Emporio Armani Connected (2018) Review
One of the best-looking smartwatches on the market, undermined by lacklustre hardware that prevents it from being an easy recommend.
- Best-looking Wear OS watch currently out there
- Solid upgrade over its predecessor
- Deeply customisable watch faces
- Slim profile
- Integrated GPS saps battery
- Pricey for a Wear OS device
- Buggy performance
- No voice feedback
- Review Price: £389
- Wear OS
- Integrated GPS
- 1 - 2 days battery life
- Swim-proofing to 3ATM
- Optical heart rate sensor
- 20mm quick-release straps
- Android and iOS compatible
- Dimensions: 49 x 43 x 12(mm)
- 1.19-inch 390 x 390 AMOLED display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
What is the Emporio Armani Connected?
Fashion empire Armani has held a toe in tech for years and its newest offering, 2018’s Emporio Armani Connected is the latest and greatest smartwatch to come emblazoned with the brand’s signature eagle.
It boasts styling worthy of the name and internals supplied by its creators at Fossil. As such, it offers many of the same hardware improvements as those of Fossil’s own late 2018 smartwatches, like integrated GPS and NFC, along with similarly-equipped wearables from other licensed brands such as Diesel and Michel Kors.
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This wearable is a promising upgrade over its predecessor, the original Armani Connected, while also continuing to complement the brand’s other current offerings – not only other connected smartwatches but its hybrid and traditional timepieces too.
Emporio Armani Connected – Design
I’ve enjoyed wearing the Armani Connected, not least because it’s one of the most stylish and attractive smartwatches I’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing.
The silver stainless steel version I’ve been sporting is one of several colourways that the company offers; ranging from gunmetal grey to rose gold and more, each of which is paired with one of a number of complementary strap designs in various materials including metal, leather and rubber.
A large flat disk of circular cover glass meets a rounded, polished metal surround that contrasts nicely against the hard-edged, brushed finish of the rest of the watch’s body. The right side of the watch features a notched crown, while two hardware buttons reside above and below it. There’s also a small hole for the microphone between the upper button and crown but you’ll seldom notice it.
I was impressed with the low-profile nature of the Connected 2018. At 12mm thick, it’s svelte when compared to many other smartwatches out there, and the black of the display paired with the silver bodywork means that at a glance, it could more readily pass for an analogue timepiece too.
The rounded, lightly textured plastic back is comfortable and unobtrusive against your wrist and features two concentric silver rings running around the watch’s new optical heart rate sensor.
These rings are what facilitate Fossil’s updated charging mechanism, one that still relies on magnets but does away with induction (as on its predecessor), replacing it instead with a far more reliable and faster contact-based solution that I’ve previously applauded them for.
Two thin lugs extend out above and below the watch’s body, leading to a metal linked band which fastens neatly with an elegant butterfly clasp that when closed, gives the strap a seamless appearance. It came oversized for my wrists but wasn’t too tricky to resize after knocking a few links out, and depending on the strap design you opt for, you might only have to contend with a standard notched buckle instead.
The strap comes fitted with quick-release pins so you can easily take off and swap out the band you use for any other 20mm offering. One small point to note is that if you twist your wrist so that the watch’s face is perfectly parallel to your eyes, the gaps that are inherent to its design, created by the lugs between the body and strap do leave the small levers of the quick-release pins exposed, which goes against the watch’s generally clean aesthetics.
I had little issue with this small detail but you might want to swap the pins out for standard spring bars to remove this element if it bugs you.
Emporio Armani Connected – Screen
That attractive, slim case is compounded by an impressively thin bezel running around the watch’s fully circular 1.19-inch screen. These proportions make the panel look larger than it actually is when compared to those smartwatches that boast larger displays but also bulkier bodies – think the Diesel On Full Guard.
As for the display technology itself, the use of AMOLED over LCD is par for the course as far as smartwatches go, thanks to their lesser power consumption needs; essential for those who like to use Wear OS’ always-on display feature. When fully awake, colours seem pleasingly rich, contrast levels are well balanced and thanks to the 390 x 390 resolution, even small text and details in imagery are easily discernible when you glance down to check things out.
Unlike some watches, I had zero issues with the Connected’s automatic brightness adjustment and overall brightness. The display can be a touch on the reflective side in select environments but I never encountered any real issues when trying to see what was on-screen. If you want to force the display to remain at a constant brightness level, you have the option to switch from ‘automatic’ to one of five different brightness increments too.
Emporio Armani Connected – Features
As with the rest of Fossil’s late 2018 smartwatch crop, this latest Armani Connected sports the most recent major release of Google’s Wear OS.
Brands don’t typically spend too much time customising the underlying experience, partly because Google keeps a fairly tight grasp on it in the pursuit of reliable and power-efficient performance, but there are a few Armani-specific touches here and there.
Watch faces are the most obvious inclusions, with some 23 own-brand options to choose from. Many offer an impressive amount of customisation over everything from dial style and colour to which complications are displayed (things like step count, date, weather, etc).
Any faces you do decide to customise you can then save as personalised ‘looks’ within the watch’s Saved Faces app – another of Armani’s touches. You can use it to browse through all of your custom creations in a single list or filter results by predominant colour. It’s a nice extra if you’re one to switch up your look on the regular.
