Behold the Cookoo watch, which I have been playing around with for the past week, a smart wrist-watch that connects your iPhone (Android-compatibility presumably coming soon) to your wrist, so-to-speak, or as the developers put it:
"Stay connected anytime, anywhere with the COOKOO watch—the wearable extension of your smartphone that helps manage your connected life"
Whilst everyone has been waiting for the KickStarter-backed Pebble watch to finally start shipping (which has as of the 23rd of January in albeit small quantities), the Cookoo guys have already started delivering on their word, but without all the media-attention pebble has received. Nevertheless, Cookoo have opted to deliver an analogue wrist watch, that connects to your phone and uses icons, along with vibration and beeps for notifications, as opposed to the ink-screen powered digital watches Pebble will be releasing. But regardless of whether you are a digital or analogue watch-lover, the elegance and beauty of this watch has to be marvelled at, along with the underlying benefit that this analogue watch uses a normal battery and won't need to be re-charged for at least a year, whereas the Pebble watch will probably last 5-7 days before re-charging via USB.
Opening the package
The watch comes in a really cute box, emblematic of an old-fashioned 'cookoo clock', coloured in the same theme as your watch.
So I unwrapped the packaging and took the watch out, whilst also downloading the Cookoo app from iTunes for my iPhone 5. Once the app was installed, I placed the watch on my wrist, opened the app, and press the connect button on the watch and in two seconds, got the watch paired with my phone. Impressive and easy, and looking at the user guide in the box, I was afraid that it would actually be more involved.
You get the option of picking one of six colours, each with it's own character. I have the white one, to match my white iPhone 5, but either of those colours would be quite cool.
The all-important features list doesn't disappoint either:
- Notifications for incoming calls, missed calls, Facebook post and messages, calendar reminders
- Reminds you when your device is out of range, or at critical battery level
- At the push of a customizable COMMAND button, people can take specific actions like finding their phone, snapping photos remotely, one-button Facebook check-in and tagging location on the map
- Locate your phone with the press of a button from your COOKOO watch
- Japanese movement with scratch-resistant mineral crystal glass and water resistance up to 5ATM
- Up to 1 year of battery life for CONNECTED Display and up to 3 years of battery life for analog watch movement*
The last thing is a significant thing that sets this watch apart from the Pebble watch, the fact that it doesnt have a digital screen, means you get up to a year of operational battery for bluetooth connection to your watch, and the bluetooth protocol it uses is a low-powered one, so your phone's battery won't drain significantly. I have tried it for the past week and haven't noticed any differences in my phone's battery life.
The developers have also promised that more features will be coming soon, such as SMS notifications, which is possible in iOS 6, now that Apple has released MAP protocols. And of course, an API is also on the way for developers, to be able to use their creative coconuts to come up with new practical interfacing uses.
The watch, out in the wild
So I have been using this in the wild for a week... The watch looks very inconspicuous to the un-beknown, a normal looking watch, but when someone facebook messages me, or tries to call me, you get the old school watch beep, and appropriate icon displayed. You then acknowledge the alert by pressing the top-right button once. The watch also uses a proximity test so that if I am a certain distance away from my phone, the watch will beep and disconnect, so I will know if I forget my phone.
I also have an alarm set up on the app, to wake me up at 6:45am for work, and it does a great job, vibrating and ringing on my wrist. I could of course just set the watch to vibrate-only, so that it provides a more subtle yet effective way to wake me up, and not wake up my partner.
A cool feature I just got to try the last few days, which was shown in the promo video above, is the ability to set your phone somewhere on camera mode, sit back with your friends and with a press on your watch, take a photo. Pretty handy I must say, and this is only the early days, let's wait and see what other creative features come out.
The command button allows you to program up to three actions, based on how long you hold the button for. For me, I have it set so the short-press does a Facebook check-in, the medium press gives me a pin on the map, and the long press activates iPhone search, to search for my phone.
Now, the pros and cons
I think we are moving into a new era of smart devices, beyond phones and tablets, and wrist-watches is the next obvious frontier. I have been extremely surprised and impressed with the ease and power of this watch, and I don't normally wear any wrist-watch. Aesthetically, this watch presents an elegant and old-school analogue-looking watch, ubiquitous in presentation from normal watches, but with the subtle notification capabilities your inner-geek craves.
Functionality-wise, you won't get as much functionality as the Pebble watch, which has a screen and allows for more customisation, but you also gain in battery life and a watch that looks and acts like a watch, rather than a mini-computer. It's a personal choice and I can see merits in both options. Having said that, it interfaces with your phone for vital functions such as calling and facebook notifications, as well as calendar reminders, but I would like to see it extended into SMS and Twitter notifications. Obviously SMS is probably an iPhone-restriction historically, but as of iOS 6, Apple have released the MAP bluetooth protocol, the Cookoo guys have promised to add those features in time.
I find some annoyances though, which possibly could be rectified with software updates. Most importantly, my watch tends to sometimes disconnect from the iPhone for no reason, even though I am sitting in close proximity to my phone, which is kinda annoying. Happens from time to time, and I hope that reliability could be rectified in future updates.
I applaud their initiative in integrating Facebook Check-ins for when you press the Command button, but because the watch interface is analogue, you don't have the option of choosing which of the Facebook locations you are currently in, so it decides for you. Unless you are in a major stadium and nothing is around you, you won't be getting accurate results.
Summary: Other than those two minor points, I overwhelmingly approve of this watch, and think for a 1.0 iteration, you won't get anything as polished as this. I love this watch, and unlike the old iPod minis which I had on my wrist, this one I can take into the shower with me, and it won't fritz. Elegance and subtlety, this watch ensures you look cool, is simple to use and at a reasonable price. The practicality of such a watch, you don't need to look like a douche-bag and check your phone whilst amongst friends or business colleagues, but glimpse at your watch and see if it is a calendar or a call or facebook message.
My Rating: [rating=4.75]