Episode 52: Unboxing the Martian Passport WatchThis week on Always On, we unbox the Martian Passport Watch, we road test the Passport and the Pebble, and we go wild with our S4 Active torture test
-You wanna come over? This week on Always On, first impressions, it's a lot prettier than I thought it was gonna be and that is already a victory. Washing my hands in the sink, it got a little soap on there. You know, you gotta do like the surgeon wash, like all the way up to the elbows. Nice! Hi, I'm Molly Wood. Welcome to Always On, the show where we take tech into the real world. This week, we're at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California and we have some great products and a great location to test them in. We're getting started, though, with an unboxing, taking a look at the Martian Passport smartwatch. I have been waiting for this. I'm unboxing the Martian Passport watch. It's a Bluetooth, voice-controlled watch that apparently screens your phone calls and your messages. It's all part of this whole smartwatch craze and each one of these is gonna have its brief moment in the sun until and if Apple announces one. So, let's give it its moment. Get out of the box. It comes in black, gray, or white. I went with this slightly more girly white because I can. Okay. Oh, look at that. I guess it's about as attractive as it can be, considering that it's a smartwatch. It's not bad, though. Compared to like the i'm Watch, not bad. We have our USB charging cable here and that is basically it because it's watch. I mean, as really big watches go, it's actually not-- you know, I mean, I wear a really big watch, it's a little more square, but what I like about it is that it doesn't look like some kind of dumb gadget. It looks like kind of a fancy white watch except for that giant M right here. All right. So, let's see if we can figure out how to turn this thing on. It basically has a little one-line screen here and I guess that's where you get your info, but I am already flummoxed by power. Power. Oh, I'm gonna hold this down for a minute. Power. No. Power. USB, not power. I might have to look at the directions. Quick connect guide. Blah, blah, blah. To turn your watch on, tap both buttons simultaneously. Aha! Oh, these two. It was dead. While I try to figure out how to turn it on, I guess I'll go through the specs. The Martian Passport watch has an analog watch-face and a one-line OLED display at the bottom with a multicolor LED notification light. There's a microphone and a speaker and old-fashioned physical buttons on the sides. The top button initiates Bluetooth pairing and answers or ends calls or starts voice-activated services. The Passport has a stainless-steel case and clasp with an anti-scratch glass crystal face and a gray plastic resin plate on the back. It has Bluetooth 4.0 and a micro-USB port. It connects with Siri or Android Voice. The Martian works with Android phones that support voice command, the iPad 2 and later, iPod Touch fourth-generation and later, and the iPhone 3GS/4 and later. On Android, there's a Martian Alerts app that does a few more tricks than on iOS. It can adjust the vibration strength, patch in notifications from almost any notification-ready app on your phone, and even push local time and weather information so it comes up on the OLED screen with the push of a button. The Martian doesn't operate very far from your smartphones. According to our CNET editors, it can only work about 10 feet away. Other features include a magnetometer and a three-axis accelerometer. The watch comes in three different designs with both black and white and various wristbands in silicone and leather. Martian makes two other models, the circular Victory and the candy-colored G2G. The Victory and the Passport cost $299 while the G2G costs $249. I will say, first impression straight out of the box, it's a lot prettier than I thought it was gonna be and that is already a victory. Time for us to take a quick break. When we come back, we have a smartwatch face-off and the Galaxy S4 Active gets up close and personal with a whole lot of wildlife. Welcome back, everybody. Now, when it comes to smartwatches, there are increasingly more to choose from, and of course, they vary in terms of price, styling, and catch. I picked some of the top contenders and tested them out to see which one I like best, if any. Time for a smartwatch shootout. This is obviously the hottest category in technology right now. Samsung just announced the Galaxy Gear right before we shot this. We didn't have one at press time, but it sounds like it only works with Samsung phones anyway. So, I'm testing some more universal smartwatches. The current darling of the set is the Pebble right here, comparing that with the Martian Passport. I'm trying to find out if either of those can displace my Michael Kors. So, I've been testing out the Martian Passport smartwatch and I have to say that, of all of the smartwatches that I have seen or tried out, this is obviously the prettiest. I get tons of compliments whenever I wear this. I got it in girly white, although it does come in black, but it's really attractive. It has a very sort of classic timepiece style look up here and then a small little LED notification screen and a notification light. Call Allison Tom. -Calling Allison Tom. -The pros, overall, for me, are how easy its notifications are. Basically, any app that can do notifications, you can get a little note down here, so you can get incoming texts, phone calls, tweets, Facebook messages, e-mails. Now, its big claim to fame also is that it is a two-way communicator. It actually uses voice control. When you talk to it, you're just talking to Siri or to the Android voice controls. Remind me to make a haircut appointment. That's pretty awesome and I think it's a huge selling point. Generally speaking, the whole thing is just pretty simple, right? Like, it just gives you notifications, you