Review: Martian Watches Martian Notifier
A little more than a year after its first attempt at a smartwatch, Martian Watches is back with its new Martian Notifier ($129). Much like its predecessor, this watch combines an analog face with a small, scrolling digital notification window. Notifications from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch can be set to show up on your wrist with customized vibration patterns. Using the company's free app, you can set what you want to pop up on the watch, and what you don't. In many ways, the functionality is similar to that of Passport Watch. The biggest difference is that the speaker and microphone have been removed, stripping away the ability to make Dick Tracy-like wrist-based phone calls.
Martian Notifier is available with a white, black, or red round watch face, and matching silicone rubber band. All three have a black plastic core, with three metal buttons and a metal ring around the face. On the black and red versions, it’s black, while it’s silver on the white. Unlike some smartwaches that have a very “techy” feel, the face on this one looks like it could’ve been lifted right off of a traditional watch. It’s quite nice. The bottom third is a different shade, and that’s where the screen is located. Despite the removal of the speaker and mic components, Martian Notifier is just about the same thickness as Passport Watch.
That small, 96x16 OLED display is the main selling point of the watch. It works in much the same way the previous version did. When an alert comes to your iDevice, the text will also display on the watch, along with vibration alerts, if you so choose. The monochrome message will scroll across twice. One big improvement is the inclusion of all notifications now, not just a select few. That was one of our biggest complaints about Passport Watch; we could only get select messages to show up. Now, whether it’s an email, an Instagram notification, or an alert from a game, the text will show up. Martian’s app even supports custom alerts for some apps.
There are two buttons along the watch’s left edge. The top one replicates Home button functionality, although in reverse. A short press triggers Siri, while a long press will bring you back to the Home screen. The button button can be used for a handful of tasks. Pressing it once shows the current time digitally, while multiple presses will toggle you through a menu that includes options for a “find my phone” feature and remote camera shutter. Martian Notifier charges over Micro-USB, with a deeply recessed port and the longest plug we’ve ever seen. You won’t be able to use just any cable you have lying around; you’ll have to rely on the one Martian provides. Based on our testing, the five-day battery life claim seems about right.
A year ago, it wasn’t very clear what the future of smartwatches would be. While it’s still up in the air, we now have a better picture of where they’re heading. Pebble was the first to point the way, and we’re approaching a point where an iWatch is due, alongside Android-based competitors. Martian Notifier is a fine option right now, but we can’t see it keeping up in the long term. Some simple scrolling text isn’t bad, but it just doesn’t feel like enough. For an attractive watch in the current market, $129 is a fair price, although some may not find the silicone band terribly attractive. It’s enough to earn our limited recommendation. The near-term future will likely hold much more robust options, but at the price, Martian Notifier will be the right buy for some.