A Mechanical Watch vs. the Apple Watch

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With both types of watches, there are pros and cons. A mechanical watch can perform all its functions with no battery, simply by moving your wrist or winding the crown. The Apple Watch offers an vast array of modern functions, much like a smartphone—from sending a text to tracking your daily activity. Useful functions that are not within the realm of mechanical watches, unless you count the chronograph, the pulsometer, etc. You can buy an Apple Watch for as low as $269 for an original Series 1 or up to around $1,499 for the new Ceramic Edition. Mechanical watches can range from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars… More at Valet.

You can’t really compare the two, but I know which side I am on. The picture says it all.

Fitbit chosen for US health study

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The Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) runs part of the All of Us project and it selected Fitbit products for the program after reviewing the wearables market and, importantly, the biomedical research field. A recent study found that Fitbit products were the most-used wearables in biomedical research, accounting for 89 percent of published work featuring wearables, 83 percent of clinical trials that used them and 95 percent of NIH-funded research utilizing wearable technology. They’ve been used in over 470 published studies so far. “The Fitbit devices selected track a combination of physical activity, sleep, and heart rate parameters,” Eric Topol, Founder and Director of STSI, said in a statement. “The popularity of Fitbit devices among millions of Americans, combined with their ease of use, including multi-day battery life and broad compatibility with smartphones, made Fitbit a natural choice for this pilot program.” More at Engadget.

I have said it many times- Apple could be much more ambitious and all-encompassing in this area. It has the hardware, but the software is far too conservative. It feels to me that Apple has the hardware sorted and the software is of very good quality, but that Fitbit has greater coverage in the things people want to track such as calories and weight management.

It could well be that this is Windows vs Mac all over again and that watchOS will eventually become better, just like macOS is, but retain a smaller market share.

Budget Apple Watches

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Macy’s has posted the best Apple Watch deal so far at $179 for a discount of $70 from the normal $249. Best Buy has also shared its Black Friday deals, with the Series 1 for $199 available now. I think these discounts will be a huge win for Apple’s marketshare as many consumers will now consider the more capable Apple Watch with a direct price comparison to Fitbit’s Blaze and just about $30 bucks or so more than the Fitbit Alta or Charge 2… More at 9TO5Mac.

If Apple sold an Apple Watch in the £130 / $180 range it could dominate wearables in a huge way and take away a big sector of the traditional budget watch market.

Then again, Apple never did launch a reasonably priced iPhone until the SE dropped in price to a lower level. It’s just not the way the company works and there is good business sense in that trajectory.

Fossil Q Crewmaster review

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A hybrid watch on paper sounds like the perfect solution for those who prefer a traditional looking watch, but who also want notifications and fitness tracking as extras. For many men in particular a watch is the only jewellery they wear and so a smart watch like the Apple Watch or an Android Wear timekeeper may not quite work for them. Also, hybrids are on the whole indistinguishable from a normal watch and this is quite important when it comes to fashion.

Fossil recognises the fashion side of course, but when it comes to women there is still work to do. The smart watches the company lists as for women are coming in at 42mm which is likely too big for most and the hybrid watches are doing the same. Michael Kors (please don’t ever buy a Michael Kors watch) are also offering 42mm fashion focussed smart watches and so we are ‘still’ looking at a world where smart watches are for men outside of the 38mm Apple Watch.

Kudos to Apple for doing this because it means they dominate 50% of the potential market straight away, but at some point maybe the competitors will be able to do the same. It does seem odd that the Hybrid watches are still so big because the vast majority of the form is taken up by the huge battery and I am sure that many women who want a traditional watch with smarts would happily take a 1 year battery life over the current 2 years for a smaller form.

Anyway, we are where we are and so I got to try out a Crewmaster from Fossil which is currently retailing for £103.

The box contents are very simple; an instruction booklet, a large metal Q and that’s about it really. You also get a Fossil tin which you get to choose and although it’s not spectacular, it is a nice touch.

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The Q is there for you to change the battery when the time comes and is exceptionally easy to use. Simply insert it and twist to reveal a waterproofed cavity at which point you slip in a new battery and carry on for another 2 years. This is obviously much more convenient that charging every other day, but boy is the batter huge. As I said, there may be scope to make it smaller and to do the same with the watch itself.

