Why are so many smartwatches so darn dumb?
Hahahaha. I know, good one.
But, seriously, most of the entries into this nascent product category have failed in some key way: too expensive, too complicated, too ugly, too power-hungry, or many of the above.
What’s wrong with a plain old wristwatch that merely buzzes or beeps when you receive a call, text message, or notification? That’s the simple fix for those times when your phone is tucked away in a pocket or purse and you can’t hear it beep or feel it vibrate. And that’s really all I want from a smartwatch. Oh, and a reasonable price tag.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited to try the ConnecteDevice Cogito Pop, a new watch with exactly that minimalist mindset. There’s no screen, no complicated interface. Just a simple alert system that also tells the time.
Indeed, the Cogito Pop looks like any ordinary wristwatch (and by ordinary, I mean “cheap”). Made of plastic, with a rubber wristband, it comes in six fairly low-key colors. It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s nice–and it doesn’t look like a PalmPilot strapped to my wrist.
However, there’s Bluetooth inside, meaning it can pair with my smartphone–specifically, my iPhone (or other iOS device) or a handful of Android phones. (The Cogito companion app requires Android 4.3 or later, and at press time only the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 had made the compatibility list. That’s fairly disappointing.)
That pairing allows the Pop to, well, pop when something happens. It has four little light-up icons that indicate incoming calls, e-mail, messages, and notifications (like calendar alarms). When something on your phone triggers one of these, the corresponding icon lights up and the watch beeps and vibrates.
Perhaps best of all, the Pop requires no charging: It runs for a full year on its easily replaced CR2032 button-cell battery. That eliminates one of the major hassles associated with other smartwatches.
Also, there’s the price: $129. That’s actually on the high side given what this watch can do (or, I suppose, can’t do), but at least it’s close to what I consider the magic price point for smartwatch acceptance: $99.
It all sounds pretty good, right? Just one problem: The Cogito Pop isn’t very good. It’s a nice enough watch, though I was amused/disappointed to discover that it seemed to fall a minute or two behind every couple days. A timepiece should, by very definition, keep good time.
But the bigger problem is with the notifications, which aren’t customizable. If you get, say, a text message, the LED blinks just once, and very briefly at that. It’s too easy to miss, a problem compounded by the Pop’s extremely weak vibration motor. I suppose I wouldn’t want something that physically shook my wrist, but in my tests the buzzes were barely noticeable.
Although you can turn various notification types on and off, ConnecteDevice needs to allow users to adjust alert settings: the number of beeps and LED flashes, the pattern and duration of the vibration, and so on. Because right now, the Pop fails at its core function, which is to alert you of an event that requires phone interaction.
Another potentially cool function that fails in its execution: You can use one of the watch’s buttons as a remote shutter-release for the camera. But you have to use the Cogito Pop app to take pictures, and on the iPhone it has no support for flash, HDR, or any other native camera features.
That app can also help you find your Pop watch by transmitting a beep/buzz signal, and a tethering option can similarly make your phone beep/buzz if it gets out of range of the watch–potentially handy features, both.
Most of the Cogito Pop’s issues can be remedied with software updates. (For the record, I tested version 1.2 of the app.) But there’s another concern, and that’s price. As I noted earlier, I think a smartwatch needs to cost $99 or less. This one in particular feels like it’s worth maybe $59. At $129, you’d be crazy not to spend just $20 more for a Pebble, which offers considerably more features.
Photo credit: ConnecteDevice Limited