can talk to it if you want to, you can play music out of it. I found it pretty easy to connect via Bluetooth. So, that leads me into the cons of the Martian Passport watch. One thing I noticed with the Bluetooth connection is that it stole the Bluetooth connection from my car. So, if I was in the car and I had an incoming call or I wanted to use voice controls, I was no longer going through the in-car Bluetooth system. I was only going through the watch. One other con about this watch is that it's just a little bit finicky and some of the controls in the app are confusing. For example, I'm pretty sure I have it set to notify me when I get a text, but sometimes, it notifies me, and sometimes, it doesn't and I don't know really why it's decided not to or when it's going to. That's annoying. Also, I find that trying to check out the notifications and see what's happening on the watch is really distracting when you're driving. Like, if this thing all of a sudden starts vibrating and things start happening on the screen and you got your hands on the wheel and then you're short of time to look at this and read it and then a notification is scrolling across it like this, it's vibrating and things are ringing. Why is that? I don't know what to do. Here, I want out. All right. So, my impressions on the Pebble watch here. Now, I have to say that, when I first tried it on, I thought that it was a little cartoony probably because it had the Mario watch-face app, but then when I wore it with my orange shirt, I realized it looked kind of cool. And then, we went around the office trying it on different people and it looked cool on all of them too. I think the design is a little bit of a slow burn, but it really grew on me. And now, I really like it especially because I found this kind of stylish watch piece. One of the cool things about this watch actually is that it has multiple watch-faces built in that you can scroll through. Now, overall, I have definitely found this watch pretty easy to use. It has a lot of buttons. As you can see, the ones on the side scroll through things and bring up basic menus and it's really simple. Pairing is very easy. And then the button on the left here acts as basically a home button to back out of menus and get you back to your watch-face. One thing I don't like is that the Pebble unfortunately has a proprietary charging cable. The Martian watch charges over micro-USB, so you can use it with any charger that you already have at home. If you forget the charger on this guy, you're in trouble. So, one interesting thing about the Pebble watch is that, apparently, it's water-resistant. Now, I have found over and over that water-resistant does not mean waterproof; however, I'm hoping that it will give me a little peace of mind for basic tasks such as washing my hands in the sink, you know, you always get a little splash into, you've got a little soap on there, get that off. You know, you gotta do like the surgeon wash like all the way up to the elbows. All right. It seems fine so far. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm never gonna take a shower or go swimming with this thing, but I do appreciate that I can leave it on during my surgeon scrub. What I do like about this big screen is that if a long e-mail comes in, I can press the buttons on the side and actually scroll through it so I can read the whole thing. That has proven pretty handy a couple of times. I've also noticed that the Bluetooth range on this watch seems to be really good. In fact, it was working for me at one point, 30 or 40 feet away from my actual phone whereas our reviewers have said that the Martian smartwatch only works more like 10 or 12 feet away. Now, the Pebble, because it has an SDK available, has some apps. I haven't tried too many of them because they are almost all for pay, but from browsing the various apps in the App Store, it does seem like they're somewhat limited. As far as cons go for this watch and the other impact, I found the notifications very inconsistent. Sometimes, I couldn't get text messages to come through at all. Other times, I would get only text and no e-mail. One other possible con is that this watch, so far, has been hard to get. It only costs $150 which is a really good price compared to something like the Martian, but because it's been a kick-starter, some of the fulfillments have been a little bit slow. Hopefully, they'll improve on that front, but you might have to wait awhile to get your Pebble. I have to say going into this, I thought the Martian Passport was gonna be the clear winner because I like the design so much, but the Pebble won me over with its simplicity and the potential for all that functionality and not to mention this nice big screen. However, I'm gonna have to say that neither of these is actually a buy for me 'cause I'm still not sold on smartwatches. It's annoying. I don't need that much info coming in all the time. No, thank you. Next up, my favorite kinds of products to torture test are the ones I can take into the great outdoors. Now, we recently unboxed the Galaxy S4 Active which is the one that's supposed to be shockproof and dustproof and waterproof. Well, we thought we would find out if it's truly rugged after all. Time for our torture test. Time for our torture test of the Galaxy S4 Active. Now, I get a ton of e-mail from people asking me to torture test devices with animals in some way. So, we're taking that idea to the extreme as we like to do on our show. So, we're here at Discovery Kingdom and we're gonna start off with the waterproof test. Now, I have heard this thing has some problems being fully submerged. I already have some good animal pictures on here that I don't wanna lose, but I'm gonna try to take it in the water and see how it does with the dolphins. Okay. So, here's what happened. I got in the pool. I swam across the pool. Now, the phone won't come on. This is saltwater and that could be