"Smart watch" - a buzz word we have been hearing about for awhile now, promised by "big" companies as the next big thing. I have no idea when this promise going to become a reality, but I do know that MetaWatch came through with a product which is available now, has been shipping for awhile, has a very attractive design and reasonable price tag of $129 (Strata models), has a support of developers community with a fantastic customizable interface, and IT WORKS!!! I had this smart watch for less than a week, and it already became my everyday essential gadget. While using MetaWatch for a limited time, I finally understood a true meaning of what "smart watch" supposed to be - it's a remote extension of your smart phone! Doesn't matter if your smart phone has a small display or a phablet with 5.5" screen. Taking the phone in and out of your pocket to check if you received a new email or text message, or id who is calling, or to check any upcoming events in your schedule, or to control your music - it's not always convenient. I have my phone in layers of case and tempered glass protection because I'm paranoid of dropping it outside on a concrete surface. During the winter I have to go through pockets to get to my phone. Being outside often makes display of smart phone hard to view due to reflection. If it's raining or bad weather - forget about taking the phone out. When you are in the movie or in a meeting or driving in the car - often you don't even have a chance to view your phone. This list can go on and on. So, what is a solution? A smart watch! A MetaWatch!
Let's first start with unboxing of the product and it's basic spec.
It came in a very nicely packaged box with a secure form fitting foam cutout for the watch and a section with usb cable, charging clip, and also a product info note signed by CEO of the company, Bill Geiser himself. For my review I choose a Strata Stealth model which is a sportswatch model made out of double-injection molded PU strap which is co-molded with PC core. There are also other Strata models available with different colors. Furthermore, MetaWatch offers a Frame model which is more traditional stainless steel case with a replaceable leather strap. The glass lens comes with anti-glare coating, scratch resistant, and also mineral hardened. The all black Stealth design also had titanium finished stainless steel top ring. The whole construction is very solid and feels bulletproof. The watch itself is water resistant with an actual rating of 5 ATM (165 feet). I know it's a sportswatch design, but it feels very premium quality, something you will not be embarrassed to wear everyday at home, at work, or any active style activity in any weather condition. With all that construction, I was surprised how lightweight it felt, only 58g and thickness of about 14mm. It's not exactly a slim design, but because of the light weight and snugly wrap around molded fit - it felt very comfortable on my wrist. All 6 control buttons, 3 on each side, are large enough and easily to access. The back of the watch has 4 charging/data contacts for use with a provided clip where a standard micro-usb connector plugs in. Since the watch is completely waterproof, this is the only logical way to get access to charging and data contacts without compromising seal of the watch.
Side view of 6 control buttons and bracelet:
4 charging contacts
Once you take the watch out of the box, the first thing you notice is the display. About 1.25" across, it has 96x96 pixel resolution, reflective mirror display (polymer network LCD technology), and the most amazing part - it's readable under sunlight. For an additional convenience, you also have backlight button to illuminate display in the dark for a short time duration. Display stays on all the time, and suggested battery life is 5-7 days, although if you are on constant vibration alerts I would think realistic battery life would be closer to 3-4 days. Overall, thanks to it's display technology and firmware upgrades to optimize the performance, I found battery life to be fantastic considering screen is always on, bluetooth is on, and smart watch is enabled with various widgets. It also comes with 3-axis accelerometer sensor and ambient light sensor, and it supports dual mode Bluetooth protocol (BR/BLE).
OK, so we know hardware is solid and attractive, but it means absolutely nothing without software/app support to unlock the full potential of this super gadget. It does come with official app you can download from Google Play, but as of now it doesn't allow to unlock full potential of this device. The MetaWatch developers community took matters into their own hands and put together Community Edition app manager for this watch, with another version called Noah Edition built on top of CE edition. At the current moment, until the official MetaWatch app is still work in progress, I would strongly suggest getting NE manager. That is the one I used to configure my watch. Furthermore, to unlock full potential of email notification if you have multiple accounts beside GMail, I strongly recommend getting K-9 mail app and TouchDown mail app, both of which are supported by NE manager notifications. K-9 mail app will be able to get all of your POP and IMAP message together under one roof, while TouchDown is the BEST choice for your Exchange server work emails. I can't say enough good things about TouchDown - it gives you an even better access and control of your corporate email than using it directly from your Outlook at work To tie K-9 and TouchDown together with a nice visual widget display, I used Executive Assistant+ app which comes with widgets specifically designed for MetaWatch to keep track of emails, missed calls, text messages, calendar items, etc.
