The technology market has continued its push for the wrists of its consumers with “smart” watches like the Pebble, Samsung Gear, Google’s Android Wear OS and most recently, the Apple Watch. All of these various devices are attempting to be the next thing in wearables hoping to capture the most market share with their respective devices. These smart watches all have their caveats, whether it be battery life, limited functionality in certain areas, locked into one platform or just an unattractive design. A new company, Olio, headed by former Apple and Movado designers now have their own take on what a smart watch should be, and how it should look.
At first glance the Olio Model One looks more like a traditional watch than most other smart watches. Olio is among the few Brands that are now seeing that round is aesthetically more appropriate when it comes to watch cases. Same can be said for the material; not a plastic case, the Model One is constructed from 316L stainless steel, in either the steel or PVD finish. The case is a rather large 47mm in diameter though, which will limit its appeal. The watch has water resistance of 50M, which is impressive considering there is a mic opening. The crystal, both front and back, are made from ion-exchange glass. While not as scratch resistant as sapphire, it does have high scratch resistance properties and is lighter than sapphire. From a power standpoint the Olio implements wireless charging and can be completely charged in less than an hour. It also will run for two days on a full charge which, other than the Pebble, is better than most competitors. The Model One also has a power saving mode that lets it operate as a stand alone watch until it can be charged.
What about functions, though? The Olio Model One does mostly what other smart watches do. The company, though, feels they display this information in a much more useful way. The watch face is designed to provide a view of your upcoming schedule, the weather and your notifications. The information is divided into two streams: Earlier and Later, which are basically self explanatory. Earlier are any notifications that have been missed and later is your upcoming schedule and other items that can help you plan your day like the weather or traffic. This information is combined with Olio Assist, whcih is billed as a “cloud-based personal assistant”.
Assist will learn based upon your actions on the watch to deliver suggestions back to you over time that should help you better manage your time. It’s an interesting idea, especially for the hyper busy, and it would be interesting to see how well it learns and what patterns it can pick up. I wonder how useful it would be to someone with a more routine day. Of course, like other smart watches it has controls for other items like music, speakers, directions and such through its Control Hub, claiming it shows just what you need at the time rather than having to search through an “endless sea of apps” (looking at you, Apple Watch). Overall the Olio has the normal functions we expect in a smart watch these days with the hopes that its Olio Assist will help set it apart.
Also promised in the Olio Model One is cross platform compatibility, functioning on both Apple’s iOS (8.0 or later) and Google’s Android (4.3 or later). However other watches (the Pebble specifically) have also made similar claims only to have functions on iOS limited. Not a fault of the watch necessarily but rather the difference in what level of access each platform allows to its core OS functions. The dials of the watch are custom to which version of the watch you buy, which is an interesting choice. So apparently rather than having faces built in (like the Apple Watch) or available from an app or storefront (like Android Wear) the stainless and PVD versions of the watch each have a dial specific to each version. Both, however, operate in the same way with a radial depiction of your schedule around the dial via a series of lines. The idea is to give a picture of when you are busy with details available on demand. It’s an interesting look, one that would change from day to day (assuming there is fluctuation in your daily schedule).
While the Olio Model One does look very much like a traditional watch and is very clean in its appearance and style, it does have one large detractor. At the top of the dial at 12 o’clock the dial is flat across rather than rounded to match the rest of the shape. It is a bit of a distraction and disrupts the otherwise natural shape of the dial. The space taken away from the dial has the Olio logo and a guilloché pattern engraved in the space as well. The reason for this could be for the display drivers and light sensor as is the case for the “flat tire” found on the Motorola Moto 360.
The staff at Olio is hoping that their design background combined with Olio Assist will be enough to draw interest and set apart the Model One. The Olio Model One is available for pre-order now with an expected delivery date of “Summer 2015”. They are looking to sell just 500 of each model in this run; a far cry from the estimate 3 million Apple Watches sold. Prices for the Stainless Steel model are set at $595-$645 normally, with a Friends and Family discount available to everyone presently for $345-$395. The PVD runs $745-$795 normally, discounted to $495-$545. You can pre-order now from the Olio website.