With the lukewarm reception to smartwatches over the last year, a host of new pretenders are out to show the old guard how it's done. Olio is the latest new name, and it's created a smartwatch that aims to curate the digital noise and order your day into a manageable timeline.
It's a story that keeps cropping up in 2015. Olio is reminiscent of Vector at Baselworld – both in terms of looks and features – and both smartwatches aim to solve similar problems.
There are two watches: the Olio Black Collection retails for $745 and Olio Steel Collection, which will set you back $545. You can add $50 to have either of those with a metal link strap. Apart from the finish, there's no difference between the two in terms of hardware, which puts a large premium on the Black.
The watches are made of 316L grade stainless steel and come with a range of attractive straps – and you can choose from suede and leather. It's big on style – and certainly leaves the current crop of techy smartwatches from Google's partners for dead.
However, the company hasn't worked miracles on the size, and it looks one chunky hunk of metal. It weighs 81g with a leather strap and 161g with metal.
There's an absence of other specs, such as the screen tech and battery size – which is troubling. The company says its battery will last two days on a single charge, which puts it on par with the Apple Watch or Android Wear crop, yet way behind the Vector, which lasts a month between rejuicing. However, it does pack wireless charging, using a contact on the rear.
The Olio Model One runs its own OS, which remains nameless. This is still a double-edged sword, which on one hand saves you from the information overload of Google's OS, but limits access to the latest apps and features on the other.
The idea is that the watch splits your digital information into two camps. What's coming up, which you can swipe through – in a manner similar to the Pebble Time's Timeline display. It will also show you what you missed, including notifications such as emails and calls, on the watch itself.
The watch face – just like Vector's – puts a big emphasis on ordering your day, and there's a digital representation of your notifications across the day. Weather is put front and centre – we're not sure why that's important either.
While a lot of the blurb speaks of digital detoxing – the feature set is remarkably standard: notifications and alerts. However, Olio's makers promise that you'll be able to fully customise the types of alerts that get through, and told The Verge that it would be akin to Pandora's recommendations system.
This is done via a feature called Olio Assist. It's a cloud-based system that "contextualizes and understands your personal preferences to offer insightful and actionable suggestions", according to Olio.
"It was as important to us to create a true timepiece that was as enjoyable and delightful to look at and use, as it was useful in saving you time." said Josh Chadwick, Olio's lead designer.
Sorting out your digital life is fast becoming the Holy Grail for smartwatches, as they start to make a stronger case for a position on our wrists. At Vector's press conference in Basel, it also spoke of 'learning' your habits – although those claims were toned down on further interrogation.
Olio's aims are noble and certainly on the pulse when it comes to the future of smartwatches, but it remains to be seen how effective its personal assistant can be. Some of the biggest tech brands haven't managed to solve the digital overload problem, so experience makes us skeptical that Olio will.
But if it can succeed where others have failed, it could have a winner on its hands. We await a full review, eagerly.
The Olio smartwatch will be launched in the summer, and it will be limited to a batch of 1,000 initially.
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