Michael Hicks' Top 10 of 2023

A selfie of the author wearing the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses
(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

After a year of freelancing, I started full-time with Android Central in December 2020, making this the end of my third year with the site. But in many ways, it was a brand new beginning. 

I switched from a jack-of-all-trades role to one focused on wearables and fitness. I dove into the Wear OS ecosystem, reviewed most of the best fitness watches of the year, used the Quest 2 and 3 for workout tests, and generally had a fantastic time doing it. 

Looking back on 2023, I had plenty of high points to be proud of, along with tech trends I'm excited about and some fun hobbies that kept me sane during the endless events and deal-writing. 

These are my top ten things that I loved doing or seeing during 2023! (And keep an eye out for my colleagues' own top 10s throughout the upcoming week.)

I wore six smartwatches and confused my neighbors

Android Central Editor Michael Hicks wearing six different smartwatches for a step-counting accuracy test.

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

My most-read article of 2023 was my 6,000-step walking test wearing an Amazfit, Apple Watch, COROS, Fitbit, Garmin Forerunner, and Galaxy Watch at once while walking around the neighborhood. Garmin came closest to the real number, with brands like Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit falling behind in accuracy. 

Aside from weirding out several neighbors, the experience showed me that people are really interested in the fundamentals of how their watches work — especially after seeing other tech sites copy the format ad nauseam for their own articles — and that I really enjoy testing these mechanics for myself. 

I walked 10,000 steps a day for a month

A 31-day walk streak graph on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Writing is a very sedentary and time-consuming job. That, combined with the pandemic, kept me indoors, gaining weight and losing motivation. Trying to keep up my mileage only led to a serious foot issue in early 2023 that made it go completely numb if I ran longer than a mile — and it took months to heal. 

My pivot to becoming Wearables Editor motivated better habits and gave me the excuse to leave my desk for "research." I walked 10,000 steps a day for a month, with the need for that photo above getting me out the door when I'd typically have stayed inside and played Red Dead Redemption 2.

As of December, I've run 650 miles this year, about 250 more than in 2022, and my phone estimates that I've walked another 1,000 miles on top of that. So far, it's helped me lose about 20 pounds from the start of 2023 — seven during my month of walking.

My Forerunner 965 made me better at breathing

A VO2 Max chart on the Garmin Forerunner 965, showing a steady climb and a score of 49.

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

I gave the Garmin Forerunner 965 a glowing review this year and then kept on wearing it, even while reviewing other watches. The main reason is because of its "training load ratio" stat: it tells you how much of your training load should go into low aerobic (slow and easy), high aerobic (fast and long tempo), or anaerobic (max HR intervals and sprints) workouts to get faster.

Following Garmin's TLR algorithm works, and that's not just buying into the marketing. I boosted my VO2 Max score from 46 ("Good" for my age) to 50 today ("Excellent") over the span of a few months with no other coaching. 

I can run several more miles before feeling tired, and I can run 400m about 25 seconds faster than at the start of my training. Essentially, I can convert oxygen into energy better than I have in years.

My hope is that my higher VO2 Max and increased mileage will be a strong foundation to make 2024 even better and to get back to marathon runs again!

Running watches are getting REALLY good

The author's training load ratio on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

I only started as Android Central's primary fitness reviewer in 2022, and I have to say that I'm pretty spoiled. I missed out on decades of watches that slowly packed in all of the features that I take for granted. 

I loved the Forerunner 255, but I never really understood how many of its perks, like recovery time estimates, training load ratio, and dual-frequency GPS, weren't things that past Garmin watches had. Now, I fully depend on these for my training, and new Forerunner 965 perks like the Hill Score are helping me improve in new ways. 

I'm also thrilled to see brands like Garmin, Polar, and Suunto move on from dull MIP displays. New running watches use AMOLED instead while still offering two weeks or dozens of GPS hours of battery life. Plenty of long-time runners took offense to my stance, but I have no nostalgic attachment to MIP: I want the same visual quality you get in a true smartwatch, and now I have it. 

My cat stopped trying to kill me

A cat laying next to the Oculus Quest 2 Touch Controller

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Early last year, I wrote about how my newly adopted cat, Blue, ruined the Quest 2 for me. His one little brain cell couldn't comprehend that I couldn't see him, so I'd either kick him or trip over him every time he went in to herd me around or demand pets. Neither of us was safe!

