum charging rate.
If I was to find a complaint, it would be that the watch is a bit large for my skinny wrist. But I can understand the designers opted for a size that can be easier used by those with limited hand function. For a touch screen, bigger is easier.
As an active user who needs to get around town every day, the E2 feels like a natural transition. Whereas before I would wear the Pushtracker only because I had to use the SmartDrive, I now wear it because it’s just useful for everything else. Have you got your hands on the Pushtracker E2 yet? Sound off on your thoughts below!