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back to article Smartwatch makers: You need apps to beat Apple

Smartwatch maker Metawatch has just updated its firmware to version 1.4.0, rolling out a number of bug fixes and tweaks but, most obviously, adding three further watchfaces. These can be previewed and selected using a new version of the firm’s iOS and Android apps, which were posted earlier this week. Both Windows and Mac OS …

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Well..

Cookoo gets closest, in my opinion. A classic, round look. An analogue movement. Very, very simple notifications, no touchscreen or other bollocks.

I do not need my watch to be a crappy monochrome version of what I could see if I just pulled my phone out.

I want it to look like a watch, last for many, many months on a single battery without recharging, and give me simple notifications, so I don't have to check my phone in a busy/noisy place for a new email or text.

However, although Cookoo looks good, reviews (both professional and consumer) show it disconnects near-constantly, and of course it doesn't support Android. I do understand why - Google has been terribly slow at getting Bluetooth 4 LE into the stock stack.

So, that is to say, I fundamentally disagree with the title of this piece, I don't want my watch to run "apps" at all. I never want to get in a situation where I'm charging two devices every day, that would just make my life that tiny bit less convenient.

Of course, some may genuinely want a shite version of what they could have seen in 5 seconds by pulling their phone out, and to charge two devices constantly, but I'm not in that group.

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jai
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Re: Well..

Well.. that's you.

Me, I do want apps on my watch. I want my phone to be the device that does the internet connection and any heavy processing, and the watch to be my first interface to the phone. if i need more detail than the watch provides, then I can pull out the phone and view the equivalent app on the bigger screen.

charging two devices? I'm already charging a phone, a tablet, a laptop, and my ipod nano which is on a wriststrap and acts as a watch and podcast player, so another device wouldn't really impact my daily schedule. in fact, it'd replace my use for the ipod nano and so there wouldn't be any difference.

But that's me. We're all different.

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Re: Well..

Indeed. I rather not take my phone out at all. Stop me being seen as one of the herd, all wandering about, mobiles in hand on the off-chance it might ring or beep. Smartwatch is a nicely discreet way of picking up incoming email and SMSes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well..@Piro

To the point.

Wearing an ugly black plastic band that you have to charge on a daily or weekly basis just so you don't have to take your phone out of your pocket?

I will stick to my present watch, in 12 years it has never needed to be recharged or needed replacement batteries, and it tells the time.

Just like the 'fashionable' old LED and LCD watches of the late 70's it will be a passing trend.

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Anonymous Coward

I think the real problem is a smartwatch needs to offer enough functionality to be useful, but not so much as to be bulky, have rubbish battery life (I would only tolerate charging one once a week at most) or run warm.

Mono screens will be the thing to use for battery life, but they then look a little drab which is probably why Apple is struggling with theirs as they will be wanting to use something more colourful?

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Anonymous Coward

Optional

Could someone please tell me what all the fuzz is about? Ever since Jobs hinted that Apple was working on a watch, everyone and their mother have been trying to beat Apple to market.

But why?

Why do these people think that a watch would make sense? Apart from telling the time, what could you possibly use it for? It's too small to use for looking up stuff. The devices are too large and bulky and quite frankly look hideous.

And then there's the price. Why would I spend $200 to shave a few seconds off my day so I can find out what the weather's going to be like? I mean, didn't SPOT have those same kind of apps, and look where that went.

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Re: Optional

As a bloke the best reason for me and my pebble so far....

Not missing text messages and calls from the wife, or on night out from one of the lads who is trying to find out where we are.

If my phone is in a jacket or sometimes even my jeans I cant always notice it, especially if I'm moving around a lot or somewhere noisey even when its on vibrate.

I can also discretely see the first bit of any message on my phone and tell if its worth rooting around to get out my phone which is especially useful when you are somewhere really busy and getting jostled around (think football, very busy trains, concerts or bars etc)

I expect it would be even more useful for the types of ladies who would have a phone in a handbag or a clutch bag.

As far charging issues, once a week is no hardship given I have to charge my connected smart phone at least every two days

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Go

@ Hairy Spod

That's the best arguement in favour of smart watches, that I've heard so far. Of course, the watch that you describe is nothing more than a wrist mounted vibrator (oo-er) that previews text messages - given that it disregards all this "app" nonsense, you can probably keep the cost to a minimum.

Quick, bring this to market and destroy the competition!

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Re: Optional

Add to that the music player control I use every day walking to and from work.

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Re: Optional

And something that is not hideous, I dont want to look like an ass hat. If that is the case I will buy the google glasses and get much more functionality. That Cookoo watch looks half-way decent, but does seem to be very limited in function. I think something looking similar but with a screen as a face that can go black (or some solid color - Monochrome seems fine to me) when not in use.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Optional

It was probably a Jobs Joke, now Apple keep up the impression that they are developing a watch just so other manufacturers waste time an effort developing something that is so niche that it will never be profitable.

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I don't see the point...

