Martian Alpha Smartwatch Evaluation

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Product: Martian Alpha Smartwatch
Provided By: Martian
Price: $279 MSRP at Publication

 

Introduction:

Today we are taking a bit of a look at the Martian Alpha which is part of their Active series. Martian's watches are quite interesting to me as a tech and watch enthusiast. I love the idea of Smartwatches, but I hate the reality that most of them don't go a full day of real-world usage - and when the battery is dead, so is your timepiece. I'm one of dwindling number of people that would prefer to look at a watch for the time, rather that pull out my phone and press a button. Martian tackles the connected watch in a very effective way as they offer a solid timepiece that uses a separate battery to continuously tell the time on an analog watch, while using a single-line OLED display to show notifications. The OLED is powered by a separate battery and should last 5 days with average usage. Granted, the Martian Alpha is more watch that Smartwatch, but the tradeoff is that you should get a full work-week out of the device.

Martian Box

 

About Martian:

Martian Watches was founded in 2007 to deliver unique personal wireless communication solutions that reshape the way we stay connected to friends, family and the world. Martian designs and engineers its innovative products in Irvine, California with a team of talented and dedicated professionals who strive to improve the beauty, functionality and convenience of its unique products. The Martian engineering team has an extensive history in Bluetooth® development, having patented the world’s smallest system-on-chip solution for Bluetooth wireless systems.

Read more about their approach to wearable technology here.

In Box


 

First Look:

As we break open the box of the Martian Alpha there are several things that stand out. The first is that Martian is actually very proud of their product. Their name and logo are emblazed outside the box, inside the box and of course of the device itself. They don't want anyone to mistake this product for something else. The second thing that is immediately apparent is that the watch is first and foremost a watch. The third thing that is immediately obvious is that the watch is high quality. It has a nice mineral glass protected face that has raised stainless steel numbers that add a touch of class. The watch features a silicone band and a couple of buttons in addition to the crown.

Bundle

 

As for additional items in the box, the Martian Alpha is pretty basic. There is a micro-USB charging cable and a bit of a quick start guide to get you going. Once you have the application installed and learn how to pair the Alpha, you're pretty much good to go. There are functions that the Martian Alpha does separate from any device, and the simplicity of the device is pretty fantastic. The bottom button cycles through a menu and the top button selects items shown on the display. If you press the top button on the Alpha, it activates Google Now or Siri and allows you to issue voice commands to your device - even if your phone is in your pocket or your briefcase.

 

On the next page, we'll take a closer look at the Alpha as well as a closer look at the features and specifications of this device.


 

Closer Look:

I've been involved in the tech industry for over 15 years and I've seen a lot of things change. I remember the first attempt at VR back in the early 90's and have witnessed wearable technology get smaller and more powerful. I've also seen the average battery life of such wearable technology increase from a couple of hours to a full working day, but still, poor battery life is perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks with Smartwatches and other connected wearables.

As aforementioned, Martian tackles this by providing a watch experience that is fantastic, and separate from their smart device. They both exist in the same case, but they each have different batteries. The watch should stay powered for a couple of years, while the smart features should last you about five days under normal use. That's way better than any of the LCD screen competition and almost rivals that of a Pebble (and out-lasts a Pebble Time Round).

Granted, the "Smarts" of the Martian device are more limited than what Android Wear devices provide, but I believe that consumers don't really need or even want all the features of most of these expensive devices. They want notifications and perhaps a way to do a few simple things on your watch that controls your phone. Martian does this with the Alpha by way of a single-line OLED display as well as with a microphone and speaker built into the Alpha. I was downright impressed at the quality of both the speaker and the microphone as I used these for hands-free operation while driving without any call quality issues on either end. It was fantastic. What is really impressive is that it performs so will with such a small speaker and microphone.

Alpha Speaker
Martian Alpha Speaker

Alpha Mic & Controls
Martian Alpha Mic & Controls

 

Charging is taken care of via a small Micro-USB port located under a rubber flap that doesn't stay quite securely in place all the time. While the watch is rated at being IPX-4 water resistant to splashes and possibly even a shower, it would be imperative that the cover be securely in place. The back is stainless steel and secured by four screws making the rear seal tight and it should stand up to as much sweat as you can muster.

