I’ve had the MetaWatch Strata for a few weeks now and thought it was about time that I share some thoughts on it. But first I’ll answer the question you’re probably asking, “What the heck is a ‘MetaWatch?'” It’s a smart watch, a watch that connected via bluetooth to your iOS or Android phone. “Oh so you mean a Pebble watch?” No. I mean a MetaWatch.
That is the MetaWatch I have, the Olympian Blue with Digital Camo Band. I’ve had mine for just under a month and I can confidently say that it has changed my life for the nerdier (and maybe even for the better).
MetaWatch was brought to life and into our lives via a successful Kickstarter campaign. It wasn’t quite as successful as the Pebble Watch campaign, not even close really, but it was a success none-the-less. In all honesty I don’t know why so many people got so excited about the Pebble. It got over $10,000,000 in Kickstarter funds and a second round of $15,000,000 after the campaign ended.
Pebble raised over $25,000,000 and yet they had issues getting them to customers. Meanwhile MetaWatch raised just over $300,000 and they were shipping to customers a month later. That’s impressive. Also the MetaWatch is both dorkier, cooler and just overall a better watch than the Pebble. I’ll never understand why Pebble won the money race.
I unpacked the MetaWatch and gave the contents a quick inspection. Inside was the watch, a USB cable and charging clamp and a small booklet which I presumed was the instruction manual. Nope. That’s online and while that’s probably smart, since these things are constantly being updated, it would have been nice to have some sort of basic quick start card. Never mind that, the app from the iTunes App Store gave me all the direction I needed.
It was a matter of moments before I had the MetaWatch connected to my phone and was customizing the four watch faces. You do all of this through the iPhone app, which has to run in the background at all times for the watch to properly function.
|Water Resistance Rating||5 ATM (STRATA)|
3 ATM (FRAME)
|Display||96×96 pixel sunlight-readable, reflective mirror display (Polymer Network LCD technology)|
|Battery Life||5-7 days|
|Wireless Technology||Dual Mode, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology (BR/BLE)|
|Sensors||3-axis MEMS accelerometer|
Ambient light sensor
So what can the watch do? The 96 x 96 pixel screen can be broken into sections. Online and in other reviews there are more watch faces than I seem to have. With the firmware I’m running I can do the following watch faces in various orientations.
- Phone Battery
- Chinese lunar calendar
On the box you see the screen broken into thirds with a text message and email status section. However, mine can only be broken into quadrants/halves/whole faces and it doesn’t have a notification center. Here’s how mine is currently set up.
You can switch between faces by tapping one of the six buttons on the watch. I typically keep mine on the Watch + Weather or the quadrant option. Notifications for me come as pop-ups and are accompanied by a vibrating alert.
Notifications can be replayed by tapping the top right button on the watch. Unfortunately there is no scrolling through notifications or the calendar so if the text goes beyond the 96 x 96 pixel screen your message is truncated.
Most of my notifications came via text messages and Tweets so this is rarely a problem and I’d be incredibly surprised if this feature wasn’t added in a future version of the software.
I can’t tell you how awesome it is to get notifications like texts and even navigation directions pushed to your wrist watch. When waiting for the text message of “Hey I’m downstairs” I didn’t have to pull out my phone. When walking down a dark and scary alley I didn’t have to pull out my cellphone to get directions through the Tenderloin for a delicious Bahn Mi. With the navigation app Scout from Telenav I was able to get walking directions pushed to my phone quite possibly saving me from an untimely mugging.
Beyond the obvious features of notifications, telling time, having your upcoming events and stocks on the ready, the watch also features a three-axis accelerometer which could be integrated as a pedometer or maybe a sleep monitor. It’s waterproof up to around 165 feet and it can control your iTunes playback and volume.
The screen is one of the things that’s most unique. Instead of the eInk screen of the Pebble or a standard LCD screen like regular digital watches, the MetaWatch uses a “1-inch, 96-by-96-pixel screen uses a polymer network LCD.” It’s a mouthful but what it turns out to be is a screen that isn’t black and grey or black and white but black and mirrored. It looks awesome and in direct sunlight is easier to read than eInk.
Battery life on the MetaWatch is said to be 5-7 days and I’d say that’s just about my experience and totally acceptable. Charging the watch is a little interesting. Since it needs to be waterproof they can’t put a charging port on it which would encourage water to seep into the phone. Instead there is a charging clamp that affixes to the watch, gripping the face while lining up metal contacts on the back of the watch.
It’s a very functional solution, if not a very sexy one. I’d rather it be a magnetic connection that didn’t obscure the watch face but really I only ever charge it when I’m sleeping so it isn’t really an issue.
However, a lot of the MetaWatch feels like a BetaWatch. I’ve noticed fonts changing at random, sometimes the display only refreshes portions of the screen, the button layout doesn’t make perfect sense and as I wrote above, the features on the box don’t match the feature in the watch in regards to the widgets. I also go through periods where keeping a solid connection to the phone is troublesome and my battery meter has been known to be quite erratic.
One social issue I’ve noticed is with all those notifications going to my wrist I get the feeling that people sometimes think I’m antsy to leave their company as I keep looking at the watch.
Those caveats aside, I love my MetaWatch. It is a conversation starter for sure. I don’t go a day without a few people asking me what I’m wearing and how they can get one. It’s insanely handy (pun intended) when you’re someone who is as connected as I am and is a lot safer than walking around with your phone out when you need to get walking directions. Also I can confirm that it works just fine on iOS 7.
Plus there is a lively, loud and innovative development team and forum. Their widget SDK allows people with skills to make the MetaWatch do just about anything they can come up with. So my complaints about no scrolling text and limited replay history could be a thing of the past. And I expect to see tons of widgets appear to work with things like Runkeeper and all the other “let’s stay active” applications on the market.
There are several models and colors of the MetaWatch. If I were to recommend one it would be the Frame in black (bottom center) if you’re looking for something classy or the Strata if your someone on the go. Either way, it’s an awesome gadget that is limited only by the imagination of its programmers, and that means you.
This post isn’t as much a review as a revelation. As the MetaWatch grows up, gains new features and who knows what else, I’ll write new posts keeping you all up to date on my journey of a life connected at the wrist.