To get an idea of other application here are some more shots (tried my best with a camera)
Open view of calendar events
Notification history (emails, etc.)
Music player (play/pause - automatically defaults to your music player, next/prev skips the track which can also be assigned as volume up/down, and it also displays song info as it plays)
Status screen (bt on, connection to phone, battery %, fw/sw/hw rev)
The Manager to configure the screen, using Noah Edition, is very easy and flexible where you build layout of your screen with multiple rows and selection of available widgets. As you building it up, everything gets visually updated in the Manager layout window and on the Smart watch at the same time. As you add more widgets and they no longer fit in first screen, it will continue on the next screen of the watch, and so on.
Config page with different options
I was also very impressed with a music player where I was able to start my playlist right from my watch and found it to be extremely useful while controlling my external bluetooth speaker - using my watch as a remote control for external bt speaker while bypassing my Note 2 all together.
Overall, MetaWatch smart watch exceeded all of my expectations! I do have to note, this wasn't right out of the box consumer friendly setup. For anybody using the watch first time and relying completely on official MetaWatch manager - you will be impressed with that manager interface, but not exactly with it's limited content. To unlock full potential of this clock I actually had to read through developer section of MetaWatch forum to pick up pointers from various members. The Noah Edition (Community edition) of Manager is the way to go for now until official manager will catch up, something I have no doubt will happen sooner or later. Just in the last few days there was already an update with some improvements. Also, MetaWatch team is actively working on firmware updates to support further optimization and compatibility with latest Android changes. I'm sure it will be very exciting in the next few months to watch for updates with new upcoming widgets and apps from MetaWatch. I will definitely comeback with more updates and continue to share my experience using this smart watch.
Hmm, interesting. I posted the same review on XDA-Dev and within 2 days it got over 1,500 views and 3 pages of replies. Should we conclude this product is more for geek-oriented XDA rather then consumer oriented AF? I'm permanently attached to this watch and get high from every wrist buzz notifying me about new email (Exchange, IMAP, POP3), calendar events, sms, calls, voice mail, caller id, and being able to see at a glance count of notification, weather, phone battery %, and control music right from the watch. Not to mention, was outside in a heavy rain - not even a glitch. But Strata is definitely a geek watch. Frame is more classy. I also heard they are working on a new hardware to make watch is more classier and sexier. Will see!
I definitely find it to be an amazing gadget (doesn't matter if you use MetaWatch, or Pebble, or Sony Smartwatch, or MotoACTV) - not a substitute to a phone, and an extension to it functionality with a remote capability to know what's going without a need to take the phone out of your pocket or purse or backpack.
Good request. I wasn't able to reserve review sample from Pebble guys. They either got too snobby (after a few encouraging replies, I got another very arrogant one) or just not interested in extra "advertisement" since they got more publicity they can handle.
From what I know about Pebble, they obviously got a higher volume of sales due to Kickstarter popularity and millions of dollars they collected. They also got injection of more money from investors, and starting today black Pebble will be sold everywhere in Best Buy for $150. With such funds they have a more advance team of coders and releasing more firmware updates and have more available apps. At the same time, a lot of the people are very upset with them because they backed them up on Kickstarter in January and still don't have watch in their hands while Best Buy will be selling it already. Also, a lot of people say that construction and look of the watch is very cheap.
MetaWatch does what I want it to do, but in my honest opinion - it is NOT consumer ready. I have a combination of older firmware and a custom software manager to get it to work how I want it. New firmware is only good for their own software manager which enables very limited amount of features that pales in comparison to a custom NE Manager that was optimized for old firmware. Also, Strata sports version I have is solid as a rock (I put it through hell and deep under water). But everyone "complements" me on my 90's looking Casio watch lol!!! Frame is much better looking but for the price of $199 is way too overpriced in my opinion. MetaWatch hired a famous designer and working on a new version of the watch which I can't wait to see! The screen is great with a fantastic direct sunlight visibility, but it looks cheap and doesn't have deep black background option for a classic analog face. Also, MetaWatch battery last less than 2 days and all the apps I have running on my phone to get to functionality I need are putting extra drain on my Note 2 battery.