Charging Port
Charging Port

Alpha Back
Stainless Steel Back

 

Overall the watch is very attractive and has an attractive list of features.

 

Features:

Featuring a 24-hour military time dial, encased in a high quality nylon resin case and IPX4 water resistant, Alpha’s styled for those who want an impressive analog watch with high-tech smartwatch performance.

Martian Alpha, connected and suited for any occasion.

 

Smart Features:

  • App Notifications
    Get push notifications from hundreds of your favorite social, news, fitness, sports and other apps.
     
  • Customizable Vibration
    Screen the alerts you want and assign a custom vibration pattern to make each one unique, for awareness without even looking.
     
  • Speaker Phone
    Place or accept a call from your wrist. Great for any time when it’s inconvenient or not safe to pull out your phone.
     
  • Voice Commands
    Use “read message”, “send message”, “make a note” and many of other voice commands. Uniquely get voice responses.
     
  • Camera Remote Trigger
    Jump into the scene and snap photos of the group using a button on your watch as the shutter control.
     
  • Music Control
    See the artist name and what’s playing, and play, pause or jump to the next song while on the move (iOS only).
     
  • Silent Alarms
    Be awakened, alerted or reminded silently; set up to 5 individual or recurring alarms.
     
  • Phone Leash
    With the wireless leash, Martian watch alerts when you walking away from your phone.
     
  • Find Phone
    Does your phone tend to hide in your sofa or under a newspaper. A quick tap on the Martian menu and you’ll hear it calling you.
     
  • Digital World Clock
    Press one button to access the accurate digital time for any location you set around the globe.
     
  • Local Weather
    Quickly check the watch display screen for current weather conditions in your area.
     
  • Stopwatch
    Easy to use watch feature to measure the amount of time elapsed from a particular time

 

Alpha Face

 

On the next page, we'll take a look at the specifications and talk about real-world usage and what you can really expect out of the Martian Alpha.


The following list of specifications and technical information has been copied from the Martian product page and posted here for your convenience. For up-to date information as well as firmware updates, please make sure to check their product page for all the latest information.

 

Specifications:

  • Analog quartz watch with Japanese movement
  • Upper Command Button
  • Lower Select Button
  • 96 x 16 pixel graphic OLED display
  • Bluetooth® 4.0 chip (classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth low energy)
  • RGB LED light
  • Vibrating Motor
  • 3-Axis Accelerometer
  • Silicone band with stainless steel clasp
  • Anti-scratch mineral glass
  • Micro USB port for recharging and firmware updates
  • Measurements: W:42mm H:15mm L:265mm

 

In The Box:

  • Martian Watch
  • Micro USB Cable
  • Quick Connect Guide

 

Wireless:

  • Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
  • (classic and low energy)

 

Power & Battery:

  • 5 days of use time (separate analog watch battery will run for up to 2 years)
  • Built-in lithium polymer rechargeable battery
  • Up to 2 hours charging time
  • Charging via USB to computer or power adapter

 

 

Daily Usage:

One thing that I love about the Martian watch is that it is in fact - a watch. I'm also very thankful for the smart features integrated into the device, but I am a guy that likes watches and the Alpha looks very respectable. Some smartwatches look much more smart than watch and the design really suffers. Not so with Martian devices.

Overall, the watch is comfortable and not overly large as it comes in smaller than the Moto 360. It's not a small watch by any means, but at the same time, it's not a giant on your wrist and it looks very fashionable. In terms of features, some can be set right through the device itself - including stop-watch, Do-Not-Disturb, Light, Camera Mode and Find Phone, but other features are a bit more useful once they are set up with the Martian App.

App - Home Alerts Setup

 

The application is really pretty straightforward and it gives you the ability to turn on app notifications from a large list as well as dive deeper and setup notifications for apps that aren't on the main list. You can also specify vibration intensity and change the vibration pattern to almost anything you like.

