At $299, Martian’s Voice Command watches can be a tough nut to swallow. Which is to say they ain’t cheap, especially since they cost more than the latest Android Wear! But now there is a cheaper alternative: the Martian Notifier. And while it can’t be controlled via your voice, or make or receive phones calls, it’s an excellent complement to any smartphone.
Available in black, red or white, the Martian Notifier watch, at least for now, is one size fits all. Literally. So women, or men with smaller wrists, might find this watch a bit too large for their liking. To be more specific, the Notifier’s face measures 43.2mm, which is about the average size of a men’s wrist watch today, save for those ridicoulusly oversized ones that grew in popularity in the early 2000s.
At first glance the Notifier – mine was clad in black – isn’t the most remarkable looking of wrist watches. In fact, most people will be none the wiser that it boasts anything more than the traditional hour and minute arm. Of course if one is to take a closer look they’ll notice a small screen (OLED to be more specific) that sits at the bottom of the face. This screen works much like a news ticker or slider that you often see at the bottom of a news channel’s screen. But more on that a in a bit.
Turning to the right bevel of the Martian Notifier there is a small knob that when extended or pulled on allows the time to be set. Nothing new there, at least in the terms of a wrist watch. Just above it is a small black flap. It’s a bit fiddly to remove, and is fortunately hinged to the watch, otherwise it would disappear in no time flat. When removed it reveals a microUSB port. This is used to charge the Notifier. Though I should be clear and explain that the hour and minute hands are powered by a separate watch battery. So yes, the Notifier time will continue to keep the time even if you don’t plug it in for weeks, though you’ll of course eventually have to replace the watch battery (roughly 2 years).
Unfortunately, the microUSB cord, while universal, isn’t entirely standard. Martian has had to use an extra deep microUSB socket by design. Which means that you must use their included microUSB cord that features an extra long microUSB male piece. Lose that and you won’t be able to charge the Notifier.
On the left side of the watch’s bevel are two buttons. The bottom button serves as a menu selector, where as the top is the proverbial enter button. Hitting the bottom button scrolls you through the following menus which are displayed on the OLED screen (96×16): the battery indicator, a light (the face includes an RGB LED that can illuminuate to show low battery, pairing, or be used as a flash light), DND (do not disturb), camera mode, find phone, setup and exit. I’ll dive into some of the feature more in the Performance section, so keep reading.
But before I move on, I should also note that the band included – you can swap it out for other colors – is made of rubber. It’s pretty comfortable, and the weight of the watch, 52g, is neither encumbering or noticeable beyond any other watch that I’ve worn.
It’s hard to say just how durable the Martian Notifier is. The face of the watch is made of plastic, so it’s sure to scratch if you’re not careful. Over the last 10 days I’ve been fairly lucky and it’s not yet showing any scratches. The body of the watch is also made of plastic, so the same applies, though since it’s in black it may show less. The band, however, has already began to show some marring, but nothing that makes me believe the watch will be unattractive any time soon.
From what I can tell – I’ve looked on the company’s website as well as a few other retailers – the Martian Notifier is not water resistant or waterproof. If it were I’m sure the company would be touting that feature. So be wary, you can’t wear it in the shower, or really while you perspire heavily.
During my testing, I was able to get, on average, about 5 days of use. This was with moderate use, with notifications coming largely in the form of vibrations from WhatsApp, text messages, calls and scheduled meetings. You can of course turn some of these off (increased battery) or turn more on (reduced battery). In other words, you can influence the Notifiers battery, albeit marginally, by turning the notifications on and off. That said, the Notifier connects via Bluetooth (and BLE), which by its very nature can even have a significant impact on battery life, notifications on or off.
