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MetaWatch Strata Performance and Value

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

MetaWatch Strata - Performance

How this all comes together is somewhat hit and miss, but the biggest point to stress is the huge potential of platform. What the Strata does it does brilliantly though the experience can be inconsistent and ‘potential’ inherently means there is a lot to be realised.

First the good stuff. The Strata works wonderfully as a proof of concept for the smartwatch movement as a whole. Many have labelled the category a gimmick, but we found being able to see the context of the notifications coming from the handset in your pocket or bag to be extremely useful.

Strata 1

The best of these are the core elements of calls, emails and SMS. Being able to screen these while on the move is a joy and while it is easy to miss vibration alerts from your phone you never miss one around your wrist. Another useful aspect is keeping track of the battery life on your phone and we were rarely caught out by setting off anywhere with a low charge.

Furthermore while much has been made of smartwatches giving you yet another device to charge we found it easily lasted the working week. This is enough in our book to mean its usefulness isn’t countered by regular charge cycles. This is particularly pertinent given the Strata’s separate charge clip is bulky. A micro USB port with rubber cap would be better for future models.

As for the impact a constant Bluetooth connection on our phone battery life, it seemed minimal (less than five per cent) and was more than counteracted by the greater awareness we had of our phone’s battery life in general. That said if your phone lacks Bluetooth 4.0 support older standards are less energy efficient.

Strata 2

When it comes to the bad stuff, this is where the area of ‘potential’ rears its head. Social media and third party messaging systems (notably WhatsApp) have largely replaced SMS and email for many and their omission is significant. This is also true for third party mapping as we found Telenav Scout didn’t work reliably for us and third party music apps like Spotify and Rdio are also left out in the cold. Support for exercise apps is also thin on the ground with the likes of RunKeeper an obvious target.

If the potential of the MetaWatch platform and smartwatches as a whole is to be met it cannot be left up to third party developers to code access for each specific product. IOS, Android and other smartphone platforms must produce the APIs to help.

There are interesting social side effects too. While we found the Strata to be more convenient to check than our phones it is arguably even ruder to keep looking at your watch in a social situation. Again this isn’t the fault of the Strata, but it is something society as a whole will have to get used to if smartwatches and smart eye-wear are to gain traction.

Strata 6

Should I buy the MetaWatch?

Potentially, yes. MetaWatch has recently brought down the price of the Strata from $179 to just $129 (£83). This is a steal for the functionality, but suggests after a long beta period that a new model is in the works. In addition the Strata really does impact your day-to-day life for the better. At the times when you feel most hassled by smartphone notifications (rushing to work, carrying shopping bags, etc) it comes to the fore as a real stress reliever.

We also find the Strata a better proposition than the MetaWatch Frame - at least on paper. The Frame is $199 (£129) and while slimmer has a shorter battery life (circa 30 per cent less) and is less water resistant, being at home only with splashes rather than full submersion.

That said in the context of the wider market it may still be worth waiting. The much hyped Pebble’s $150 (£99) RRP means it will not be much more expensive at launch and with everyone from Apple and Google to Samsung said to be entering the sector in the not too distant future more polished products could be on the way.

Then again this viewpoint feels tough on the Strata and MetaWatch in general. The open source community should lap it up and its restrictions are largely because of the current API limits in smartphone platforms rather than shortcomings in MetaWatch’s nimble platform. Whether MetaWatch will become the latest runaway success in the tech sector remains to be seen, but it deserves to do well.

Verdict

The Strata is a hugely promising smartwatch debut from MetaWatch. The asking price is low and its durability makes up for the somewhat uninspiring looks. It is early days for the open source platform and bigger fish will enter the market soon, but those of an adventurous nature should open their wallets.

Overall Score

8

Jedibeeftrix

September 13, 2012, 12:59 pm

i have followed metawatch for a long time, not least because of the open support for any OS platform a developer may want to make metawatch work with.

likewise, i am delighted they have finally got to consumer level products following generations of developer/hacker hardware.

looking forward to a consumer analogue metawatch in the same vein as the original developer version.

