It is quite clear that wearables are slowly being pushed towards consumers here at MWC 2015. Smartwatches and fitness bands of all sorts were on display, from mainstream brands to some new entities in the industry. Some of the more interesting products on display here promise to fix one of the most pertinent issues with smartwatches: battery life.
This year, Samsung did not announce any new additions to its Gear wearables, but that meant smaller companies were able to show off new ideas and interesting solutions to fix the terrible battery life of smartwatches. Scattered around the show floors, we found quite a few of these in places we sometimes did not expect.
névo Watch Solar
Over at the Sunpartner booth, the company that produces photovoltaic panels for mobile devices, we saw the névo Solar smartwatch, which was recently successfully funded on Indiegogo. This was the one of the first of a new generation of smartwatches that retains the classic watch look and more importantly, exceptionally long battery life.
The névo (both regular and Solar) utilises two batteries: one to power the various activity-tracking sensors and push notifications that lasts for up to six months (the Solar variant will not require replacing this battery at all), and another that powers the watch itself – utilising the regular coin batteries that last for up to five years. Unfortunately, the watch was locked inside a glass container, and we were not able to physically take a look at it.
névo also worked with French smartphone company Wiko to produce the Wiko Watch, a smartwatch that is essentially the same as the névo Watch, but in cheerful colours and using a fabric strap instead of leather.
ZTE Venus Business Intelligence Watch
ZTE, on the other hand, had on show the Venus smartwatch, or its full product name, the “Venus Business Intelligence Watch”. It’s an analogue watch that connects with any Android or iOS smartphone via an app developed by ZTE which syncs to the watch in real time – the demonstrator swung the watch in a natural motion and the app’s step counter immediately began increasing. it also automatically tracks your sleep, telling you about the quality of your night-time rest.
Unlike the névo Watch, the ZTE Venus watch is only powered by one battery, and does not yet feature push notifications – since it syncs via Bluetooth, this shouldn’t be a difficult thing to implement. But, being constantly synced to a smartphone will drain the battery. To maximise battery life, the ZTE Venus actually has a Bluetooth toggle as one of the three buttons on the right side of the watch. ZTE says that you do not need to sync the watch all the time, since data will also be stored on the watch itself. Hence, with sparing use of Bluetooth, the ZTE Venus Business Intelligence Watch is said to be able to last up to eight months, before needing to change the battery (which is said to be the common coin battery).
Guess Connect, Powered by Martian
Finally, there’s Guess – yup, the fashion brand. Thankfully, unlike the other fashion brand we saw at MWC, Guess partnered with Martian, a smartwatch company. Called the Guess Connect, these watches come in a variety of styles and sizes, and all feature some a dual-battery solution similar to névo, allowing for a 3-5 day “use time” (we assume this means the smart functions) and up to two years for the analogue watch.
The Guess Connect features plenty of smart features. There’s a tiny OLED display, syncs with iOS and Android smartphones, and the glass above the watch face has a touch sensor. More importantly, the Guess Connect has quite a few smart voice controls. the voice-cancellation microphone allows you to reply to text messages by voice and converts it into text, make and receive calls, set appointments and reminders, and “voice commands to all apps”. The silent alarm also features custom vibrations for different notifications, allowing you to set different vibration intensities for incoming calls or less important notifications. Finally, the watch can also be used as a remotely control the smartphone camera and music apps.
The watch itself is a huge chunk of a device – though Guess admittedly hides the large size a lot better than Samsung and LG’s smartwatches. The metal body also means this watch feels pretty substantial, so if you’re not a fan of large watches, this will not be the watch for you. That being said, the Guess Connect does look like a decent balance between the classic watch and a smart one, though it will not come cheap: the Guess Connect will be available from October 2015 in select markets worldwide, retailing from $349 to $399 (about RM1,270 to RM1,450).