Apple, Martian or Pebble? In Search of the Smartest Smartwatch

Martian Notifier

I got caught up in the Apple Watch hype of a few weeks ago and given that the watches won’t be available until sometime next year, I decided to shop around and take a look at the current offerings to see if there’s something to tide me over until the lines begin to form outside of the Apple stores. Since I got rid of my Galaxy Note 3 in favor of an iPhone 6 Plus, the Samsung and Motorola watches aren’t options. The Moto 360 would probably be the one to consider but as much as I like the screen and the overall design, it’s a pretty thick watch that still screams geek a little too loudly for my fashion sense.

I bought two watches in an attempt to break into wearable tech: the Martian Notifier and the Pebble Steel. The Martian is really more of a watch with a small screen and LED on the bottom that provide visual updates of any notifications that flash across my phone’s screen. It looks like an understated sports watch and nothing like its smart watch peers. It’s about as thick as a G-Shock with a nice bezel and complementary strap–if you didn’t know what it was, you wouldn’t know what it isand I like the fact that it is covertly geeky. Where it really shines is having a button that activates voice commands on your phone. You push the button, listen for the tone, and talk commands to your phone in the same way you would had you activated Siri or Cortana. It’s especially nice when you’re in your car an the phone is connected via Bluetooth so that you press the button on the watch and speak commands through your in car speaker system while your phone sits in your pocket or briefcase. I’ve used this feature to get directions, make phone calls, and send text message all from my wrist without having to touch the phone at all. Simple and effective and why I’m keeping the Martian.

That might imply that I’m getting rid of the Pebble. That sentence should read in the past tense as of this morning since I returned the Pebble to Best Buy. For all the excitement around the Pebble at it’s launch and the redesign that is a much nicer, more sophisticated product in the Pebble Steel, I found the watch design still lacking and the software was a bit buggy where I would not consistently receive notifications. The apps were nice but not nearly as sophisticated as what you would find on Android or Apple app stores.  I also did not care for the screen technology the more I wore the watch–e-Ink just doesn’t do it for me anymore when we have so many products that are taking advantage of full color displays. As much as I wanted to like the Pebble, the design, the display, and the software just didn’t meet my expectations. The Martian doesn’t try to do anything more than tell time, keep me informed of phone alerts with a blurb of text on my wrist with customizable vibrations, while also allowing me to access the phone via voice for easy, hands-free access to all its other functions. For now, that’s smart enough.

Until next year, somebody hold me a place in line.

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