Classic watch style with slick smartphone features [Martian Notifier review]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Good The affordable Martian Notifier is a whiz at smartphone alerts and has classic analog style for mainstream appeal. The Notifier supports both Android and iOS devices.

The Bad Charging the Notifier’s Bluetooth radio and other mobile electronics requires a proprietary cable. The watch is splashproof, but not fully water-resistant.

The Bottom Line If you’re looking for a way to get subtle phone alerts on your wrist without busting the budget, it’s hard to top the Martian Notifier.

The people at Martian believe that smartwatches will entice mainstream shoppers only when they function as standard timepieces first and deliver rock-solid phone smarts second. That’s why the company believes it has a real winner in the new Martian Notifier. And I agree.

Priced at a low $129.99, at first glance the Notifier looks like your standard analog watch. But hidden beneath its classic styling are the best alerts I’ve ever seen from a smartwatch. You get notifications for just about any mobile application on your handset such as email, twitter, texts, calls, you name it.

You can even set the Notifier to discretely buzz your wrist in distinct staccatos depending which app or phone function demands your attention. Sure, the Martian Notifier isn’t as luxuriously appointed or as capable as rivals like the metallic $249 Pebble Steel. For almost half the price though it’s just as useful and a heck of a lot more practical. And while it costs the same as the first Pebble, the Notifier’s fashionable design translates into a watch I’d rather wear every day.

martian-notifier-smartwatch-photos24.jpg

An analog watch with fancy phone smarts.

Smarts with stealth

With its circular analog watch face, you’d never know the Martian Notifier is any different from the legion of traditional timepieces on the market. Trust me, though, when I say that this is the gadget’s most compelling attribute. Unlike many recent attempts at watches linked to smartphones, the Notifier’s clean, conservative appearance pairs equally well with sober business attire and relaxed weekend wear. It’s a huge improvement over the first plastic Pebble and wildly futuristic Samsung Gear and Gear Fit. Indeed, this is the first smartwatch I’ve worn that random people and non-techie friends have noticed and complimented. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even realize the Notifier boasted phone smarts until alerts hit the device.

That’s understandable since the only real indication of the Notifier’s smartwatch credentials is a thin OLED screen running along the bottom of the device’s face. Additionally there’s a tiny dot-shaped light positioned above and to the left of screen, but unless it’s active it’s even harder to spot.

Martian, however, can’t claim design perfection in the Notifier. For one, while it’s splashproof, it’s not fully water-resistant. That means no showering or swimming with the Notifier strapped on. By comparison the Sony Smartwatch 2 (IP57), the Pebble Steel (5ATM waterproof), and the new Samsung Gear devices, including the Gear Fit and the Gear 2 (IP67), are more durable.

martian-notifier-smartwatch-photos29.jpg

You need to use its USB cord with an extra-long tip for charging.

Like the company’s previous Passport smartwatch series, you charge the Notifier through a Micro-USB cable and port located under a flap. Unfortunately the charging contacts are embedded really deeply, so you can only charge the watch with the Notifier’s USB cable. It sports an abnormally long USB tip just for this purpose.

I do find the watch’s silicone wrist strap and stainless-steel clasp just as comfortable as any standard timepiece I’ve used. I also was barely aware of the Notifier’s light 1.8-ounce weight, which certainly made it easier to wear it around the clock. Martian also expects to offer additional color options for both the Notifier’s strap and watch face.

Get the message

The Notifier may mask its support for smartphone alerts under its conventional analog design. Even so, it offers the most enjoyable notification experience of any smartwatch I’ve tried. Unlike the Samsung’s Gear products, which are locked down to the company’s Android handsets, the Notifier connects to both Android and iOS devices via companion apps and a wireless Bluetooth connection.

Additionally, the Notifier app comes preconfigured to provide warnings for incoming calls, texts, calendar appointments, email, and staple social-media events. What I find truly impressive is that the watch’s software is also aware of which applications are installed on your phone. The big upside here is you can then turn on alerts for these apps, or even better, add them as your device app roster grows. Essentially, if an app pushes notifications globally to Android or iOS, the Notifier can receive them.

martian-notifier-smartwatch-photos01.jpg

The Notifier offers plenty of control over what alerts the watch receives

Another interesting feature in the Notifier’s arsenal are what Martian calls Vibration Patterns. Essentially you can have the watch buzz, almost Morse code-style, distinctively to match each type of message. So for example you can configure the watch to buzz haptically with a long-short-long pattern to signify phone calls, long-short-short for texts, and so on. I admit that when I first learned about this function it sounded very useful. I imagined being able to know which alerts were happening without having to glance down at the watch. In practice, though, I tended to forget which patterns I had assigned to which app, so I ended up looking anyway.

One approach I applaud Martian for taking with the Notifier is its two-battery system. As the Passport before it, the Notifier’s analog clock movement is powered by a standard watch battery that Martian says provides up to two years of operation. The Notifier’s messaging and wireless functions are driven by a rechargeable battery that Martian claims has enough juice for 5 days. I can confirm that the latter matched my experience with the product.

Conclusion

I liked the idea of the Martian Notifier from the minute I first caught wind of it. I’m glad to say for the most part I haven’t been disappointed. This affordable gadget does away with its predecessor’sspeakerphone and Dick Tracy phone call abilities to reach a low $129.99 price tag (expected to hit stores in US and Europe in spring 2014). In my view, it’s a worthwhile trade-off.

As part of the deal, the Notifier provides the best smartphone alert experience I’ve had the pleasure to take for a spin. Not only could I choose which notifications I wanted to receive from within the watch’s mobile app, but the software supported any alert-capable application that was installed on my handset. I also love the Notifier’s classic analog style, which is at home in just about any fashion situation.

To be crystal-clear, though, the Notifier is not a powerful mobile computer that can run its own mobile apps and snazzy watch faces. For that I suggest springing for the pricey $249 Pebble Steel. With its metal construction, the Steel flaunts a level of luxury and mobile brainpower the Notifier can’t match. I wouldn’t recommend of the cheaper original Pebble device over the Notifier; its plastic design looks positively toylike next to the Notifier’s classic analog face.

Advertisements

Posted on May 5, 2014, in Gadgets, Reviews, Support, Tech and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: