MetaWatch Strata - Performance, Value & Verdict

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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.

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