 

The notifications get pushed from your phone to the Alpha and show up on the bright OLED display. As mentioned, you can have almost anything show up here and it works well in all lighting conditions. 

SMS Alert Weather

 

Other notable features that work very well include finding your phone, as well as finding your watch (from the phone). As long as they are within range and charged the emit a tone that will help you locate your device. If you enable "Leash", the Alpha will vibrate if you stray out of range of your device - reminding you to pick it up. The camera shutter release from the watch works great as well and I experienced no issues with it at all. A good thing to note is that it will make a shutter sound on your device that can't be disabled so you can creep on people and use it to take compromising images.

Google Now, although a beta feature with the current application works well and I use it to start navigation and with AD2P enabled through the Alpha, I hear the turn-by-turn instructions without taking my eyes off the road. You can also add calendar events, alarms, schedule meetings, take notes and more - all with a push of the top button on the Alpha when paired with your phone.

Battery life is very good on the Alpha when compared to the competition and if you aren't using it to make voice calls, it will easily last you 5+ days. If you use it to make voice calls, listen to movies and such, it will get you only a few hours as this is very battery intensive. The reality is that you won't be using it for a ton of voice and as such, the battery life is more than adequate. Much more.

There is a "Light" feature which turns on the notification LED to white and while it is a good attempt, you can see more with the OLED display lit up than you can with the micro-LED.

 

Conclusion:

Martian makes smartwatches for people who want a great watch with more features that they currently get from their analog-only device. The Martian Alpha is not as "smart" as other watches in the category, but it could be smart enough if all you want is simple notifications pushed to your wrist. It does a bit more than that, including voice commands, AD2P audio, finding phone, and the Do-Not-Disturb feature that is great for silencing your phone and watch during a meeting. In the end though - the Martian Alpha is a great watch with good "smart" features. 

Everything worked well enough, but the "Light" was a bit dim to be useful. In my opinion a feature like this should be cut from the software as it isn't usable and will likely leave the user feeling frustrated. The ability to customize what notifications get pushed to your wrist is great as well as the vibration intensity and pattern.

The downside of having voice in the watch is the limited water resistance. I normally shower with my Pebble on - and have even gone swimming with it, but I can't make myself take a quick shower with the Alpha as I don't have the confidence that the microphone and speaker grills - as well as the charging plug - would remain water-tight.

The fact is that the Martian Alpha is not a cheap device with an MSRP of $279 at time of publication. It is about the same price as a Moto 360, but it offers much less in the way of features - but way more in the way of elegance. At the end of the day, you have to decide if you want a great watch, smart features and good battery life over a super-smart device that will be dead by 4:00pm every day.

In my mind, the choice is clear. I'd choose the Alpha even if the price is the same. Martian has a few other models from last year that offer almost the same package and are priced considerably cheaper if you're looking to get into something and are on a budget. At the end of the day though, I still recommend the Martian Alpha and throughout the evaluation, it didn't make me feel sad to put my Pebble Steel on the shelf.

 

Pros:

  • Elegantly designed watch
  • Rugged body and strap should last
  • Micro-USB port for charging smart features
  • 2-year battery in main watch
  • Compatible with Android or iOS
  • Great battery life
  • Great microphone and speaker for hands-free experience
  • Gesture controls

 

Cons:

  • Not much cheaper than other "premium" smartwatches
  • Not waterproof (splash proof only)
  • No fitness tracker support currently

 

While I really do love the Martian Alpha, I can't help but feel that for $279, I should be able to get a fitness tracker and better water resistance - something to justify the price. What I am getting though is a great watch, great batter life and smart features that I will use. Many people want all the features but find out that they only use 20% or less of what is available. Martian has done their research and gives you want you will actually use.

Don't get me wrong, the watch is really good - great even, but the value is a little lean as it is priced at the high-end of the mid-range wearable market.

 

I would like to thank Martian for sending the Alpha our way. It has been an eye-opening experience and left me feeling that I do want to add one of these to my collection. It wouldn't sit in a draw as do most Apple Watches.

Please feel free to post your feedback, comments and questions right here.