Sony just announced a new SW2 which should be available in a few months, and there is a chance I might get a sample for review. In theory it's their 3rd generation if you consider their original LiveView (which got discontinued and can be purchased on ebay for under $20 brand new now - i got one the other day) as 1st gen, and current SW1 which has been discounted down to $99 as 2nd gen. I like the idea of micro-usb connector and them finally making it splash resistant (previous gen was dying if you get under rain or splash it by accident), but they made a decision to keep it bluetooth 3.0 instead of 4.0 (low power version) and previous gen stayed with blank screen with notification popups or watch screen when you turn it on (to preserve battery use with it's OLED screen - constant on mode was available, but huge battery drain). I hope they improved battery efficiency for both watch and the phone use.
Another contender that just showed up on the market is Kreyos (KREYOS: The ONLY Smartwatch With Voice & Gesture Control | Indiegogo) - indiegogo (like a kickstarter) project. I'm very intrigued by that watch and hoping to get a review sample before their official release as well. On a paper that watch is exactly what I'm looking for, but until I have it in my hands and can confirm it's functionality - I have no idea what to expect.
The bottom line, I still use my MetaWatch every day (and charge it every other day lol!!!). And I'm looking forward to a new Sony SW2, Kreyos, and possibly a new MetaWatch next gen smartwatches. In my opinion Smartwatch is a must have addition to smartphone. As I mentioned before, it's an extension to a smart phone, not a replacement. I get notification of caller id, all of my emails (POP3, IMAP, Exchange) with sender info, subject line, and partial body of text, I get schedule notifications, missed phone calls, voicemails, number of messages, weather forecast, amount of battery left on the phone, view of schedule, and full music control. I don't have to pull out my phone all the time to see who is calling, or to check notification light if I got email or schedule tasks, or even check the weather. It helps a lot especially when we are talking about dealing with 5.5" phablet such as Note 2. So, benefits of Smartwatch is definitely there !!!
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Found this review comparing them:
I'm a KS backer from May of last year and hoping to get my watch soon. Since I ordered white, it's their last one in production.
The MetaWatch looks really cool though.
I drove by BB today, they said yesterday Pebble got sold out in under 1hr (and that's for $150).
Now, is it fair that you backed them up over a year ago and still don't have your watch while they are fulfilling Best Buy orders now? And what is a difference between black, red, or white piece of plastic face plate? Why not produce all colors around the same time?!? I can not understand that.
Will definitely check out this YT review, but I already know for sure Pebble will have an advantage because of a more dedicated software support to make it consumer friendly. Their magnetic attached charger is more friendly as well. MetaWatch was never promoted as consumer product, rather more for hackers and developers. MW was started by Fossil watch guys and their smart watch group that spun off. I will be more interested in their next gen watch they are working on redesign of. Kreyos is another one to look out for. Not convinced yet about Sony SW2 because bluetooth 3.0 support and no concrete data to make it standout from the current SW which you can get for $99. The price is another concern because if they are going to introduce it for over $200 - it's not worth it, and even above $150 it's too much. The reasonable price for smart watch should be between $100-$150.
Another possible disadvantage of Pebble is that we are talking about original design from over a year ago. They are improving firmware/software and trying to catch up with production volume, but the technology such as processor, memory, and battery are still behind. With the whole publicity rush of their original design - they might be looking at next gen, but will not dare to mention it because nobody going to buy their stuff and eBay will get flooded with used Pebbles (which going to happen anyway by Xmas time ).
I wanted to post a little update/comment. Since I have been using MetaWatch for over a month now, I really can't imagine my Note 2 being complete without it. This goes not just for MW but in general the concept of smartwatch and how it becomes an extension of your phone. But there was one thing bothering me since I had to run a bunch of apps in order to get notifications from all of my POP3/IMAP/Exchange email accounts. I know everybody has different priorities for notifications and some might only care about GMail. For me, I need to have access to all of my 4 different email accounts, and with my original setup it was a bit convoluted since I had to use K-9 and Touch Down HD, and both of those apps contributed to draining of my battery.
