Review of Omate TrueSmart smartwatch - first impression w/lots of pics!!!
This is my first impression Review of Omate TrueSmart smartwatch. Official website: http://www.omate.com/
, official forum: http://www.omate.com/forum/
, KS page: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/...dalone-smartwa
Most of the people who are following smartwatch technology and every released or upcoming product will be familiar with Omate TrueSmart KS campaign. For those who don't, I would highly recommend to visit ClearD comparison chart which is extremely educational: http://www.cleardroidroms.com/androi...comparison.php
. I don't have any plans to go into the history behind Omate or the politics behind the campaign, that's not the intent of my review. What I would like to do is to share with you my first impression and pictures of this smartwatch which has been successfully funded at the end of September, and 2+ month later is already starting to ship.
I received TS as part of review package, and this is Developers Edition with 512MB of RAM and 4GB ROM. Since I'm on a subject of the spec, TS has dual core Cortex A7, 1.54" TFT IPS display (240 x 240), high-sensitive touch panel with sapphire crystal scratch-proof glass, 600 mAh battery, GPS and Bluetooth, micro SD expandable memory, IP67 rated water resistance, and micro SIM expansion slot for standalone operation support with 2G GSM/3G WCDMA/HSPA services (no CDMA support). I know, with a loaded spec like this it's hard to even think of TS as "just another smartwatch". That is why it's design intention was to provide both Companion and Standalone operation. Running on Android 4.2.2 with a custom Omate UI 2.0, you can look at it as mini android smartphone in a form factor of smartwatch. Without a doubt it's very flexible, and with a full android support the use could be limited only by it's 1.54" display.
It's ironic how every company is racing to push the limit with a bigger display, 5.5", 5.7", 6.3" and so on, while there is still a growing demand for these small display devices. The explanation is very simple. Phablets have a very convenient form factor where phone and tablet are merged into one device which is great for browsing, typing, gaming, streaming, entertainment etc. But often we are burdened by inconvenience of constantly checking our smart devices for incoming emails, text msg, upcoming calendar events, social media updates, screening calls, checking battery status, and so on. In my opinion the idea of smartwatch was never intended to replace our smartphones, but rather be a companion with a miniature remote display to receive these notification and then make a decision how do you want to respond to it. As one of the early adopter of smartwatch technology and user of a "basic" smartwatch for awhile now, I can't image my life without it. I don't need to fumble in my pocket to find out who is calling me when I'm outside in the rain or in the snow, I have a convenience of screening incoming emails and calls during the meeting when all my notifications are silenced, I can control the music playback on my phone from my watch with sound coming from paired up wireless speaker 20 ft away, and since I start using smartwatch - I never missed a call, no matter what environment I'm in. Everything I described so far is a basic functionality of Companion smartwatch.
To take one step further, TS actually offers you an option of using this smartwatch in standalone mode with micro-sim moved from your phone to the watch or with another micro-sim card in use. Unfortunately being on CDMA (Verizon) network, I didn't have a chance to test out this functionality, but have read plenty from others who already did and very satisfied with it. So far my only testing been done with wifi connection, and it was very impressive. Of course, the goal is to have a fully functional companion App that will allow wireless bluetooth pairing up of TS as a slave to my Note 2 and getting all the notifications as any regular smartwatch. This particular app (as of 12/15) is work in progress, and I will report more later as I start testing it. Having that tethered connection will open a world of opportunities, and I'm expecting (and hoping) not just push of notifications, but also a full internet access to bring mini-android environment of TS to live! As of now you can setup your phone as a hot spot and connect to it from TS. Or if you have GSM micro sim card - use it in standalone mode. Both of these methods will put a toll on your battery, that is why Bluetooth tethering is very desirable. I would actually consider standalone operation as a very convenient way of leaving your smartphone at home when you go for a bike ride or any other exercise activity for a few hours where you want to cut down on gadgets you are carrying with you. But for everyday use, especially when battery life of your smartwatch and smartphone at the top of your priority lilst - bluetooth umbilical chord is more desirable.