Almost two years later, I'm happy to report that he's begun to understand that he should watch me from afar when I put on the weird plastic thing and start waving my arms.

Plus, my two new VR headsets of 2023 make passthrough a bigger priority. My PSVR 2 has a dedicated button to check my surroundings, and my Quest 3 has better resolution with full color and more mixed-reality games that leave your immediate surroundings visible. It really helps!

I went to my first Google I/O

Michael Hicks and Jeramy Johnson at Google I/O 2023

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Despite living so close to Mountain View, I only ever visited the Shoreline Ampitheatre for concerts growing up. This year, I had the chance to go to Google I/O 2023 and meet with AC's former EIC Jeramy Johnson for the first time in person! Here's hoping I can do the same with my other colleagues at some point (we all work remotely in different states). 

The event was pretty much all about Google's pivot to AI to compete with Microsoft and OpenAI, which I objectively know is important but subjectively have trouble getting past the copyright theft and job replacement it represents. 

I had more fun playing with the Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet for the first time, devices that feel older than they are by virtue of Google seemingly never talking about them.

I convinced my partner to try an Android phone

Watching a video on the Razr+ cover screen

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

I'm spoiling an article coming out later this month, but oh well. My partner has used an iPhone since the lineup's early days, but her first phone was an old Razr flip phone. Hearing her reminisce about how much she liked it and how boring iPhones have gotten, I asked my colleague Nick Sutrich to mail the Motorola Razr Plus for her to try.

I'm not sure that she's fully shaken off Apple's hold on her, as she still loves her new Apple Watch Series 9 and AirPods. But she's told me how much she loves the cover screen, the better Google integration, and the unique foldable experience that makes her excited to actually use her smartphone again. 

The biggest downsides are the lack of iMessage — though the new Apple RCS policy could change that — and the pretty terrible battery life. But it's nice to be a bad good influence and give her a new smartphone perspective. 

I started rereading Star Wars Legends

A bunch of Star Wars Legends canon books piled on one another

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

With all the work and running, my reading kind of fell off a cliff this year, so I turned to the comfort reads of my high school days. I really like some of the Disney canon books like Master and Apprentice and Thrawn, but now I'm going back to the original Star Wars canon books that sparked my love of sci-fi. 

So far, I'm a few books deep into Michael A. Stackpole's X-Wing series, which still holds up really well with the action, characters, and heart (even if Corran Horn is more of a Mary Sue character than Rey ever was). Then it's on to Heir to the Empire through Survivor's Quest, the true classics, before I have to decide if I want to wade back into the Yuuzhan Vong books again...

I also reread Dune, which I like now a lot more than I did when my mom made me read it as a teen. And I'm re-listening to the Rob Inglis Lord of the Rings audiobooks. 

I started a Baldur's Gate 3 campaign

Intellect devourer in Baldur's Gate III

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

My old college friends and I have played a few Dungeons & Dragons campaigns over the years. We defeated an evil magic university floating in the sky, abandoned the DM's quest to start a rock band and battle David Bowie, and started our own pirate crew. We even did a homebrew D&D/ Star Wars hybrid campaign. 

We had fallen off of our campaigns recently, but Larian Studios' Baldur's Gate 3, with its multiplayer mode, has brought us back together for a chaos gremlin campaign. It stars my friend's Dark Urge character with a nudist streak, my other friend's overpowered gnome wizard that collects familiars like Pokemon, and my no-inhibition barbarian who likes to start fights with the worst possible odds. 

It's brought us a lot of joy to have a game that feels like it has very few limits on what you can do and does the hard work of creating a campaign and visualizing the world so our tired brains don't have to. 

I got through a hard year

We've seen more than our fair share of international turmoil and political conflict this year. Without diving into specifics that don't belong on this site, it seems likely that 2024 will inundate us with more brutal news of conflict and death, along with a stressful election year (regardless of your views). 

Knowing that, I can only try to treasure and nurture the positives of my life, even as I acknowledge how lucky I am to have such a rewarding job and safe place to live — and stay aware of what's happening outside of my peaceful bubble.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, Wearables & AR/VR

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on wearables and fitness. Before joining Android Central, he freelanced for years at Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, and Digital Trends. Channeling his love of running, he established himself as an expert on fitness watches, testing and reviewing models from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, Suunto, and more.