I just don't see the point of a "Smart watch" if you already have a Smart phone. Why tether a watch with a smaller screen than a Blackberry Q10 to a smartphone to get weather updates when you can look that up on a Smartphone with a bigger screen and not be squinting at a tiny watch screen? Why bother using "apps" on a Smartwatch when you can just use apps on a "Smartphone". It's utterly pointless to bother with a Smart watch that for all intents and purposes does pretty much the same things that your smartphone does- tell time. Use apps. Get weather and information updates. Why? To impress people with your Dick Tracy impressions? To make women think you're James Bond. It's just a pointless waste of time and money that I will be avoiding. Of course, everyone and their brother and sister will go out and buy one (like iPhones). I won't be joining the Smart Watch crowd.

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Re: I don't see the point...

you seem to be missing the point. A smart watch should be an extension of your phone, not a substitute. I can see incoming messages at a glance regardless of where in the house/office my phone is or what surroundings I am in. It offers discretion in meetings or in areas where you might not want to flash your phone about, at-a-glance info whilst driving, notifications whilst exercising or in crowded environments. Add to that the ability to change music tracks and see what is playing when your phone is in your bag or playing at a party. I have used mine whilst teaching a dance class to pause and start the track playing. I have used it during presentations and meetings to notify me of if we are running behind. And I love the custom watch faces that I can choose from.

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Gold badge
Facepalm

Pics.

Hmm, those digital watches are a pretty neat idea.....

Seriously though, monochrome LCD displays? Are they trying to recreate the days when digital watches actually were thought to be a pretty neat idea? I suspect Apple aren't going to have to try very hard to pwn this market as well, if the state of the competition is that risible.

Rule #1 of shiny toy tech - it's all about what you see. The techies who give a shit about the underpinnings are not your mass market. All I see there are three companies who'll go titsup.com overnight when the iWatch launches.

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Anonymous Coward

Meh, Smartwatch is far more mature.

Sony are on their 3rd generation of smartwatch, and the developer API is REALLY mature, way more so than either of the devices mentioned here,

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Maybe they should think about hiring an actual designer. These monstrosities look like something from the 80s. If Apple ever brings out a watch, I bet people will buy it for the looks, not the apps/features.

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For me, the number one feature of the Pebble is for call/SMS notifications.

I often missed called in noisy environments, or when I had forgotten to turn off the mute functionality on my phone. Having a watch that vibrates to notify is perfect, it's in direct contact with my skin so I never miss it. I keep my phone muted almost all the time now. I find audible notifations distracting, both to myself and to others.

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Bronze badge

e-ink, gps, BT/3G/WiFi

With 3G/WiFi optional (but it would replace my phone if it did that and bridging to wireless)

I don't need colour on a watch - I *do* want battery life (although frankly another daily charge isn't going to kill me), and that's where e-ink comes in.

But almost more important than anything else is that I want a device which is discreet. Even the garmin watches don't manage that...

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Don't need loads of notifications

I have a Pebble (Kickstarter backer). It is honestly one of the best gadgets I've ever bought. The existing notifications are ALL I want.

I get notified of incoming calls and SMSs appear on my wrist, with a nice little buzz every time they appear. Calls and texts are what I consider important and things I want to know about immediately, because they are a fairly immediate method of communication - something the sender expects a reply to straight away and probably something you want to know about straight away. I don't care about Facebook notifications because there is no way they are important. Ditto email - I don't want all 100 daily emails pinging on my wrist. I'll get those when I'm good and ready. In other words, for me, it's perfect out of the box notifications-wise. I always used to miss calls/texts with my phone in my pocket and on silent. Not any more.

Music control - superb. Get in car, plug phone in, 3 taps of the center button and music is coming through my stereo. Don't even need to look. At home, do the same, quick fiddle on the phone to route it over Airplay then phone goes back in my pocket and I can skip songs or pause whenever I like without finding the phone and messing with the screen.

The apps are then the icing on the cake. The RunKeeper integration in particular I use quite a bit.

Battery is not a problem. I have to charge my phone every night anyway so I just charge the watch at the same time.

Good tech should change the way you do things and make your life easier. That is EXACTLY what the Pebble is doing for me so far. The only downside is I have a nice, expensive-ish watch at home that I now never wear. I love that other watch to bits, but it's now relegated to "posh nights out" because the Pebble is just so damn useful.

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Re: Don't need loads of notifications

Agree with you there. I got a Pebble through Kickstarter and its one of the more useful gadgets I own. It's changed how I use my phone, no longer is my phone interrupting my life with a cacophony of noises, everything except for the morning alarm my phone is silent. The vibrations from the watch are much more effective at getting my attention especially in loud environments.

Also I don't look like one of the pod people, constantly fondling their phones waiting for the next update in their life. Yes I look at my watch a little more than I used to, but overall it's less obtrusive and I can decide quickly if I really need to respond to that SMS/Email or answer the call coming in.

Battery life is good, I get a whole week without charging.

Only real gripe is the style. It is a nerd device, it stands out over someone wearing a fancier watch. I hope Pebble licence their technology to people that actually know how to make a good looking watch. A black and white screen is fine, but the overall styling does leave something to be desired.

