Published on March 1st, 2013 | by Greg0
With The Martian Passport Smart Watch, Who Needs Dick Tracy?
If you've been paying attention to gadget news in the past few weeks, you might've heard rumors about Apple joining the "smart watch" industry. And there's been many a story about the Pebble e-watch, which is finally starting to ship after a huge Kickstarter campaign (one of the biggest in history). Older folks might remember "Get Smart" and wonder where these watches have been all these years.
The answer: they've been waiting on the right time and technology. Finally, we have miniature computers with wireless capabilities and decent voice-activated speech recognition. The Martian Passport Bluetooth Watch puts all of these things together, and does it with an old-school style that is perfect for the more traditional office environment. Most folks won't even recognize it as a smart watch until you start talking or listening to it.
While other devices that we saw at CES focus on creating a small interactive touchscreen for your wrist, Martian Watches decided on a different approach. They have three models in pre-production, but we've been testing the Passport, which has a leather band and an analog watch-face that your father (or hipsters, or lawyers) might appreciate. However, there is also a one-line OLED display at the bottom, and a multi-color LED for notifications. Plus, there's a microphone and speaker crammed in- as well as the typical single physical button to control the watch face. Ours was white on black, but fully black and white options are being manufactured as well.
So, what can it do? Well, power up your phone, pair it over Bluetooth, and then you can enjoy features like:
- Incoming call alert via vibration, green LED and caller ID display.
- Accept or decline incoming calls with the push of a button, or decline with a shake of the wrist.
- 2+ hours of talk time, 7 days of standby time. The analog watch uses a separate battery and will run for
approximately 2 years.
- Talk and listen using the noise-cancellation microphone.
No more holding up your phone to your head! Now you can just, um, hold the watch up instead. We found call quality to be tolerable- the microphone is actually pretty decent, but the speaker underpowered for most situations. Also, you'll face the old problem with speakerphones- when one party is speaking, the other cannot, so conversations can quickly become a bit like a game of tag. The small screen is somewhat hard to read, but we got used to it, and a larger one would've changed the aesthetics. The control scheme is actually pretty smart- declining calls just by shaking your wrist? Perfect for meetings! Oh, and did we mention that it's a great companion for iPhone 4S or 5 users who like Siri, or Android folks and their voice commands. Ask for the weather tomorrow, and your watch will tell you (though it might take a couple of tries to get an audible response, just like with Siri).
Now, before you rush out and get one, there are a few significant caveats. For starters, Martian wristwatches are fairly pricey, running $249 to $299. In addition, this one at least was not water-resistant, so you're not going to want to leave it on all day. The Passport is also a fairly masculine design, and is somewhat weighty- absolutely normal if you're used to designer watches, but certainly hefty for anyone who is not. The watch has an anti-scratch crystal face, but you still might notice a bit of wear, especially on the band. The packaging is pretty minimal, but we were impressed by the included charging cable and an adapter which can actually connect to an iPhone or older iPad using the 30-pin connector (update: ours was a pre-production model that did not include the manual in the box, but the firm assured us that the final shipping models will). A headphone jack would've been pretty amazing, allowing us to keep our smartphones tucked safely away while still enjoying A2DP audio and conversations- maybe an addition for the future?
What other watch can notify you when your phone is left behind? We feel a bit ridiculous sometimes trying to talk into our wrist, but usually it feels more like we're secret agents. And that is certainly worth the price tag- every kid's dream come to life, albeit with another battery that needs attention. Available for pre-order from Martian, with various band options, and two other models as well- the more feminine-friendly G2G and the classy Victory.