While there seems to be some doubt as to the overall viability and longevity of the smart watch segment, that is not stopping brands from rolling out new watches. While the full-touchscreen watches (such as the latest Android Wear models recently announced) get most of the attention, there is another type of watch, the so-called “hybrid” smartwatch. This is in the same vein as the Frederique Constant Horological Smart Watch we reviewed here, and it offers a long-life quartz movement (no charging!) along with bluetooth connection to allow some notifications and the like on your wrist. The most recent announcement for this type of watch is from Fossil Group brand Armani Exchange, with the Armani Exchange AX Connected watch.
Given my exposure to the world of smart watches over the last year or so, I received this news with some, well, ambivalence - and that rather uninspired name certainly did not help things out. Then again, I suppose Armani Exchange AX Connected does tell you some relevant information: who made the watch, and the fact that it’ll connect to your phone. Specs are, unfortunately, fairly light on the phone side of the equation (we asked, and they’re not sharing much about it).
We do know that they have a silicone case in four colors, and the watch will offer the following functionality, according to the brand:
- Auto-time: your watch automatically mirrors your phone’s time for the correct time, all the time
- Smartphone notifications: never miss an important like, text or snap with custom alerts from the A|X Connected app
- Activity tracking: get cred for your street tread by automatically tracking and monitoring your steps
- Snap a selfie: capture life’s memorable moments with your smartphone’s camera
- Control your music: seamlessly control your smartphone’s music to start, stop, skip, or go back to your favorite track
- Second time zone: wherever your globetrotting adventures may take you, check the time with the press of a button
- Alarm: schedule alarms and alerts so you never miss a minute of the action
- Ring your phone: find your misplaced phone quickly so you’re never out of touch
- Sleep tracking: keep track of your ZZZs by monitoring your nightly sleep patterns
- No charging: go cordless and never worry about charging your watch
On that last bit - the no charging - I’m simply assuming that this is due to the fact that the watch is utilizing a standard coin cell battery, which also means that it is using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to keep the power consumption low. While this approach worked well for the Frederique Constant (as the Bluetooth only engaged when you pressed the crown), the Armani Exchange AX Connected seems to be going for a bit more interactivity, which makes me think battery life will not likely be measured in years.
In terms of the other functionality, it’s pretty standard stuff - some wrist notifications (presumably via a vibration motor), step tracking, and sleep tracking. Adding in some other (really, basic quartz watch functions) gets you the second time zone (viewing one at a time), date, and alarms; these are all indicated via the subdial at 6 o’clock (which also looks to indicate step count progress as well).
With the silicone case, the Armani Exchange Connected should be fairly light. And, as far as design-first watches go, it’s not necessarily a bad-looking watch either. As a lightweight summertime beater, perhaps that’s a path for this one to go. And, really, at $175, it’s reasonably priced for a basic smartwatch with some upgraded guts. If you want something that can be a good gym partner, or to really use as a second screen for your phone, the Armani Exchange Connected is not the watch for you.
So, then, who is the Armani Exchange AX Connected for? That’s a good question. In the course of our smart watch sector analysis on aBlogtoWatch we have suggested that smart watches wouldn't really hurt luxury watch sales, but would mostly impact the low-end and fashion watch segment. Then again, fashion brand watches might be just the right fit for connected and smart watches, and we have already been seeing more and more similar products such as from Michael Kors, from Movado Group fashion labels, and others.
There would seem to be a narrow range of folks who don’t already have some sort of fitness tracker, and feel the need to have their watch talk to their phone (and don’t want to spring for something like the Chronos). But Fossil Group must have some research pointing them to agree that there is a market for this. We’ll call it the budget alternative to the Frederique Constant, I suppose. And in that regard, it’s in good company. I rather liked the FC; perhaps the Armani Exchange Connected will find it’s own fans in its own way. Time shall certainly tell. armaniexchange.com