Beyond faces, functionality falls to Wear OS’ typical gamut of experiences, which should cover most users’ basic smartwatch needs. Swiping up reveals a stream of notifications from your smartphone that you can expand, action or dismiss as required, swiping down reveals a menu of quick actions with toggles for features including Do Not Disturb and flight mode (as well as a shortcut to the watch’s full settings menu). Swiping left grants access to a Google Fit overview screen, summarising your daily activity progress.
Swiping right takes you to the Google Assistant screen, which includes quick access to voice input and a number of suggested queries you’d be likely to fire its way.
Unlike its predecessor, the 2018 Armani Connected features a microphone but no loudspeaker, meaning the Google Assistant can no longer provide voice feedback when you ask it a question (you also can’t field calls directly on your wrist anymore) but I don’t think anyone really enjoyed the experience to begin with, so it doesn’t really seem like a loss.
One-third of the Connected’s updated feature set is integrated NFC, paired with Google Pay support. It’s one of my favourite features on this wearable and incredibly useful if you use contactless payment regularly. The hardware buttons either side of the crown serve as shortcut keys to various features, customisable from within the watch’s settings menu, but a double-press of the upper key always jumps to your chosen Google Pay card of choice.
Emporio Armani Connected – Fitness
Unsurprisingly for a Wear OS-powered smartwatch, Google Fit is the in-built fitness experience of choice. The basic concept of Google Fit falls to Move Minutes and Heart Points, two metrics that (not unlike Apple’s fitness app) are represented by rings that you close by staying active each day.
Google Fit has been updated to track an impressive variety of activities, ranging from walking, running and cycling to other pursuits, such as gardening and stroller walking.
You can augment the basic motion data that the watch picks up with the Connected’s new optical heart rate sensor, which can either track your heart rate when working out or be set to track it constantly throughout the day. There’s now integrated GPS, which frees you up should you want to log route tracking without having to carry your phone with you too, another plus for those who were unsatisfied with the fitness chops of the previous Armani Connected.
The last main upgrade is true swim-proofing up to 3ATM, meaning you can wear the Connected 2018 whilst doing laps in the pool. This isn’t a diving watch and Google Fit doesn’t offer native swim-tracking, so you’ll have to find a third-party app for the functionality, but it’s still a nice upgrade over the IP67 water-resistance of the previous model, which was only equipped to withstand rain or a brief dunk in the sink.
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In theory, these additional technologies should render the Armani Connected a better all-round fitness companion and to a point it is, but those serious about health and fitness should still look at more focused wearables, ones from brands with a background in the field.
There’s also the fact that the surprisingly robust fitness chops seem at odds with the design and intended wear cases for this smartwatch – I’d more readily sport it out to a nice dinner, rather than choose it as my marathon partner.
Emporio Armani Connected – Performance & Battery life
Despite adding a wealth of new hardware to its fourth-generation smartwatches, Fossil wasn’t yet prepared to dress any of them with the recently released Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100. As such, the Connected is just one of a number of wearables still powered by the now ageing Snapdragon Wear 2100, accompanied by 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage.
It’s proven to be a usable chipset in a number of watches but it consistently underperforms when it comes to user experience fluidity. I’ll admit that the Connected faired better than most of the 2100-powered devices I’ve worn but it still suffered from stutter and lag from time to time, something that simply doesn’t happen with the Apple Watch Series 4 or Samsung’s Galaxy Watch.
As for longevity, Armani claims that the Connected 2018 can dole out one to two days of battery life on a single charge. Based on my experiences I’d undoubtedly sway towards the former as far as this claim is concerned, with the watch consistently ending most days at around 20 to 30 percent charge.
In testing, I sported the Connected using both out-the-box display settings (always-on off, tilt-to-wake on and touch-to-wake on) as well as my preferred display settings (always-on on, tilt-to-wake off and touch-to-wake off), and that seemed to make very little difference to longevity, lasting from 8am to 11pm without issue. Even adding constant heart rate monitoring into the mix sapped only a few more percent from the watch’s battery within the same time frame.
The one exception to this was when using its integrated GPS. Even adding a 15-minute tracked walk without the support of GPS data from my phone (thus forcing the watch to use integrated GPS for route tracking) absorbed enough extra power that it managed only 13-hours of wear before giving up the ghost completely.
This isn’t a deal-breaker but unquestionably something to bear in mind if you do plan on using the Connected for fitness tracking purposes; keep the charger with you if you still want the watch to last you the whole day.
Why buy the Emporio Armani Connected?
The 2018 edition of the Emporio Armani Connected is an attractive wearable that complements the brand’s existing lineup of timepieces. It’s stylings grant it some of the nicest aesthetics of any smartwatch on the market right now and the Armani brand also holds an appeal all its own.
Fossil’s updated internals make this a more worthwhile purchase than its predecessor and a more competitive option against its biggest rivals from the likes of Samsung and Apple, but there are some obvious areas of improvement that need to be addressed ahead of the next generation.
At £389, it’s one of the more costly Wear OS-powered devices you can choose and it falls to the upper end of the pricing Armani uses across its entire watch portfolio. It does at least undercut the Apple Watch, if only slightly.
The Snapdragon Wear 2100 is an outdated chipset that undermines the premium experience this watch is intended to offer and the integrated GPS is only usable in specific situations due to its damaging impact on battery life.
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An attractive timepiece worthy of the Armani name and one of the best-looking Wear OS smartwatches on the market. It’s only a shame the experience is undermined by the lacklustre hardware inside.