Few days ago I got my first smart watch, MetaWatch Frame, and I’m pretty impressed. At the same time, I realize there’s still work ahead for the nascent smart watch industry to bring their devices to the mainstream user.
A watch that goes beyond showing time isn’t a novel idea. Just remember all those Casio watches from the 1990’s with a ton of buttons, but the new generation of smart watches is different as they are “phone centric.” However, rather than offering the full phone capabilities like few devices in the past (Prada phone), they are scarce on features, relying on the smartphone to do the hard work and only informing you about events that need your attention like phone calls, messages, social networking updates and so on.
Aside from MetaWatch, there’s Pebble which raised a record-breaking amount of cash at Kickstarter and few other projects such as I’m Watch and those two devices currently trying to find investors at Indiegogo.
What can MetaWatch do?
MetaWatch informs you about incoming calls and messages (SMS, email, social networking updates), while also providing you with weather and GPS information, and upcoming calendar entries. Moreover, there’s an option to control music from the watch, so you don’t have to pull out your phone all the time.
MetaWatch’s UI can be customized through a dedicated app, which at the moment is only available for iOS and Android (and we’re not sure other platforms will get it at all).
The device relies on the power-efficient Bluetooth 4.0 to connect to your smartphone.
MetaWatch has a total of 6 buttons, which is kinda lot in my book as I prefer Pebble’s easier-to-grasp 3-button approach. On the other hand, Pebble is a plastic device, while MetaWatch uses the same metal parts regular (non-smart) watches are made of.
One of these buttons (top-left) is reserved for screen light so you can keep using the watch even while in dark. You see, MetaWatch doesn’t have a backlit display to conserve energy, and can thus last for a week on a single charge. Another button fires-up media controls, while the rest can be customized through the app.
If there’s one thing we would like to be changed on MetaWatch, that would be its screen. MetaWatch uses a monochrome display with 96×96 pixels resolution; and while that’s enough for all the information MetaWatch is displaying, adding extra pixels would make for a better image quality. Guess that was needed to make the battery last that long.
The display alone can be read in direct sunlight, and is protected behind a mineral hardened, scratch resistant glass lens with anti-glare optical coating and a stainless steel top ring.
Apps and developers
MetaWatch pretty much completely opened its platform and we like that. However, there are still not that many apps that will push their notifications to your wrist.
But there are third-party MetaWatch manager apps (at least for Android) some of which work better than the default application, which honestly isn’t as solid as it should be. Heck I would say you’re better off ditching the official MetaWatch app and relying on some other solution.
Hopefully, the “app picture” will change soon when we may also see an app that takes advantage of the built-in 3-axis accelerometer — fitness apps instantly come to mind.
You have up to 4 screens for apps, but honestly I couldn’t find a reason to go beyond the second screen. In fact, I’ll most likely stick to the single screen solution to have all the information at glance from one “watch page.”
Another tricky solution that was needed to make MetaWatch a water-proof device (up to 3ATM for the Frame model). Inside the box, you get a proprietary USB cable that includes a charging clip. Setting that clip properly can be a pain, but we managed to get hold of it at the end. It takes some practice, though…
But I love it
You may get the idea that I complain a lot and that I don’t like MetaWatch. That’s not the case – I love it and I intend to keep using it for the time being…
I’ve just scratched the surface here to show you some of the things I noticed while using MetaWatch during the last week. Overall, I would say that smart watches are still not mainstream products but they’re getting there. On the other hand, if you’re reading IntoMobile, the chances are you’re a geek rather than mainstream user that will appreciate features MetaWatch has to offer. At $199, the MetaWatch Frame (the Strata model costs $179) isn’t exactly a product every geek will want. If you have a chance to try it before buying it – go for it and see whether MetaWatch can work for you. As I said it, I’ll be wearing it for now… until some better smart watch is out.