New entrant Vector has unveiled its Lunar and Meridian smartwatches in Basel, and the company aims to bring some high-end flavour to the current crop of smart wrist wear.
While not officially at the Baselworld watch show, Vector used the assembled industry to launch against the backdrop of an event where all the talk has been around wearable technology – largely thanks to the new Tag/Intel Android Wear smartwatch.
The press conference was delivered with pomp and gusto, with much of the talk about Vector's new brand values, of simplicity, design and bringing order to the data chaos of our days. The watch was described as "revolutionary" by the CEO Joe Santana, the former head of Timex.
Whether Vector's wares are deserving of such accolades remains to be seen, but they do have at least one strong proposition, which make the likes of Apple and Google take note: Vector claims a battery life 30 days – an impressive feat.
But can the experience match up? Wareable got hands on to find out.
Vector smartwatch: Design and build
Vector has worked hard to give its smartwatch a high-end feel, and it comes in two designs each with different flavours.
The Luna version plumps for a round-faced design, and comes in Classic, Performance and Contemporary versions, while Meridian goes for a square faced look. One of the keys to the future of smartwatches is that designers must emulate the classic watch industry by offering a range of designs to suit all tastes, and Vector has that side nailed.
It also does a good job with customisation, and it showed off a host of metal and high-end leather straps, which goes a long way to make the Vector look all the more impressive.
It's a sharp move, because at closer inspection, the Vector is a rather chunky piece of tech. Its size is reminiscent of any of the current crop of smartwatches, and certain just as bulky as the Moto 360 or indeed the LG Watch Urbane LTE.
The Vector shuns touchscreen, in favour of three buttons on the side, which handles all the control elements, and it's the screen that's enabled the impressive 30 days of battery life. It uses Memory LCD, and the company claims it has sponsored the development.
It's certainly not eye-searingly sharp, nor bright, and the company has toned down brightness to a mere 10%, to keep battery life to a maximum – and it shows. On the wrist the screen is noticeably dark, and when a button is pressed the screen illuminates brightly for around five seconds, before returning to a low brightness state.
To describe the look, it's somewhere between a low-resolution LCD and e-paper.
However, unlike Android Wear devices, it is always on, so the time is always displayed, which the company revealed was a key criteria in its design.
Vector smartwatch: Features
The operating system is bespoke to Vector, and was made by their CTO Andrei Pitis, and boasts the usual array of smartwatch features. It pushes notifications from your smartphone including texts, calls and third party ones from Facebook. You can choose which notifications to be allowed to your watch, and 'cutting through the noise' was a key component of Vector's lengthy brand values element of its launch.
Discreet notifications are another feature, to stop private messages flashing across your wrist automatically. If you don't turn your wrist to look at a message within five seconds, it won't appear on the screen, but instead be cached until you press the middle button – a neat feature.
There are some other positive elements of the OS, such as a constantly evolving view that displays your meetings as blocks around the clock face, so you can see your appointments – and in many cases free time – for the next 12 hours.
It works with iOS, Android and Windows Phone, and plays nicely with calendars and emails to push notifications to the watch.
The company is also launching its own app store, something notoriously difficult for small companies making bespoke operating systems to do. There's no word on the number of apps for launch, but CEO Joe Santana told us that he wanted the watch to launch with 20 apps – so we assume it's somewhat shy of that so far.
In many ways the apps are the hardest side of creating your own ecosystem, and even if Vector can get to the magic 20 apps for its store, encouraging the development of new ones is going to be difficult.
However, Vector has done a deal with IFTT to enable users to create their own 'if this then that' functions, which could mean that users could have a connected coffee machine turned on when the watch detects they've woken up, for example.
Vector smartwatch: Release date and price
The square-faced Vector Meridian will retail for $199, and the round-faced Lunar will start at $349. The company is launching in the US, UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Romania, and the watch will be available to buy in July 2015.
Vector smartwatch: Early verdict
With 30 days and battery life, and a design that matches any of the top smartwatches, the Vector is a solid entrant to the market – but revolutionary it is not. To achieve such longevity means sacrifices, and Vector isn't a miracle worker. The screen tech – somewhere between LCD and e-paper in its visual impressiveness is far from mindblowing.
The real challenge faced by Vector is the growth of its ecosystem, and to do that it needs good early traction. It needs to repeat the Pebble trick, which is no easy thing to do. If it can garner some cult status, it could be in with a fighting chance against the big guns.
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