Gordon394

September 17, 2012, 9:16 pm

Very interesting to know Jedibeeftrix. I think it has the potential to open up a whole new segment of watches as smartphone accessories. With that in mind I'm amazed Apple moved away from the Nano 'watch' design - it seemed an ideal candidate to go down this route.

Then again I'm sure the likes of MetaWatch breathed a sigh of relief. Though of course Apple could simple have changed the Nano as it want to distant it from a future iPhone watch companion product to be introduced at a later date...

Gadgety

October 6, 2012, 1:53 pm

Metawatch is OK, although I will not buy as it doesn't have a color screen and the design is horrible - it's got "cheap" all written over the materials choice. But this is the segment they're reaching for. I don't want the Pebble either. A slightly smaller MotoACTV with a vibration alert would get my attention though.

As for Apple stepping away from the watch format I agree it's odd. Even if they choose to introduce a BT watch (at least their "watch" aspect of the Nano got massive attention), why increase the size of the Nano? Better have similar specs utilise the volume gathered.

mikepotts

January 7, 2013, 10:17 am

I have owned the generation 1 Metawatch in analogue and digital form factors for the last year running the Metawatch Manager Community Edition on Android Samaung Galaxy Note1.

I now own the Strata Stealth and while the function by comparison to earlier models is a work in progress, it shows great promise with a significant advance in design and performance; substantially improved battery life, light, comfortable fit, promising user interface on android phone (now compatible with iOS), easy setup.

Awaiting; more function beyond sms and phone call notifications, next calendar appointment, need a variation of widgets that allow four full screens of information, operating music controller, 3rd party application connection to get the ball rolling. All of this is available on the generation 1 platform after a year of volunteer community development.

Summary; Love that watch!

Gordon Kelly

January 8, 2013, 1:03 pm

Very interesting to hear your comments Mike. I collected our MetaWatch review sample just a few days ago now the company deems it close to an official launch. We are awaiting a couple of software updates before the review (email and more robust music control are central) but so far the experience has been very interesting indeed.

I suspect this could be the year the wristwatch makes a return, whether it be an Apple iWatch or various Android pairing watches but either way the multi-platform functionality of the MetaWatch makes it a potentially major player.

Jussi Wacklin

June 17, 2013, 9:33 pm

I'm a Metawatch fanboy, so treat my comments with a caveat. The latest software they released is delivering stable features and Strata price is very affordable. While some dislike the design and the screen, I find the Frame design very durable and smart unlike some other plastic watches out there.

Scherle

August 16, 2013, 4:57 pm

Metawatch isn't going to be a player and the company seems to be in trouble. I was super-enthusiastic about their product early on, but they are suffering from hardware and software problems that they don't seem to be able to get their heads around.

The last device they shipped to me was DOA, and I had to open a PayPal dispute just to get them to return the defective device. (They are still fighting it, claiming I was just "evaluating" the device.)

At this point, my hopes are on Samsung.

j4ckl3

September 10, 2013, 2:00 am

I just received mine today and so far with initial tests, i am extremely pleased. It does simply what it set out to do. I am enjoying the widgets that are out there. I can't wait to get the firmware updated and take it on the road. Being able to see my sms texts as they come in as well as note my phone calls will be very satisfying. Lets see after a few weeks of serious workout will it perform as well as it does currently. Texts and call info are extremely responses to my android phone.

Kevin

November 5, 2013, 2:57 am

I had a metawatch for 16 hours. It's no worth owning. Galaxy gear has it correct. 1 text out of 50 came through to my watch from my I phone. The apps are so limited that on my four screens a had to double up on the apps because there are not enough choices. It looks nice but that's about it. You can't respond with it,no emails. I'm waiting it out for I phone to come through with there own watch.

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