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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Is Meta right about Smartwatches?

Personally, I don’t wear a watch. My generation was the first to stop needing one thanks to the clunky Nokias always accessible in our trendy cargo pants, but with smart watches in the news more and more, it seemed like time to start paying attention to them. With no romantic idea of a watch as a reference point, Bill Geiser the CEO of Meta Watch, was making a lot of sense when we sat down to talk about the market at Slush.

Geiser is a watch guy. After a career at Fossil he used his Suunto connections and Finland’s tech skills to design and develop smart watches into what he feels is needed out of a watch, and not trying to throw in all the bells and whistles. Before we get into the Meta Watch, here are a few things that stuck in my mind after our conversation.

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It should work at a glance
This seems like an obvious requirement for a watch, but so far most smartwatches haven’t made the classic watch experience better due to energy draining smartphone-like displays. When asking my colleague Dmitri Sarle what the time is, he has to pop a button on his Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 which show how far technology has brought us.

These smart watches look cool when they’re turned on, but 99% of the time it’s just going to look like you’ve got a piece of black gorilla glass on your wrist. As Bill puts it, “How do you fall in love with something thats always off?”

Traditional manufacturers have it in their best interest to bombard you with notifications
Adding a piece of technology like a smartwatch to your wrist should make your life easier, while phone-based smartwatch manufacturers really don’t have it as their #1 to look out for you.

A watch shouldn’t be a mini smartphone
It’s cool to see a watch do smartphone-like tasks, but unless your smartwatch has a SIM card you’re likely to keep your phone in your pocket, where the phone’s big screen excels at anything that involves plugging in information, zooming, or so on.

“Our mission is to build a product that people want to continue to wear. What your realize that there are some things that watches can do better than phones and some things phones and do better than watches. We take more of a curated approach,” says Geiser.

The Meta M1.

When testing the watch it was at first slightly unrewarding – it seemed like any monochrome watch that also buzzed me with phone notifications. But after using it more I realized that’s the zen of it – a smart watch should tell the time and keep you updated with what’s going on in the Android or iOS device in your pocket so you’re not always pulling it out during dinner.

To connect the watch to your phone you download the free meta app that easily pairs the devices, and lets you decide what types of updates you want to get buzzed about. The limited controls don’t allow you to do anything actionable about these notifications, but I suppose that’s the point.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the the types of watch faces you could select thanks, in part, to the blocky pixels of the watch. The analogue faces didn’t seem like they fit too well, although I was happy enough with plain digital numbers.

While there are no traditional “apps” available for the watch, Meta announces it has partnered with Misfit Wearables to offer information about your daily activity and sleep tracking. Rather than an app marketplace, this is facilitated by downloading the Misfit Wearables watchface, which also works with any other watchface.

Other than that, there’s not too much to say about the Meta watch. It’s not trying to be a James Bond watch that by-the-way can also shoot a grappling hook, it’s trying to be your day to day watch that you don’t need to charge every night, feels good on your wrist, and helps keep your phone in your pocket.

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