OK, so about the hardware. Weighting very comfortably at 3.9 oz (110g), the metal frame, sapphire glass, and rubber wristband have a very solid build. Both of the buttons are not protruding too much and have a very nice tactile response. Camera placement is not very convenient for picture taking because its very awkward to extend you arm with camera pointing toward the object while you are using display as a viewfinder. On the other hand, using it as "action" POV cam would definitely work. The rubber wristband does feel and look cheap, but only time will tell about it's durability. The wristband is NOT replaceable since it's hosting wires from the watch. I tried to capture it in the pictures below where I separated both pieces of wristband, and found one side with a single wire - probably an antenna, and the other side of the wristband with two wires, where at least one has to be going to a speaker inside of that wristband side (yes, the speaker is hosted in there and I found it to be very loud and clear!!!). Wristband buckle is aluminum, nicely shaped with Omate logo. Since TS is water resistant, the entire watch case is sealed including micro-sim card compartment, accessible by removing 2 screws, and charging/data contacts which are accessible from external charging cradle. To access micro SD card or to replace the battery, you need to remove the back cover of the watch held by 4 screws. Omate included a small screwdriver and an extra set of screws in case if you loose original ones during the removal. The process of removing screws is non trivial, just have to be careful with an alignment.
The display of the watch is bright and colors are not bad at all. Don't expect the clarity and richness of AMOLED screen, but overall its pretty good for this resolution and display technology. I do really like the finish and toughness of sapphire glass. I had this watch all over the place and slided by accident across our granite top kitchen island with all the crumbs left after my kids finished their meal - not even a hint of scratch (knock on wood!). Touch sensitivity is great, and any lag I experienced was most likely due to firmware/software issues. It's especially noticeable when you do right->left swipe to go Back, which I would prefer to be assigned to one of the buttons on the watch in addition to swiping. I was a bit nervous about use of Fleksy on-screen keyboard considering I even hit the wrong keys sometime when typing on Note 2. To my surprise the touch resolution using Fleksy turned out to be very good, and it was quite feasible to type on that keyboard with one finger. Since this is a modified android environment, by default you have scrolling screens where you can place 4 icons/shortcuts at a time, or group them in folders. What I find extremely helpful was to use another launcher. I would actually highly recommend Smart Launcher for that functionality. The main screen with all the useful shortcuts and time/date is easy to navigate. Then, you can access all your app shortcuts by tapping lower left corner where they will be automatically organized by functionality and visible in a nicely scaled grid where you can see more than 4 at a time. Widgets can be placed/organized in another part of the launcher, accessible from lower right corner which takes you to scrolling screens dedicated for widgets only.
Actually, since I'm using Developers Edition of TS, the very first thing I did was to flash it with Loki's ROM (http://forum.xda-developers.com/show....php?t=2549404
) which in my opinion is a MUST have that provides a lot of optimizations and enhancements. Another useful link is from Omate forum: http://www.omate.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=6020#p6020
- where I highly recommend following G+ pages of these developers to get more updates. Other things I tested was connecting to my laptop through usb and transferring music files and a few movies to play on the watch. I had it paired up with my wireless headphones and found it to be very convenient since I didn't have to drag my phone with me. I was able to install a few apps and some games, but in a number of cases its a trial'n'error to see which one works better with 240 x 240 resolution and in portrait only orientation, considering the intent is to keep the watch on your wrist while using it.
Overall, I will be anxiously waiting to start testing Companion app which I consider to be the most important piece of smartwatch puzzle. I also not quite sure yet about that whole watchface implementation. The included early version of OWatchOn which supposed to turn display on with an arm lift didn't quite work for me. I guess it's still a work in progress, just like a number of other things. It would have been nice for this feature to be implemented along with Companion where an icon will pop up in watch face to indicated incoming notification. The whole experience of blank watchface is a bit new to me, because I'm used to having a regular watch or another basic smartwach with display always on. Perhaps there could be a way to wake the display with a tap or gesture, I guess part of what OWatchOn is trying to implement based on internal gyroscope movement.
The pictures I captured of TS are split into two groups, external hardware in one group and with display on demonstrating use of various apps, settings and Smart Launcher implementation in another gropu. It wasn't easy to take pictures of the lit up watch display, so I had to experiment with different lighting setting, different angles, macro setting, and with and w/o flash. Hopefully these pictures can put my write up in a better perspective, since as you know - a picture is worth a thousand words!
Use of TS smartwatch: