I’m not a big smartwatch guy. I never have been. I love the look of the Gear S3 Frontier, and I’ve owned a number of smartwatches from the original Pebble, to Pebble Steel, through to Honor Z1 and various fitness bands. My most used smartwatch would be the rock solid LG G Watch R. However my beef with the market segment isn’t the plethora of options, it’s the fact that to me, the majority of them still look to answer a question that nobody is asking. Do we need phone-esque functionality on the wrist, even in 2017? If you’re sitting there shaking your head, like I am, then perhaps a hybrid smartwatch like the Nowa Watch is for you. Here’s my run down of this particular type of smartwatch and its features.
You might already have sensed this from the intro, but I’ll put this front and centre. If you’re looking for an all singing all dancing smartwatch, the Nowa Watch isn’t for you. The idea behind a hybrid watch is that it takes some of the features from the world of technology and couples with them established fashion techniques to deliver a time piece more than a smartwatch. The Nowa Watch actually looks like, well, a watch which is what many smartwatch enthusiast have longed for and why the likes of the Tag Heuer Connected 45 have proven to be successful.
Whilst there are various colour options available to you, the Nowa Watch is essentially the same device under the hood no matter what option you choose to go with. For the review we’re looking at the Classic Black Shaper watch, although I was informed that a number of other styles and sizes are forthcoming. The Classic Black has 40mm bezel with a crisp white face with indigo hands. The 20mm strap is interchangeable and there are lots of alternatives to choose from on the Nowa store when checking out.
The sleek Sapphire coating provide an element of scratch resistance and there’s a Swiss Quartz movement to the watch itself which at least tells those that care they are getting something premium in the watch department. Powering the watch is a single CR2025 standard watch battery which can power the Nowa Watch for up to 8 months.
what makes this a hybrid watch however is the inclusion of some smart features. As the Nowa Shaper is geared towards the travelling professionals amongst us, it has the ability to automatically update the time according to the timezone your paired smart device is set to. This is quite nifty and whilst I’m not likely to travel outside of the UK often enough currently for this to be a big feature for me, for others it will be welcome.
There are no SMS, Email or Calendar alerts here and as such no LCD to display them on. The only alert you will get to the Nowa Shaper is an incoming call alert. I was quite surprised that the only notification of an incoming call on the watch was a flashing red circle at the 12 hour position; no vibration. I specifically questioned Nowa on this as I thought it might be a fault and they dispelled that by pointing out they had originally looked at including more advanced notification features, but had decided against it to avoid annoyance for the user. Constant vibration on a smartwatch is something those of us who wear them have become used to however those who usually wear a fashion-orientated watch might not so I can understand why this was a compromise that was arrived at, and that removal of the vibration motor helped keep the device thin. Personally, I’d still like it though.
This is just one of the compromises that you need to get your head around if you are coming from more tech-orientated devices. For me, I think I straddle quite a strange fence. I like the idea of a smartwatch but I don’t need it pumping me full of information I can easily get to from my phone, which is usually as tethered to my being as any smartwatch ever is (sometimes more so). Therefore I’m all for the hybrid approach!
So what else does the Nowa Shaper deliver? Well it has Google Fit integration courtesy of a recent update, and it tracks steps as well as sleep quality/duration and will upload that data into the companion application to be shared on social media or audited later.
Th step counter is accurate enough, and I understand the Google Fit integration is a nice addition. again though, I had to stop myself at each point and remind myself that this was not a fitness band, or a sports-orientated smartwatch; this was a fashion piece. This isn’t aimed at people going to the gym so there is no reason to have a heart rate monitor attached or a GPS radio to track your runs.
I think I struggled for the first few days to get my head around that. Once I did however I was very happy.
Nowa have created a relatively affordable fashion piece here with some smart capabilities and they are almost spot on with the balance for somebody like me. The quality of the device is spot on with the minimalist look something I’m particularly in love with, however such things are subjective. With a couple of tweaks to a new watch band I was happy with how it went with my work attire. More importantly for me, I didn’t find myself missing too many of the smart features I could use on Android Wear devices at my disposal.
I did miss some however, namely a disconnection notification to ensure that I was aware when Bluetooth failed. This is something that happens relatively often when the two devices are away from each other and the watch doesn’t automatically reconnect when both devices are back within close proximity it seems. When a call comes in and I don’t get the notification on my watch, whilst it didn’t hinder my ability to hear that call and take it on my phone, it was annoying that I didn’t get alerted. This isn’t something that is an issue with Nowa solely; there are lots of smartwatches that disconnect randomly.
Additionally I really would have liked a notification of a pending calendar event. I’ve seen more expensive hybrid watches do this in a neat little way, and I’d love to see Nowa watches implement this. Presumably this could be easily added in a software upgrade. Essentially, a meeting at 1PM is upcoming, a short vibration on the watch, followed by the watch hands moving to the time of the next event for a short period of time would be a nice touch. We’d need to have a vibration motor included and again, back to Nowa’s comments – this is a fashion piece first and foremost.
Point made by Nowa then. This takes some of the features that people most regularly use in a smartwatch (call alerting and step counting) and brings it to an aesthetically pleasing and aesthetically driven market segment. I just can’t help wishing there was slightly more ‘smart’ to this watch.
Nowa are committed to moving forward with their brand and have a 36mm watch aimed at those with smaller wrists (read: Women) debuting in Q1 of 2018 and with the minimalist look, I can see that being a hit too.