Another week, another incremental addition to ’s Android ar smartwatch line-up. Indeed, you’ll be excused if you have trouble identifying one ar watch from the other. The latest entry, announced yesterday for $200, is the tch Urbane 2nd ition, its highlight feature is cellular connectivity care of AT&T.
That’s right: You can use the Urbane 2nd ition to send receive voice calls directly from the watch—with no smartphone tethering required. I’ve been using the watch for less than a day, can testify that, yes, the watch can be used as a stalone phone. It just hasn’t been a totally reliable experience.
en the Urbane 2nd ition is paired with my Nexus 6 voice calling from the watch adheres to the basic Android ar experience. I can say “OK, ” into the watch, prompt ar to call a contact, the watch will dial accordingly. ople on the other end of the line report extremely clear call quality. So there’s that.
But as is the case with every other watch-phone available today, from the perilously precocious Galaxy Gear to the Apple tch, the Urbane 2nd ition’s speaker just can’t deliver a great voice-call experience on the receiving end. Even at max volume, the speaker can’t cut through much ambient noise, the sound quality is crackly distorted. ed, this is state-of-the-art for all watch-phones. ease know that going in.
? Are you there?
But there’s an even bigger problem: The whole self-sufficient watch-phone promise breaks down when the Urbane 2nd ition isn’t tethered to my smartphone. Yes, the SIM is working, the watch still sends receives voice calls, but dialing by the “OK, ” voice prompt has failed about 9 out of every 10 times. Instead, to make a call, I’ve had to drill into Android ar’s Contacts menu, pick a person to call, follow menu prompts. (That said, receiving calls works perfectly fine.)
The “OK, ” problem persists even when the Urbane 2nd ition has a live -Fi connection, which, in theory, negates the need for Bluetooth tethering entirely, should preserve all “OK, ” cloud connectivity. Choking on the voice prompt, Android ar issues a “retrying…” message. Then “trying again…” finally “still trying…” before issuing a “Disconnected” alert. And amid all of this, the watch still reports that my -Fi connection is active.
Unfortunately, friction like this has been par for the Android ar course. Throughout my almost 18-month experience with the smartwatch OS, features have often failed to work from the get-go, or have broken down after working properly, only to be fixed with Android ar updates, individual app updates, or watch hardware system updates. In fact, Maps didn’t work properly on the Urbane 2nd ition until I uninstalled the app on my phone, then reinstalled it (along with an un-pairing/re-pairing routine to make sure the watch was getting a clean, fresh start).
This isn’t a final review, maybe my connectivity problems will sort themselves out in due time. So stay tuned on that front.
Reign of the big, hunky man-watch
In terms of the hardware itself, I like what I see—but what I see may not work for you. th a 44.5 mm diameter, the Urbane 2nd ition is mid-size for an Android ar watch, which tend to range from 42 mm to 46 mm. I don’t mind the form factor, but this certainly isn’t a watch that will appeal to those of slimmer wrists (on the Game of Thrones scale, mine are much more n Greyjoy than Gregor Clegane).
The Urbane 2nd ition design aesthetic is sporty-chunky-hunky, I dig all the points of visual interest that has built in. th prominent strap lugs, a contoured stainless steel case rife with angles sweeps, the watch makes a much more showy statement than the Huawei tch or 2nd-gen Moto 360. Add in three functional buttons—along with a great selection of watchface complications— you’ve got a lot to look at.
The textured rubber strap is comfortable. In fact, I’ve always liked how rubber straps grip my wrist, almost self-adjust to a snug, but un-restricting position. That said, I don’t think the rubber vibe marries well to the much more sophisticated architectural case. And, no, you won’t be swapping straps, as the cellular antenna is integral to ’s b.
The 1.38-inch, 480×480 display is good for 348 pixels per inch. has always delivered great power efficiency with its OD display tech, this model has a whopping 570mAh battery inside (’s G tch R has a 410 mAh battery). Nonetheless, I’m worried about battery life. As I post this article at 10:50 am, the Urbane 2nd ition has only 49-percent battery life left—this after about five hours of heavy use. I fear voice calling takes a lot out of this watch, as a long call last night left the watch feeling toasty to the touch.
So: Can the battery hold up under “normal” use? ll my -Fi problems ever get fixed? I’ll answer all these questions more in the final review.