Lots of people have stated that they believe smart watches to be the key technology of 2013. We are now half way through the year and there has not really been any new technological breakthroughs.
But we do have some smart watches, each offering a different take on the idea of a ‘smart watch’. I will be looking at the MetaWatch which was developed alongside Fossil (yes, the famous Fossil watchmakers), although I am unsure of the full extent of their involvement in the project.
My review will be focusing on the Android side of the software (obviously), but this watch does also work with iOS.
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$199.00 (Worldwide shipping available subject to shipping fees and import tax) from Metawatch.org
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– Charging Clip
– Charging Cable
– Wireless/Safety/Regulation/licensing Leaflet
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Compatibility (all styles)
|Android OS phones (Various devices)||iPhone 4s, iPhone 5 — iPad (3) coming soon|
Features (all styles)
|STRATA & LIMITED EDITION||FRAME|
|Water Resistance Rating||5 ATM (STRATA)
3 ATM (FRAME)
|Display||96×96 pixel sunlight-readable, reflective mirror display (Polymer Network LCD technology)|
|Battery Life||5-7 days|
|Wireless Technology||Dual Mode, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology (BR/BLE)|
|Sensors||3-axis MEMS accelerometer
Ambient light sensor
[toggle title=”The Watch – Watch Software and Hardware” state=”close” ]
My Metawatch came with software version 1.35 (477.412) which is the latest software and is Hardware Revision G
The display is quite simple, basically it displays black pixels, but the display can be inverted if you prefer, creating the illusion that its a black screen with white pixels.
Viewing angles is a odd point, if the watch is on your wrist you can see it perfectly, even in the dark or bright light but other people can’t see it (even with that funny awkward arm twist you do to show someone else the time), it can be backlit to aid viewing if you or others are having trouble seeing the display.
The watch face is quite large, but not really any larger than other fossil watches, in-fact its the same size as my other fossil watch.
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The Metawatch is relatively simple to use, it has 6 keys, 3 on each side each do slightly different tasks.
The top left key always accesses the backlight, which in bright sunlight (or the dark) is needed to see the screen.
The bottom left accesses the watch details menu, this tells you the battery life, if bluetooth is turned on and if a phone is connected as well as your Software and Hardware versions (and serial number).
Bottom right accesses the menu to change certain settings (such as seconds, alarms, backlight, bluetooth toggle)
The other keys depends on what phone software (app) you are running, below I will detail the 2 main software variants available for android.
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I have re-drafted this section of the review several times, firstly to say rather negative things about the app, then I contacted Metawatch and was sent a beta build of the new app which showed vast improvements, but was still not as good as it could be, then the app was officially released.
This app lacks features but has a nice design (and puts nice widgets on the watch), the battery impact from using this app connected to the watch appears to be very minimal, which is very good.
The app includes clock, weather, phone battery, and Gmail (although the Gmail widget doesn’t seem to work with accounts with the new Gmail format) but is still missing key items such as social network notifications (despite the options being in the app, but greyed out).
I have been told that development is continuing and there should be updates rolled out in the coming months to add more features.
Development will hopefully speed up once Android 4.3 is released as Google is meant to be enhancing Bluetooth 4.0 support making it easier to develop applications that use this feature.
This is the app I use with this watch, the low reviews in the Play Store are no longer really justified since the update, so please disregard those people who failed to update their play store reviews.
[pb-app-box pname=’com.metawatch.mwm’ name=’Metawatch Manager’ theme=’light’ lang=’en’]
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Metawatch have tried to encourage community involvement to develop software and this app is a prime example of such development.
It is not quite as polished as the official app but offers more options, widgets and apps than the official app does.
You can see profile pictures of people who are calling you, album covers, full page calendar, icons summarising how many unread sms’s emails or missed calls you have as well as widgets for things like your phones battery life and weather forecasts.
The top right button is used to scroll through the widget and app pages, the middle is for repeating the last notification.
It is possible to set this app up so that you get notifications on the watch of anything that appears in your phones notification bar, which is very useful.