Performance and Software
The Notifier has been astoundingly useful. My full time phone is a Nexus 5 (that is until my buddy dropped it in a drunk state on July 4th). If you’ve used the Nexus 5 then you know that the vibrator on it is notoriously weak, unlike the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s. So with the Notifier connected to my Android, I’ve now rarely missed a call, meeting notification, or text message since each alert is relayed to my wrist in the form of a vibration and text that runs across the screen. Moreover, the included Android app (I didn’t use the iOS version because my phone’s OS isn’t up to date – it requires 7.1.1) allows you to customize each vibration alert, though I couldn’t tell one from the other. That said, despite the display’s small size, 96×16, it’s very easy to read from an arm’s length.
In terms of actual use, the Notifier is very easy to use once it’s setup and connected to your handset. However, the getting the Notifier connected to a smartphone isn’t clear process and took some trial and error for two Android phones (S4 and Nexus 5). The latest phone I’ve tested the Notifier with is a Nexus edition Samsung S4. To pair the Notifier with the handset I had to leave it in iOS mode, enter the Bluetooth menu, and attempt to pair it there by entering the code that flashed, albeit for a second, across the screen. That done, I then had to enter the Notifier Android App where upon it told me to turn on Accessibility Services in the Settings menu and activate the Notifier’s Android feature in the watch’s Setup menu. With that done I then tapped the Start Up Connection button, where upon app found the Martian Notifier and I went through the pairing process one more time. When I skipped the iOS part it didn’t work. Who knows why, but it didn’t. But note, once connected the Bluetooth symbol at the top of my phone’s screen, which usually illuminates when paired to a device, continued to remain off, despite the Notifier app showing that it was “Connected”. So suffice to say, pairing is a bit of beleaguering process.
Update: I have also managed to pair the Notifier with my S4 by more traditional means. Which is to say I started with the app, followed the step by step instructions there (though still ambiguous), and was able to pair the two devices. That said, I only activated Android Mode once I started searching for the device in the Notifier app. However, be warned, it’s still very finicky, at least on my Nexus S4. If you have issues with pairing, I suggesting “unpairing” the notifier in your phone’s Bluetooth menu – this helped me – and start fresh.
Update 2: You might have some luck pairing the Notifier to your handset if you make sure to Unpair it in your phone’s Bluetooth menu. I know that sounds a bit backwards, but in my reattempt to pair the Notifier to my phone, this seemed to help.
If setup and pairing is achieved, text messages scroll across the OLED screen quickly and with little hesitation, as do incoming calls (all be it more a flashing) and scheduled appointments. In fact, sometimes the Notifier would show the message before my Android’s notification system would. There are a few other features that include the ability to activate a world clock that shows in the OLED display, the ability to activate the camera and its shutter from the Notifier, setup an hourly reminder alert, locate the connected phone (it simply plays back a stock tone on the handset so you’ll have to be in ear shot), set an Alarm, display the weather, as well as turn on/off the LED light (it attempts to be a flash light and sort of works, and activate a Leash function (when the phone is out of range the Notifier will let you know).
Setup issues and pains aside, the Notifier is great. I know that’s putting it very simply, but it really is. At $130, even with the recent release of the Android Wear watches, I still think it’s a very reasonable price. Their other, more expensive offering, however, is not. Plus, it does a better job than the Gear Live (Samsung’s Android Wear watch) when it comes to notifying one of incoming calls and text messages.
The styling, or design of the watch, at least for me, leaves something to be desired. But after wearing it for more than a week, all of the comments from friends have been overwhelmingly positive. And not for nothing, I’ve actually come to like the watch, though I think red or white would be a bit much for my wrist and all together style.
The ability to customize which apps sends you alerts, with an almost endless array to choose from is a nice touch. The majority of Notifier owners will likely stick to calls and text messages, though if one wanted they could receive notices regarding Facebook, Instagram and others. This would clearly be overkill, but so is getting all those notifications on your smartphone.
The biggest drawback, save for the setup, is the Notifiers microUSB charging port, which requires their special version of the plug. Fix that and the Notifier is perhaps the most practical (price and utility) compliment to a smartphone.