"The Martian Notifier is an analogue watch with a high IQ level. Our review"
In a couple of years from now, smartwatches will feel as comfortable on our wrists as our smartphones feel in our pockets. For now though, we're dealing with flashy, clunky, mini cyborgs that give the term 'fashion disaster' a whole new meaning. Of course, there are a few lookers among the lot, such as the Moto 360, LG G Watch R and ASUS ZenWatch, but they’re far from perfect, and cost a pretty penny too. Martian Watches, a California-based company, has a solution to this problem. The Martian Notifier, which was initially unveiled at CES early this year, is an analogue watch that connects to your Android or iOS device via Bluetooth to display incoming notifications. To gauge its mettle, we've been using the device as our primary timepiece for the past few weeks.
At first glance, you’d be hard-pressed to find the ‘smart’ in the Martian Notifier. It looks like a normal analogue watch, complete with a mechanical watch dial, Roman numerals and glow-in-the-dark hands. In fact, it’s easy to mistake for something out of Casio’s G-Shock series. It’s not the sleekest of watches, thanks to its thick case and ridged silicone strap, which make it look awkward on smaller wrists. Our review unit came in black, but Martian does have a range of 'Quick Change' watch bands on its official website. Unfortunately, these aren't available here yet, so if you want something more colourful, we suggest you opt for the red or white variants that are available on Flipkart. The circular dial measures 1.7-inches in diameter, with a narrow 96 x 16 pixel OLED strip at the bottom, where notifications are displayed. There’s also a RGB LED notification light, that remains almost invisible until it lights up. The dial is protected by an anti-scratch acrylic crystal, and is also touch sensitive. On the left side of the case you’ll find two buttons – the one on top is called the 'Command' button, while the one below is the 'Select' button. Pressing the Select button once brings up the time, date and weather on the OLED display.
Above the watch crown on the left is a small flap which conceals the micro-USB port. You won’t be able to use just any USB cable with this watch though. The cable that ships with the Notifier features an extended micro-USB plug, since the port is recessed. What’s great about the Notifier is that the analogue part of it is powered by a standard watch battery, so even if you forget to charge it, it’ll still tell you the time.
The watch is splash-resistant as long as the micro-USB flap is closed tightly, so while it should survive an accidental downpour, you can’t wear it while taking a swim or a shower.
To turn on the OLED display, you have to long press the Select button until it vibrates. Note that the device needs at least 50 percent battery to pair the first time. Pairing the Martian was a hassle-free affair. First, you need to download and install the Martian Notifier app from the Play Store or App Store – the device is compatible with both Android and iOS devices. Then, you have to tap the Select button on the Notifier a few times until you get to the setup menu. Navigate to the Android option, and check or uncheck it depending on which device you’re using. Once that’s done, click on ‘Tap to Connect’ from the app, which will scan for the watch. A six-digit code will appear on the Martian, which you need to enter on your device to complete the pairing. The whole process takes only a couple of minutes.
The Martian Notifier is compatible with the iPhone 4s, iPad Mini and iPad (3rd-gen) and above on iOS, and smartphones and tablets running v2.3.3 and higher on Android. It's worth noting that the FAQs section on the official website states that it might not be compatible with Xiaomi Redmi devices, but this isn't something we've been able to confirm yet.
We didn’t think it would, but the Notifier supports practically all notifications that your smartphone or tablet allows. Going into the 'Alerts Filter' tab of the app, you’ll find options for incoming calls, calendar, email, SMS, low battery, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and Hangouts, to name a few. From this section, you can choose to enable or disable notifications for each app. There’s also another very handy feature – the ability to customise the vibration pattern for alerts. For instance, we set up incoming calls to have a long-pause-long vibration, and WhatsApp messages for a short-pause-short pattern. Over time, we found ourselves recognising the notification by the vibration pattern.
On the Notifier’s tiny OLED display, notifications appear as a side-scrolling feed. You can tweak the scroll speed in settings, and even select a scroll delay, so you have a few extra seconds to glance at your wrist before a notification is displayed. If you’ve missed a notification, you just need to double tap the glass to replay it for up to five minutes after it was received. To view the 10 most recent notifications, you can press the Select and Command buttons together, and use them to navigate through the list.
Despite the smaller display, the Notifier does a fantastic job of displaying notifications. The watch vibrates silently, letting you quickly snatch a glance at your wrist to decide whether it’s worth fishing out your smartphone for. The LED light also flashes briefly to indicate a new alert, but you can turn it off if you want. The only issue we had is that sometimes the entire notification isn't displayed, especially when the number of characters in the message are high. However, the Notifier always tell you which app the alert is from, and who sent it, which is more than enough in most cases.
Notifications aren’t the only thing the Notifier is good for. By tapping the Select button a few times, you can enable a few other functions. ‘Light’ turns on the LED light, which provides a tiny circle of illumination, useful when you’re fishing for your keys in the dark or just require a faint torchlight. The DND (Do Not Disturb) option mutes all notifications until you turn it off. There’s a very useful 'Camera Mode', which turns the watch into a remote shutter. Provided your phone and the watch are paired and the camera app is open, you can press the Command button to snap a photo. The 'Find Phone' option activates a beeping alarm to help you locate your phone, provided it’s within the vicinity of the watch. You can even enable a 'Leash' option in the setup menu, which will cause the Notifier to vibrate when you’re out of range of your phone.
The Notifier has a Silent Alarm feature, which you can set up from the app. It's a useful option when you want to set a discreet alarm that doesn't disturb those around you. But the function we found more handy was the Hour Repeater. When activated, you can set the Notifier to vibrate shortly at hourly intervals. We used it to remind ourselves to get up from our desk and take a short walk, but you could also use it to remember to drink water, take your medicine, etc.
One of the key features baked into Android Wear is Google Now’s voice activation. Using voice commands, users can direct the smartwatch to perform a number of hands-free actions. The Martian Notifier isn’t as sophisticated as that, since it lacks a microphone and speaker, but provides a usable alternative. By pressing the Command button, the watch activates either Siri on the iPhone or Google Now on an Android device. Provided your smartphone is in the vicinity, you can then give it voice commands to carry out functions.
The battery life on the Notifier is one of its highlights. Because the analogue part of it uses a regular watch battery that lasts for up to two years, you'll never need to worry about facing a blank watch face when you forget to charge the device. Martian says the OLED display runs for five to six days on a single charge, and we found that it often lasted longer. Mostly, we found ourselves charging the smartwatch around once a week, which is way better than what most smartwatches require. If you need to check the battery status, opening up the app will tell you the exact percentage left. Alternatively, you can press the Select button once to view the battery indicator on the OLED display. When charging the watch, the LED light turns red, and when fully charged, it switches to green.
The Martian Notifier may not be the smartest of smartwatches, but it’s impressive nonetheless. It looks and behaves like a real watch, while being able to display notifications, play alarms and perform a bunch of other handy functions. Initially launched at a price of Rs 9,999, the watch is currently available for just Rs 6,995 on Flipkart, Martian's exclusive retail partner. At this price, there's barely any competition in the smartwatch category, except for the Android Wear-running LG G Watch, which is available for around Rs 7,000 online. For those of you who want the basic functionality of a smartwatch without sacrificing your traditional timepiece, the Martian Notifier makes for a very attractive proposition.
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