Stability of this software appears to depend on the phone powering it. The watch, when connected to my Nexus 4 regularly froze and crashed, but when connected to the HTC One it has no issues at all, this could be due to the way HTC have built bluetooth 4.0, the nexus probably has to wait for the next android version bump (4.3) when Google have promised bluetooth fixes.
I have emailed the developer for a comment on future plans and updates but received no reply, we might have to assume this project is dead (the app was last updated in December 2012).
There is another app based on this version that looks nicer but it doesn’t do anything that this app can’t (from what I can tell).
[pb-app-box pname=’org.metawatch.communityedition’ name=’Metawatch Community Edition’ theme=’light’ lang=’en’]
[pb-app-box pname=’org.metawatch.manager’ name=’Metawatch Community Noah Edition’ theme=’light’ lang=’en’]
[toggle title=”Ad-ons and widgets for Community App” state=”close” ]
There are number of ad-ons, widgets and apps available for the community edition ‘manager’ app, including a virtual pet, tasker integration and apps to help you place widgets where you want them.
It is also possible to change fonts and icons via icon-packs that are available within the Community Edition app.
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– Battery life seems pretty impressive, I have been getting at least a week, often 2 weeks out of the battery life, it does not appear to drain any quicker when connected than when idle (at least it is not noticeable). Connecting to my HTC One via the official (beta) app (see above for details) has also had no real impact on battery life on my phone, it uses something like 0.6% battery after 12 hours connected, which is very impressive.
– Build quality is very good, the product looks nice and has a decent strap – but it was built by Fossil
– The ability to use the watch for all notifications (via community app) is a bonus and makes the watch extremely useful, as do many of the features the community app allows. However all you really need from the smart watch in terms of notifications is sms and phone calls, they are, in my opinion, the most important.
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– Unclear development future – It appears to be mainly relying on the community to develop, and as it stands it is unclear as to how long the current developers plan to continue, or improve their work. Although there is a new official app about to be released, I have been lucky to use the beta and it is great, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
– Software is somewhat lacking – this watch has so much potential but the android software is slightly disappointing, especially the official app which is lacking lots of features that the iOS variant has, but hopefully this will be worked on in the future. (Which we now know it is being worked on)
– Charging – It charges via a clip that is very difficult to place correctly, and there is no clear indication that it has been placed correctly, you might think you are charging when you are not. Also it seems the clip is quite easy to knock out of place, thus stopping charging again without realising.
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The Smart watch might not be progressing quite as rapidly as some expected but a few key players have appeared in these early days of this technology’s lifespan. Metawatch has great backers and developed some really nice hardware but the software side might be letting the product down a little.
Metawatch software is driven by a connection to a phone, all the processing is done on the phone and then key events are pushed to the watch screen (obviously, basic functions on the watch without a connection, such as the clock). Other similar watches take a different approach and actually have apps pushed to the watch that are then controlled via phone apps.
All the different software available has problems, not in terms of stability but in terms of features. The official app provides a nice clock face and soon adds some nice weather and calendar widgets, but it still lacks other features such as social network notifications and ability to display content of emails received. The Community App is feature rich but lacks a nice clean UI and doesn’t really have a nice watch widget, which on a watch is a major disappointment (although in theory this should be easy to fix, should a developer be interested in doing so). Hopefully soon we will see updates to both sets of apps so that we can have great features and interfaces under both options.
My hope is that following the release of Android 4.3 it should become easier to improve these applications.
Battery life is impressive and certainly better than I expected, although the charging mechanism is tricky and seems a rather silly design given how well the rest of the product has been manufactured. The battery indicator also seems a bit inconsistent the number goes up and down before it finally drains, it makes foreseeing battery life slightly difficult as you are never quite sure what the true value currently is, but overall the life should last at least a week, if not longer (assuming a proper full charge).
All in all I am very pleased with this product, I would like the software to be more polished but I am happy with what this little watch can do. Anyone seriously considering buying a smart watch should take a long hard look at the Metawatch family of watches, the hardware cannot be faulted and the software should be able to do most of what people would expect a smart watch to do, afterall it is a watch not a phone!
It gets a massive thumbs up from me.
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