I can't go without it now though. It's become integral to how I interact with my phone, and overall it's gotten rid of my constant compulsion to look at my phone's screen when an notification alert pops up.

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Re: Don't need loads of notifications

I've been charging my pebble every night because it seems to go from what the display says is "full" (no battery icon in the menu) to dead empty with no warning. It usually seems to last about 3 days.

I really like the watch. It looks decent, it's thin, and you can switch from a casual to a formal watchface with a button press. httpebble based apps are stil a little unreliable (it seems like the connection goes to sleep too easily), but they do work ("futura weather" is my second most often-used face after a black on white analog display). The only thing it doesn't do yet that I want is the ability to reject a call from the watch - apparently this is coming in the API.

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Ugly

Sir Jony must have been delighted to see what the watches mentioned looked like. They seemed to have been designed by the geeks who did the hardware and the software. The trick for Apple is to design something that looks stylish enough. Nice screen, thin hardware etc. Functionality and battery life are low on the Hipster list of priorities.

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Silver badge

Both models look like big-brand products

Only if the brand is PoundShop... that Metawatch looks cheap and ugly, half wasted on bezel. It's already lost the style war and any chance of decent sales.

I believe the 1st successful Smartwatch will sell because it looks good, not what it actually does. Who'd want to be seen wearing that huge chunky block?

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Silver badge

You need apps to beat a company that has no product in the market? I don't think so. Application support is useful, certainly - you don't want to be the company that releases a "smartphone" that can't even run applications...

What I would like though is being open enough that it works with any platform - none of this "Let's cater to the minority of Apple users, and if you're lucky, Android". Even if I find one with Android support, and I'm happy using Android now, who knows how things may change in a few years. If I'm spending £100 on a watch, I don't want to have to upgrade my watch every time I change my phone. Even if an OS isn't supported officially, it'd be good to be open enough for others to add this support - is that theoretically possible on the Pebble, for example?

Sadly I predict the mainstream companies will do the complete opposite - Apple especially - seeing them as a way to lock customers into their products. Every time you see a marketing type harp on about "ecosystem", replace that word with "locked-in walled garden".

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Metawatch’s hardware is impressive and attractive.

No it bloody isn't. That watch in the picture looks like a cheap peice of Chinese crap, they all do. The Pebble is better than the others but not by much.

Come back when you have something that looks as good as a Tisot.

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Bronze badge

Agent watch / wireless charging.

Doesn't look any more wireless than the method I use to charge my pebble.

1) take off watch

2) put watch down close enough to cable that it magnetically connects to watch

3) charge watch

4) pick up watch when charged, cable falls away effortlessly.

Agent watch, repeat as above, replace 2 with,

put on charge pad that is wired into somewhere else.

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Bronze badge

Watch = notification system

Android with it's superior notification system an easy link into a standardised bluetooth smartwatch.

I hope Google will enhance bluetooth notifications to make existing and new developers very happy.

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I'd agree with all others regarding notification functionality, it makes missing texts/calls (something that used to happen frequently) a thing of the past.

In the car it's much safer to glance at your wrist than mess around with your phone.

With Glance I can even respond with preset messages from the watch with a few easily memorised button presses.

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Silver badge

I fail to see the benefit of smart watches if ...

it takes two hands to use them. One hand is attached to the wrist the watch is mounted on and the other to manipulate it - whilst squinting at the text.

The distraction is perfect for would be robbers, or those idiots who stumble on to the roadway and get struck by a vehicle.

You might as well keep your money and just use your Android, or other phone, using two hands, too.

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Diminishing returns and display size

Even with retina displays, a watch is an episodic, periodic checking device at best. The angle a watch face lies at means you have to twist your arm to view content: how long before people get RSI continuously checking their SMSs, controlling their music, etc?

Don't get me wrong, I can see a market here, but apps? I'm not convinced the platform itself (or rather, the physical limits of the platform) can do useful work beyond a few notifications.

As for replying or sending messages - I can see some generics like "be home soon" or "ok" but entering any actual data? Nah, that's an on-device job.

And JIm Lewis - it's not safer to do anything if your phone chirps in the car, apart from drive!! People die lighting fags in their cars (and take others with them) - god knows what will happen if people have a permanently attached text rendering device with http access to the outside world ON THEIR WRISTS while they drive.

I forsee a LOT more accidents. GAH

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The Smartwatch future

Good piece and comparison, Tony.

I used a couple of SonyEricsson MBW-150s (developed by parts of the MetaWatch team). Vibrating alerts, and discreetly checking incoming were addictive features.

The MBW-150 had one distinct advantage over any of the current crop - it looked like a normal analog watch. The other watch I had, a $1500 piece, was left unused because of it. I would still be using the MBW-150 if the OLED screen hadn't been designed toe expire within a certain time period after production date. Although I respect both the Metawatch and the Pebble teams, out of the current "all digital and plastic" range the Agent is the only device I could even remotely be seen with. Of course Apple might change all that.

Canalys 5 million Smartwatches next year does seem a bit optimistic unless they count on Apple launching their rumored device very soon.

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No time for smart watches..

As long as they look like toys out of a Cracker they will never take off in a big way!

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