Smart watches are a segment that’s got a lot of excitement around it, and are something that seems to engender very strong opinions, both pro and con. I’m also finding myself writing more about them here in the recent months, and it’s something I’ll very likely keep some focus on (blame it on a combination of being a techie and aspiring WIS, I guess).
Today, we’ll take a look at the Martian Passport, which has an interesting twist or two up it’s sleeves. First, though, let’s cover how the watch is similar to many other smart watches we’ve looked at. As they all do, the Passport connects to your mobile via bluetooth (4.0 is the chip inside, so it can handle both “classic” and low energy variants), and can provide all sorts of notifications via an LCD – incoming calls, the weather, or even if you’ve walked away from your phone (or your phone has walked away).
On the surface, this is just like any other watch. However, a quick look at the actual surface of the watch reveals that this one is a bit different. For starters, you’ve got a real, honest-to-goodness, analog watch (quartz driven) on the upper 2/3rds of the display – the lower 1/3rd is where you have a 96×16 OLED display for notifications. In a way, it’s a little more stealthy than others in the segment. On the flip side of the coin, that split results in a smaller watch (and handset), meaning it can be a bit more difficult to read the time.
If you prefer, though, you could just tap the lower button, and it cycles the OLED display through telling you the date and current time, and even the weather forecast (provided the watch is paired with a phone that can run the Martian app). You can also use that lower button (along with the top one) to shut the bluetooth portion off (just press and hold both for a few seconds). While on, you can use the upper button (with a single tap) to kick off the voice control mode of your phone.
But wait, what if the phone is buried in your pocket or bag? Not to worry – the Passport actually has a noise-cancelling mic (and speaker) built into it. In other words, you can go into “Dick Tracy” mode and speak to your wrist, as you’ve basically got a speakerphone mounted there. I tested this out a bit, and I found that, while you could tell you were on a speaker phone (and it sounded like it on the other side), call quality was decent enough that I wouldn’t mind using it now and again.
One rather nice feature with this particular watch is, while it will work with current generation smartphones rather nicely, you don’t have to have a brand new phone. So long as your phone supports pairing to a bluetooth headset, you can pair the Passport, and make use of that speaker and mic. Conceivably, you could play music through the speaker (and control the music functions on newer phones), but that I see as having a bit less utility than just popping in some headphones and listening to the music.
Battery-wise, it’s fairly standard for a bluetooth headset-type device. You’ll get two hours of talk time, or up to 7 days of standby. The battery for this is seperate from the one used by the quartz movement (which should last for about two years), and is charged by a micro-USB port (which is also how you apply firmware upgrades).
In the end, the Martian Passport (and I assume the others in the Martian lineup) is a study in smartwatch compromise. You can get all the wrist-mounted notifications you might want, and all manner of control (camera, call dismissal, etc) over the phone, as with others in the segment. Diverging from the “standard” though, you have a smaller (though adequate) screen, a familiar quartz movement, and a built-in speaker and mic. I also appreciate the fact that the watch works with a phone that doesn’t necessarily have the latest-and-greatest bluetooth chip inside, which definitely widens the audience.
As to who this is for, it’s hard to say. I think it may best fit someone who is interested in a smart watch, but for whatever reason, has a phone that isn’t compatible with others in the current crop. Or, perhaps you don’t want to broadcast the tech geekery that some of the others exude. Whatever the case, you’ll want to take a careful look at the options out there to determine if the Martian is the right fit for you (and I have no doubt it would be a good fit for many, mainly outside of the watch collectors). Coming in at a price of $299, you can order yours right here. martianwatches.com
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