Finally, I got a chance to explore a full potential of Augmented SmartWatch Pro app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alk.k9) and now I don't need K-9 and Touch Down anymore. The level of notification config in that app is insane. Everything from emails to social networking and any other app you have installed on the phone - you can configure in details. What I also like is that it has a Quiet Time option to set start/stop time for weekdays and weekend when you don't want your notifications to buzz in. And the best is that it's not specific to MetaWatch only, but covers Pebble, Sony, MotoACVT, and other smartwatch. Excellent support from a developer as well. For me, being able to receive Exchange notifications triggered from Samsung's built in email client without a need for 3rd party app - is priceless
When it comes to smartwatches, this year brought us a lot of interesting models trying to get ahead of anticipated introduction from Apple, Samsung, and/or Google. A lot of the people jumped into the pool of choices fueled by Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, most of them with a common thread of promising hardware and future software support. Others were already established companies, such as Sony. The only companies which had something actually delivered resembling a smart watch were Sony SW, Italian I'm Watch, MetaWatch, and Pebble. There were others, but I don't count notification icons of Cookoo or a minimum one line display of Martian as something suiting true sw functionality. Everything I heard and read about I'm Watch points in a direction of a great looking hardware with a next to impossible software config to the point where the only choice is to go directly through their own website to setup anything on that watch. Sony took it into a different direction of cramping it with tons of apps and smart watch functionality where OLED screen is off most of the time to preserve battery. Not sure if SW2 will change much, but will see. I already reviewed MW STRATA in the first post of this thread, while Pebble doesn't need introduction. I believe that both MW and Pebble go the idea of smart watch right, and were able to deliver it, although Pebble delivery time took way too long and in my opinion going mainstream with Best Buy is not the best move since by the time they will ramp up their production - everybody else will be releasing 2nd gen smartwatches. So that leaves me only to talk about MetaWatch which I use every single day, and which became a very important part of my daily routine.
That daily routine goes through a lot of cycles. To preserve battery life, both the phone and the watch, I disconnect it in the evening/night when I'm at home. But from the minute I get into a car - its on all the way! My phone is my navigation since I rely on Google traffic. Any incoming call, text, email, or schedule notification is just a quick glance on the screen of the watch which has a perfect visibility even in direct sunlight. No need to squint my eyes to see what's in my phone's notification bar and who it is from. Once I get to work, it's no longer an issue of forgetting to take my phone out of the car mount since I get reminded through out-of-range alert. At work, I put my phone on mute and keep it out of sight on my desk under a pile of stuff. Nothing gets missed because I always get notifications on my watch. Works also great during meetings where I can discretely check any incoming notifications. No longer do I need to keep phone on vibrate while in the movie theater, or to keep my phone hidden out of sight, or to control my music on bluetooth speaker connected to my phone without having a need to walk up to my Note 2 or to the speaker, all that while sitting in the pool The disadvantage of my smartwatch? Checking it at work especially when I'm talking to someone makes them think I'm looking at the watch to tell them to wrap up the conversation lol!! Happened to me a bunch of times already where I had to explain the meaning of my constant gaze at the watch. The other disadvantage? A reaction I get when people see my STRATA watch and make a wise crack about my 90's looking "calculator watch". True, STRATA is bulkier but it also a fantastic watch in the outdoor environment, pool environment, exercise environment, or anywhere else where you wish you would have a rugged waterproof case for your watch. But in more civilized every day environment it will raise eyebrows with comments about its size and retro looking appearance. The solution - FRAME version of MetaWatch smart watch.
The description of the FRAME on MW website states "A classic look gets contemporary functionality, further blurring the line between fashion accessory and technology". Everything I have described in my original review about STRATA is still valid about FRAME in terms of the display, controls/buttons, and all the inner guts. But to better describe FRAME, I would correct that statement with "cutting edge technology gets a contemporary look". I tried to capture differences between FRAME and STRATA in my pictures below since in this case pictures definitely worth a thousand words. FRAME is thinner and a lot more elegant. With a case made out of brushed stainless still, all 6 buttons out of the same material, and polished sides - it weights a little more then STRATA with 2.8 oz vs 2.1 oz. It features the same mineral hardened, scratch resistant glass with anti-glare coating, just like STRATA. And adds a genuine 22mm replaceable leather strap. The watch screams class and is very appropriate for an office or a formal environment But make no mistake, this is still one tough built watch with 3 ATM rating and every other tech spec of STRATA. Also due to the watch been thinner and narrower, it comes with a different version of charge clip, although still the same overall design. It comes with a premium price, but in my opinion the extra is well worth it considering a step up in the design.
I can only speak about MetaWatch now because that's my current area of smartwatch expertise. Both STRATA and FRAME have exactly the same guts and functionality, the only difference is in the external design details and the price. If you decide to go with MetaWatch smart watches, hopefully my write up and all the pictures will help you decide which one will suite your needs better.
