The Martian Notifier Smartwatch: One Surprising Year Later

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Let’s talk watches.

To say they’ve been in the news lately is an understatement, kind of like saying water has been in oceans lately.

First, Pebble finally unveiled its 2.0 model, the Pebble Time. The name alone begs for discussion, but the more interesting tidbit was the sales model: The company returned to Kickstarter, where the first Pebble became a sensation (and, ironically, helped make Kickstarter a household name).

Pebble Time

As of this writing, preorders (calling them “pledges” at this point is just silly) for the Pebble Time and its classier sibling, the Pebble Time Steel, tally nearly $19 million — already a Kickstarter record and nearly double what the original pulled in.

Granted, the Apple Watch will probably hit the $20 million mark by lunchtime when preorders kick off April 10. That was the other news you might have heard recently; I think a handful of media outlets covered it.

Apple Watch Sport

Apple’s wrist buddy carries exactly the kind of premium price tag you’d expect, with the Sport model starting at $349, the “regular” (I guess?) Apple Watch starting at $549 (for the slightly smaller ladies model; men will have to pay at least $599), and the, er, Edition edition priced at a jaw-dropping $10,000 — and up!

Apple, thy name is hubris.

Hey, Wasn’t This Supposed to be About the Martian Notifier?

So in one corner you’ve got the little-guy smartwatch company, the Kickstarter darling with its small but passionate user base, and in the other you’ve got Apple, which is, well, Apple. It reminds me of when the PalmPilot took on Microsoft’s Pocket PC, and won — for the first few years, anyway.

It’s kind of a shame these two big names are getting all the press, because there’s at least one other smartwatch out there worth a look. I first wrote about it last June, and although I’ve tried countless other products since then, it’s the Notifier that has found a permanent home on my wrist.

True to its name, the Notifier vibrates when you receive a call or text message, or when some other event pings your phone. (And not just an Android phone or an iPhone; the Notifier works with both platforms.) You can customize these notifications so that different events trigger different vibration patterns: three short buzzes for a text message, for example, or long-short-long for a calendar alert.

In addition to the vibration, a message scrolls across a small but readable OLED display.

Other than that, it’s a watch. It doesn’t do fitness or sleep tracking, features I couldn’t care less about it, and it doesn’t look like something only dorks would wear. It’s plasticky, yes, but stylish. There are some other features as well, like remote camera shutter and a virtual phone tether, but I don’t use them. All I want from my wrist, besides the time of day, is notifications.

It’s All About The Battery, Stupid

The best thing about the Notifier, by far, is its battery life. Martian promises up to six days of use time, which is just flat-out untrue: the watch can last up to two weeks, which is about how often I charge mine. Once you get accustomed to that, it’s really hard to go back to the Pebble, which needs charging every four days or so. (Never mind the Apple Watch and its 18-hour battery.)

Martian Notifier color bands

Indeed, I’ve gone on trips and left the charging cable at home — something I would never, could never, do with either of the aforementioned products. And it pretty much negates my original complaint about the proprietary microUSB cable with the extra-long tip: you have to use it so infrequently, who cares if it’s a little different?

What’s more, the watch still functions as a watch even if the notification side of the Notifier runs out of juice. That’s because it has a second, dedicated watch battery good for up to a year, quite possibly the smartest thing I’ve seen in any smartwatch ever.

In my original review, I’d dinged the Notifier for unintuitive controls and a lack of audible alerts. Guess what? There’s only one button I use (out of two), and I’ve realized I neither need nor want audible alerts.

So, yeah, this is the watch I wear. Will I check out the new Pebble and possibly even the Apple Watch? Definitely. But both cost more (in the latter’s case, a lot more) and require more frequent trips to the charger (in the latter’s case, a lot more), and both add complexity where I desire simplicity.

Watch first. Alert system second. Reasonable price third. Done, done, and done.

Photo credits: Apple, Rick Broida, Martian, Pebble

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