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Wearables

Martian Aviator: a different kind of smartwatch

By Anton D. Nagy September 24, 2015, 12:05 pm

Smartwatches are gaining traction and momentum, there’s no doubt about that. Whether it’s the Pebble, the Apple Watch, the new Moto 360, Samsung’s Gear S2 or LG’s watch line-up, almost every manufacturer that matters has one in its portfolio. But how about a much smaller company, and its less “smart” offering? Does it stand a chance against these behemoths?

Martian Watches are betting big on their products, wearables that are not smart in the “smart” sense of the word – but they’re hardly “dumb” watches either. So, instead, we’ll just refer to them as “connected” watches. We’ve already looked at the Martian Notifier; now it’s time for us to take a look at one of the company’s more recent offerings, the Martian Aviator B10. And just as the LG Watch Urbane is basically a repackaged LG G Watch R, the Martian Aviator B10 is basically a re-done Martian Notifier. As such, almost all of the conclusions from our Notifier review apply to the Aviator, and we’ll focus on particularities below.

General considerations

Martian Aviator dial

The Aviator B10 is a connected watch, but it is part of a different family of products than the Notifier that we mentioned above. This timepiece we’re looking at is part of the “voice smartwatch” family of products, and, as its name implies, it enables voice commands for different interactions with your smartphone.

No, it is still not a “smart” watch per se, as it doesn’t run stand-alone applications, doesn’t track fitness data or measure heart rate, but it’s a step up from the simple Notifier thanks to those voice commands. Having said that, the manufacturer keeps referring to the Aviator as a “smartwatch.”

So what makes a smartwatch a smartwatch? Some believe that it’s the capability of running apps on an operating system. Others think that any watch smarter than a simple timepiece is considered smart. Which side of the fence you sit on will determine whether or not you consider the Martian Aviator a smartwatch.

Packaging, Presentation & Design

Both the outside and the inside of the box look and feel premium, and it’s obvious that Martian went the extra mile to offer a great unboxing experience. After all, this is not a cheap watch, at a pricepoint ($279.00) that could allow you to easily choose an Android Wear device, or a Pebble.

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The Aviator B10 is just one of the five models in the Martian 2015 active collection, together with the Envoy G10, Alpha T10, Electra S10, and Electra E10. Depending on your personal preference and taste, you can choose the style that suits you best. All of these offer the same functionality.

The Aviator B10 style is a retro, classic one, resembling a “classic pilot’s watch”, with “aviation cockpit-inspired numerals, hands, and center sweep second hand”, as Martian describes it. The dial sports a bright and visible RGB LED light, as well as a 96 x 16 pixel graphic OLED display.

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The body of the watch is made out of durable nylon resin, and the glass itself is a scratch-resistant mineral one (acrylic crystal). Martian built it to the IPX-4 rating (like the other watches in the active collection, as well as the Notifier), which offers water splash protection from any direction for 5 minutes. The flap on the micro USB port needs to be properly sealed though.

The genuine leather strap looks and feels premium, from the simple touch to the close inspection of the stitching. The style of this particular watch is an interesting one, combining a sporty/military look with an elegant one. It all depends on your personal taste and preference, but, for us, this is a watch you can’t wear with your jeans and polo.

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There are two sides to the Aviator’s story, like with the Martian Notifier: an analogue, and a digital one. The main watch is independent, runs on its own battery (for two years, claims the manufacturer), and its movement is Japanese quartz. The digital component is mainly represented by the OLED screen, and the “smart” information it displays. These are notifications from your phone, including text messages, IMs, calls, calendar reminders, etc. This part of the Aviator is also responsible for the voice commands, through the built-in speaker and microphone.

Using the Martian Aviator

Your smartphone has to be an iPhone (or iPad) running iOS 7.1 and above, or an Android smartphone (or tablet) running Android 3.0 or newer, in order to successfully sync with the Martian Aviator. Now, depending on the OS of your phone, you will need to download an app from the iTunes or Google Play Store. Once the Martian app has been installed, you’ll need to pair your watch with the smartphone, tap the “Connect” button inside the app, and you’re done with the initial setup.

The application itself is pretty lightweight and self explanatory. You can customize basic settings (like vibration), find the watch should you lose it (you can find the phone from the watch), customize which alerts from your phone make it to your Martian Aviator, set up alarms, and so on.

Martian App

Everything we said in our video review of the Martian Notifier applies to the Martian Aviator, so, if you want to know more about the app, its pros and cons, make sure to check it out, embedded below, for your viewing pleasure.

The key differentiator between the Martian Avitator and the Notifier is its built-in microphone and speaker. On the Notifier, using voice commands required you to utilize the smartphone’s microphone, which defeated the entire purpose. With the Aviator, you can talk straight to your wrist and speak Google Now commands (or much simpler ones, if you don’t enable Google Now), even if your phone is halfway across the room. Speaking to your wrist lets you place calls, dictate text messages and emails, set calendar notifications, etc., including other voice commands that your phone supports.

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We couldn’t quite manage to achieve five days, as advertised, on a single charge using the Aviator, but our attempts weren’t too far off. On several recharges, we managed to get to four and a half days without a problem. Your experience, of course, will depend on your usage scenario.

The good thing about the watch is that it will continue showing you the time even if its “smart” counterpart is discharged, as the two are completely independent. That, coupled with outdoor visibility which is often a problem with some other smartwatches, can only be listed as a pro, since the main feature of the watch is to, well, show you the time.

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Wrap up

On a whole, if you are not looking for the full “smartwatch” experience the Apple Watch or an Android Wear device offers, the Martian Aviator is a good choice, if you and your phone are not within reach at all times. Think about the Cogito Watch we tested (granted, with even less functionality than the Aviator). The build quality is good, battery life is solid, the watch looks great, and it will definitely be noticed on your wrist. Usability-wise, we definitely like the customizable vibration patterns. These allow you to acknowledge whether you’re receiving a call, text, IM, missing a call, and so on, just by feeling the type and duration of vibration.

However, it’s not all milk and honey. As we said in our Notifier review, we wish the watch could handle water immersion, instead of just the occasional splash. We also wish the glass was sapphire or a tougher one (we didn’t scratch it, but we also haven’t tried hard to do so).

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And, probably the biggest downside of the watch itself is the app that supports it. Connecting and pairing with a Galaxy S6 and an iPhone 6s Plus was simple enough, but the watch, on several occasions, buzzed for the same notification several times, even after dismissing it. This is surely an app problem – a problem that makes it harder to appreciate its tidy, organized and useful user interface.

And, in the end, it all comes down to its price. The new Moto 360 is just a tad more expensive, and you can definitely get a first generation version, or an LG G Watch R, for less than what Martian is asking for the Aviator. So it it worth it, for a wearable with always-on analog design, sweep-second hands and separate two-year batteries, directional speaker and noise-canceling microphone? The answer is not that simple. If you care about the added functionality of apps, Google Now cards, fitness activities, and all the other added features of a full fledged Android Wear smartwatch, or even the Apple Watch, the answer is no.

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If, on the other hand, you want a good-looking wearable without the bells and whistles, that displays the time all the time and still gives you notifications and voice control, then the Martian Aviator should be on your list. If you want to grab one, you can do so online at the manufacturer’s website, or at Bloomingdale’s stores in the US, starting with their 59th and Lexington flagship store in New York City.

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