Smartphones have reached a performance level that makes any further increase in screen resolution, size and cpu power unnecessary and unreasonable, forcing manufacturers to look for new ways to get consumers “excited”. Smartwatches seem to be the best candidate to rejuvenate the spec wars, but how much smartwatch do we really need?
The big players, like Samsung and Apple, are selling their watches for respectively $350 and $550 upwards. But there are much cheaper smartwatches on the market so I decided to try one out and see what I get for the money.
I chose the Haier watch for $45, mainly because it looked good and it wasn’t the cheapest smartwatch available.
The first impression
The delivery was quite fast. The watch comes in a nice cardboard box and there is also a micro-USB cable (for charging) and a small user manual in the box.
The Haier watch is pleasantly light on the wrist and gives a good, solid impression.
I didn’t read the manual to see how intuitive the interface is, I only had to check to see which app to download so that I could connect my phone to the watch. I later noticed that there is a QR code on the phone that does the job for you, my bad.
I was surprised to see that the watch works with both IOS and Android phones, and switching between phones was quite easy.
After installing the app and turning on my bluetooth, the pairing process was quite straightforward. I started using the watch without any special expectations, I wanted to see how it would perform under normal circumstances and if it was “smart” enough.
The first thing that popped up except for the time, was a notification that you are connected with your phone and the watch battery status.
Then a Whatsapp message, it was cool not having to take the phone out of my pocket to read it, I could even read a part of the conversation not only the last message. But if you get more than one message the notification only tells you how many messages you have, you can’t read them.
Emails worked fine too, graphics and html do not show but you can read the text part. The watch is practically an extension of your phone’s notification center, but you can use the app to block the ones you don’t want on your watch.
You can only reply to text messages with a few predefined sentences and smilies, it didn’t bother me because I see no reason in torturing yourself to reply on your watch when you can easily take out your phone and do the job.
I was caught off guard when I received a call on the watch (I wasn’t sure it could do that). I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen and continued working while taking the call. It worked better than expected, I could hear the other side well and as long as my hand was not too far away from my face, the other side could hear me as well and didn’t even notice that I am using a smartwatch. To make a call you can use the dialer, call logs or the synced phonebook. The latter also has a search function if you slide the screen to the right.
The watch has a 0.3MP camera facing the front. It has a few options like sound, image size and a few filters. You can send the taken photos to your phone via bluetooth. The maximum resolution is 640x480, that is enough for a snapshot of an alien (if you should encounter one) but not good enough for the family album.
One feature I like is the remote capture: on iphones you can remotely trigger your phone’s camera but on android phones you get a remote, live picture of your phone’s camera too, I don’t know if it is of big use but it is somehow cool.
The watch isn’t a fitness tracker so shouldn’t be evaluated as one. It has a heart rate monitor that worked accurately despite my hairy wrist. After entering my height and weight the pedometer kept a relatively accurate count of my steps, even when walking short distances in the office. A sedentary reminder and a sleep monitor with basic functions are also present.
What else do you get
There is a music app on the watch which remotely controls your music player. It came in handy when I was listening to music on the train and the phone was in my jacket pocket.
The watch also has a calculator (simple functions), a voice recorder, an alarm, stopwatch, image viewer and file manager. At the moment there are two third party apps that you can install: Yahoo weather and an extra clock face. I think more will come, as the development is in an early stage.
The battery life was a very pleasant surprise. Early in the third day of (normal) use the battery level reached 30%, there was no need for any fancy gadgets to charge the watch just a normal micro-USB cable and it didn’t take long until it was full. For me it is a big plus not constantly having to think about the battery level.
Compared to the more expensive big name watches the Haier smartwatch did a very good job, I didn’t encounter any real problems and the touch screen responded perfectly. The battery life is more than acceptable and it has all the functions you need on a smartwatch. The screen specs and the interface might not be as fancy as the more expensive Android or IOS run watches but frankly I don’t need more on a 1.5 inch screen. In this specific case the design is not that important (and is a matter of taste anyway), where I bought the watch I saw loads of other watches running the same system with similar specs, so I can imagine that the other designs will function equally as well.
After over a week using the Haier smartwatch, I am positively impressed. If you are not a geek who needs a lot of tech and specs, you won’t miss much, I only missed a larger choice of clock faces, which I think will come with time, and voice control for Google or Siri. Except for that, regarding the enormous price difference to the more famous brands, the watch did not disappoint.
The specs and a few more details about the watch are on the following page.