Here are the pictures.
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First of all, for those who are eagerly reading upcoming CES announcements, I think MetaWatch guys just pulled a big one out of their hat!!!
In collaboration with Frank Nuovo (former Nokia and Vertu design fame), they will have new line of Meta models designed both with fashion and notification functionality. I know some of you like a smart-wrist-phone with androind system, but if you want a fashionable looking watch with smart functionality, I think Meta will be one of the top contenders in that category. What I'm especially pleased, they are not reinventing the wheel but rather improving based on existing design by adding all new epaper display and new awesome looking housing.
I can't wait to test it and to review it when it becomes available!!!
But here is another surprise. Usually when you hear an announcement about company pursuing a new product line it means they are dropping a ball on the current line. As you all remember, in the past I had my fair share of complains about still using old fw1.35 with NE Manager and other workaround to get notifications from my Note 2 (on stock 4.1.2). Well, in the last few weeks my FRAME just transformed into a brand new smartwatch once I got 4.3 update on my Note 2, installed Metawatch FW 1.5.1, and start using the latest MW Manager. The watch response is super fast switching between pages and notification/setup screen. Enabling Notification Access in MW Manager (and using free app like eNotify - which I highly recommend!) helps pushing all the notifications from my Note 2 to FRAME. Don't get me wrong, everything was working before, but now I don't need any 3rd part workarounds or community manager optimized for older firmware. Everything is optimized, battery life is improved, and it's working perfectly!
Furthermore, a new FW 1.5.2 will be released sometime this week (hopefully on Wednesday). I have been testing this firmware for the last week, and it's another step forward for Metawatch guys. Now you can scroll through the last 5 notifications (the latest one and 4 more in queue), and they added a new Timer app built into firmware. Accessible from a setup menu, it's a very neat app with a cool control to setup your countdown timer which runs down to zero with flashing light and vibration notification.
I will take pictures of my new FRAME setup (and Timer) and post it here in the next few days!!!
I just want to add that notification filtering with current MW software is still work in progress since I was referring more to a general "native" enabling of pushing notification without a need of any 3rd party apps. Augmented Pro has a nice way to filter notifications, but it's not compatible with new MW Manager and new firmware. But for my own personal use it's no longer a show stopper. In a way 4.3 update added it's own filtering since under every app you have an option to enable/disable notification check-mark. Furthermore, in MetaWatch manager you enable Notification Access under Alerts. The big problem for me personally was receiving email notifications. I have my POP3/IMAP accounts with native Samsung email client and even so I have notification enabled and it displays new email icon in the notification bar, it never translated into the actual notification message displayed in MetaWatch. In order to solve this problem, I discovered eNotify app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hermes.enotifylite) which does a perfect job of pushing those email notifications from my multiple email accounts. For Exchange, to get access to my work email, I'm using TouchDown where it's notifications get displayed on MetaWatch without a problem.
Just for those who are not familiar with MW Manager, it enables to design 4 separate MetaWatch screens with up to 4 widgets per screen in each quadrant as well as using large widgets that take more than 1 quadrant. Its a very elegant GUI with a lot of config options. My particular design looks like this, including screenshots of status window and music control.
Implemented in a new 1.52 firmware, now you have a queue of multiple notifications you can scroll through, although the body of email message is not displayed.
As a bonus, a new built-in Timer app was implemented with a latest firmware.
This update came as a big surprise considering Metawatch guys probably have most of their resources tied up in the upcoming Meta release. I was very pleased to see they continue supporting their original MetaWatch design, continue working on firmware and app updates, and actually working on additional content instead of just bug fixes.
This update definitely doesn't feel like another dot release just to fix a few bugs. Considering popularity of their NFL widget, introduced in earlier updates, 2 new sports widgets were released covering Pro Basketball and, just in time for March Madness, NCAA college basketball, allowing you to follow schedule and scores of your favorite teams. Also, UI has been redesigned, and looks really cool with icons of the widgets instead of generic icons used before. There were also improvements in battery life (still need to verify that), and fixes for several stability issues and other minor bugs.
Personally, I'm anxiously waiting to get my hands on the new Meta so I can share with you my experience of this next milestone release from Metawatch guys. But in a meantime, I'm actually rocking my FRAME with new updates!!!
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