The people at Martian believe that smartwatches will entice mainstream shoppers only when they function as standard timepieces first and deliver rock-solid phone smarts second. That's why the company believes it has a real winner in the new Martian Notifier. And I agree.
Priced at a low $129.99, at first glance the Notifier looks like your standard analog watch. But hidden beneath its classic styling are the best alerts I've ever seen from a smartwatch. You get notifications for just about any mobile application on your handset such as email, twitter, texts, calls, you name it.
You can even set the Notifier to discretely buzz your wrist in distinct staccatos depending which app or phone function demands your attention. Sure, the Martian Notifier isn't as luxuriously appointed or as capable as rivals like the metallic $249 Pebble Steel. For almost half the price though it's just as useful and a heck of a lot more practical. And while it costs the same as the first Pebble, the Notifier's fashionable design translates into a watch I'd rather wear every day.
Smarts with stealth
With its circular analog watch face, you'd never know the Martian Notifier is any different from the legion of traditional timepieces on the market. Trust me, though, when I say that this is the gadget's most compelling attribute. Unlike many recent attempts at watches linked to smartphones, the Notifier's clean, conservative appearance pairs equally well with sober business attire and relaxed weekend wear. It's a huge improvement over the first plastic Pebble and wildly futuristic Samsung Gear and Gear Fit. Indeed, this is the first smartwatch I've worn that random people and non-techie friends have noticed and complimented. As a matter of fact, they didn't even realize the Notifier boasted phone smarts until alerts hit the device.
That's understandable since the only real indication of the Notifier's smartwatch credentials is a thin OLED screen running along the bottom of the device's face. Additionally there's a tiny dot-shaped light positioned above and to the left of screen, but unless it's active it's even harder to spot.
Martian, however, can't claim design perfection in the Notifier. For one, while it's splashproof, it's not fully water-resistant. That means no showering or swimming with the Notifier strapped on. By comparison the Sony Smartwatch 2 (IP57), the Pebble Steel (5ATM waterproof), and the new Samsung Gear devices, including the Gear Fit and the Gear 2 (IP67), are more durable.
Like the company's previous Passport smartwatch series, you charge the Notifier through a Micro-USB cable and port located under a flap. Unfortunately the charging contacts are embedded really deeply, so you can only charge the watch with the Notifier's USB cable. It sports an abnormally long USB tip just for this purpose.