Another smart practical move is the strap which can be removed by simply pulling a small lever in the pin. It is just as easy to re-insert and you get the added benefit of being able to use normal pins and any other strap of your choosing. Fossil sells a large range of straps as well and presents them very well in their stores. The emphasis on watches in a Fossil store is hard to miss and there is no doubt that the company is headed the smart watch way in the near future.

The watch itself is decent actually and at its current price point is a steal. It’s far from small at 46mm x 14mm, but it does not feel big on the wrist. The lugs are quite long which would normally suggest that people may struggle, but for my 7.25” wrists it looks really good. Again, I can’t see many women wanting to wear a watch this big.

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The build quality is good for the price, as you tend to find with Fossil products, and it feels like a carefully created product that is not built to a price, but to an ethos. The crystal is not sapphire (at least I don’t think it is), but it is clear enough and better than many other lower-end watches. You would not expect sapphire at this price point to be fair.

On the face, the indices and general legibility of the hands etc is excellent. With the coloured bezel and dive style, I found myself growing attached to the look of the watch and purely from a ‘watch’ perspective I am more than impressed with the Q Crewmaster.

I was also impressed by the simplicity of the notifications and their subsequent usefulness. You get to select a number for your main contacts and the watch will move the hands to that number when a new call or text is received. I used 1 for my wife, 2 for my son and 3 for my daughter and within half a day I found myself looking at the watch first to see who the message was from.

You can also choose how the 3 crowns work- set one for another time zone, to show the date by moving the hands to the corresponding day on the inner bezel, click to see who the last notification was from and so on. The options are limited, but are enough for basic use and are a decent addition to what is a real watch.

The only downside I can see at this time is the fitness tracking. Steps and sleep are not really enough for most people and it feels like a nod to fitness rather than an actual solution. Admittedly I am on a fitness thing at the moment, but the fitness tracking here is rather basic to the point that it feels starkly out of place with the rest of the watch which has a sense of much time being put into its creation. Accuracy was also hard to judge, but I suspect it is not good when compared to the likes of FitBit and Apple.

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There were also some problems syncing at times and I had to exit the app fully and re-open to get a sync started. From the reviews on the App Store this is not uncommon.

Conclusion

I like the hybrid idea because it marries the old and the new well, and Fossil has ensured that the old is by far the most visually dominant here. The subtlety of the notifications is clever as well and as a watch a Fossil Q is a very, very positive solution.

However, much more needs to be done with regards to the fitness side and with time (excuse the pun) this may happen. Stick a heart rate monitor on one of these, set up a partnership with the likes of Fitbit and hybrid watches could represent the best of all worlds. Until then I remain 80% impressed and really do like the intent here.

Fossil shifting to smart watches

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Speaking to press – including Trusted Reviews – and key industry players, McKelvey said: “15% of our business is wearables. In the next three to four years, half of our business will have connectivity. We’re just getting started, we’re scaling it significantly. The next generations, we’re going to start getting cellular and connected.”

McKelvey also added that Fossil was looking at ways to bring “cellular [connectivity] to our back catalogue as well”… More here.

Walk in to any Fossil store and watches dominate, at least they do in the UK. This shift makes perfect sense to me because some of the Fossil models are brilliant.

Saw my heart rate go up, ended up being a pulmonary embolism

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James Green, a podcast and reporter, from Brooklyn, New York, tweeted: “Never thought a stupid lil wrist computer I bought two years ago would save my life.

“Saw my heart rate go up, ended up being a pulmonary embolism.”

The 28-year-old says he owes his life to the HeartWatch app, which monitors a person’s heart rate constantly throughout the day and notifies them when it goes above or below a certain threshold… More at The Telegraph.

One day they will be sophisticated enough to make them a must purchase device. How much is your life, and the peace of mind, worth?

Developing For Apple Watch

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Behaviours and interactions are only achievable for third-party developers on watchOS if someone at Apple has already invented them and exposed a checkbox in Interface Builder. Any dynamic transition or animation in a WatchKit app is basically impossible.

For example, you can transition a table row to a new appearance if that row changes height because WatchKit happens to support that. But if you want to cross-fade the contents of a row that has the same height before and after, you are out of luck… More here.

Can’t help but think that only very simple, very popular services can get success from watch apps. Then again, until the time that we are not carrying phones with us all of the time it may not happen for anyone.