partly what happened. It's also impossible. I did put a strap on here 'cause I didn't wanna lose it. It might have pulled this back cover loose a little bit. But I have to say, I have been in this cold, cold water for like less than two minutes and I haven't even gotten to play with any dolphins and this freaking phone is dead already. Loser. Let's see if the sun can bring this phone back to life before we move on to our other tests. Our first test is complete, the underwater test and I have to say, I am not impressed. This should not be built as an underwater-capable phone. However, we're gonna continue with our structural integrity test and it's onto the elephants. So,-- Does Valerie like to play with phones? -Just about anything she can get her hands on. Yeah. -Yeah. I've actually already been told that while dolphins like to eat things, elephants like to break things. -Yup. -Is that true? -That is true. I think that she's gonna prove that it's not as drop-proof as we think it is also. -All right, we'll test it out. -Okay. -Good girl. -Good girl. Have fun. Oh, thank you. -Oh, she just gave it back to you. -You don't like it? -Just hold her hand now-- -You wanna play with it? -and then just put it back. -You miss. -[unk] -There we go. -All right. -Kinda like she doesn't-- she hates it. It smells like saltwater. It's so yucky. -Oh, yeah. [unk]. Oh, there you go. -Bravo, Val. How's it doing? -Looks like we did some damage. -Yeah? -A little wet in there, too. -Oh, well, yeah, that's not-- However, Val just hurled it to the concrete and I'm not seeing there's like a little bit of scratching. -No scratching. All right. -Valerie, honey, I think you're gonna have to try harder than that. Yeah. Get it. Get after it. -All right. All right. -Oh, thank you. -She just doesn't like it. -All right, here. -Got a little bit of denting on the corner there. Not bad. -Slightly here. -Screen is still totally intact. I can't believe how much water comes out of this every time. This is like also a form of drying it out. -Hold the trunk. -Nice! -Good. -Perfect. Good girl. That was awesome. That was fantastic and it's still totally fine other than the water just streaming. I don't even know where all that water would go. But-- -Oh, some of its boogers, too. -Some of its boogers. All right. Now, that our phone is soaking wet and covered with elephant boogers, I know you thought it was the obvious thing to have her step on it, but we're saving that for the giraffes. You know what, giraffes are my favorite animal. Look how beautiful. Okay. So, we're gonna try the step, the step on. -Awesome. -How much does Rosie weigh? -So, Rosie weighs about 1200 pounds. -Twelve hundred pounds. All right. You know, we've had a 1400-pound boulder on a MacBook Pro. It went okay. Went okay. Let's see how the-- -All right. -how the Active handles it. -Cool. Let's do it. -All right. So, I'll put it here. I'll do screen-side down. Okay. Good luck, sweetie. Come here. You wanna come over? -We can try Brandon too. He'll probably make it more-- -Buh-bye. I guess that probably it's smart enough to avoid an obstacle. -Hi, baby. -Oh, it's so close. Oh, it's so close. Good kick. -All right. Isn't that-- Oh, yes. I think I heard some cracking. I think I definitely heard a little bit of a crack. -We're behind you. -Huh, oh, hello. Oh, hi. Hi, how are you doing? All right. It took us awhile, but we have touched down. Brandon Belt, our two-year-old giraffe, is standing right on top of the S4 Active. Oh, yes. All right. Brandon did all the damage that you might have expected a 1300-pound giraffe to do. Yeah. This would be the cracking that I heard. I'm glad that this was a glass-side down. We have some obvious scratching and stuff back here, but I think, now, we know the limits of the Galaxy S4 Active screen. I mean granted, it's a pretty highly made, but this is it. All right. It's time to read some of your mail. A great e-mail this week, it says, "Molly, I've been a fan from the beginning of the show. I appreciate all of your segments, but I think the recent segment about online learning is one of the best yet. It was very informative and even inspiring. Being raised in the south where academic standards even on a university level are, at best, inconsistent, the prospect of having free access to courses from respected colleges is exciting. As a former teacher, I can understand the universities' skepticism in online education, but I expect the online experience to benefit me more than not having any exposure to the curriculum and lectures. To the truly self-driven student, a solid syllabus and online lectures are like gold, especially to those sons and daughters of underprivileged families who just want out. Keep up the good work." Thank you so much for that e-mail. It was-- It really meant a lot to me and I'm glad that the segment meant a lot to you. And please, keep feedback like that or really any kind of feedback come in 'cause I like the ones about my shoes, too. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. and you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. And I wanna let you all know that this week's torture test giveaway will be that Galaxy S4 Active that you've seen all these creatures beaten up on all day long. Go over to our blogs cnet.com/always-on for more details. And that's it for this week, everybody. Coming up next week on the show, we're checking out a high tech hotel that offers much more than just a comfy bed and we'll also have some amazing footage of all the accidental torture tests that have happened to our GoPros while underway. See you next weekend. Thanks for watching Always On. -Hold the device. -Okay. -[unk] -Here. -I'm gonna be-- I think -Yeah. Actually, [unk] -[unk] -We actually play a game with her-- -Hi. -where we introduce new face. -[unk] Do you wanna smell this thing? All right. It's weird. It probably smells like elephant booger. Oh, no, that smells terrible. Okay.