Guess Con­nect

PC Advisor - - REVIEWS - David Price

Here at PC Ad­vi­sor we’ve spent a lot of time talk­ing about smart­watches, but in the world at large they re­main a niche con­cern. (The Ap­ple Watch be­strides the wear­ables mar­ket like a colos­sus, but sales of even that com­par­a­tive suc­cess story are so low in com­par­i­son to the iPhone and Mac that Ap­ple rolls them in with its ‘Other Prod­ucts’ cat­e­gory when mak­ing its quar­terly re­ports.)

Fear­ing that their in­dus­try will soon be dis­rupted, but con­scious that most of their ex­ist­ing cus­tomers still pre­fer some­thing more tra­di­tional, some watch­mak­ers and fash­ion brands are hedg­ing their bets with prod­ucts like this one: ‘semi-smart­watches’ that com­bine more old-fash­ioned looks and con­trols (and bat­tery life) with a smat­ter­ing of smart fea­tures.

De­sign

Aes­thet­ics are very much a per­sonal mat­ter, and the Guess Con­nect’s de­sign is likely to di­vide opin­ion. As a semi-smart­watch what we’re es­sen­tially look­ing at is an ana­logue watch – phys­i­cal arms and all – with the dis­creet ad­di­tion of a few smart ele­ments. But dis­creet isn’t a word we’ll be us­ing again in this ar­ti­cle.

The Con­nect is big, loud and os­ten­ta­tious. Whereas the Ap­ple Watch is sold in 38mm and 42mm sizes, the Con­nect comes in 41mm and 45mm (see be­low) ver­sions, but the dif­fer­ence is more strik­ing than that: the Con­nect is heav­ier, and sticks out much fur­ther from the wrist, and its bru­tal­ist, polyg­o­nal look is a hun­dred times less sub­tle. (Af­ter a hug we were told: “Daddy, your watch hurt me.”) There are hints here of the 1980s div­ing-watch school of de­sign, and whether you pre­fer this, or a lower-key al­ter­na­tive like the Fossil Q Grant, is a mat­ter of per­sonal taste.

We would add that the rub­ber flange cov­er­ing the charg­ing port doesn’t feel very nice, is a bit awk­ward to open (you find your­self pick­ing re­peat­edly with a fin­ger­nail) and, while it hasn’t failed us yet, is held on by what looks to be a durable but very thin piece of rub­ber. It’s a shame there’s no wire­less charg­ing. And the chunky, mostly metal body (the back is plas­tic, as well as the charg­ing port cover be­ing rub­ber) is a mag­net for fin­ger­prints, al­beit nicely shiny when new or re­cently pol­ished.

There are three con­trols, all on the right­hand side of the watch’s body: a top but­ton (or ‘pusher’, to use the maker’s ter­mi­nol­ogy), a bot­tom but­ton and a larger, tex­tured dial in be­tween which is only ever used to ad­just the ana­logue time. The left­hand side has a speaker and the charg­ing port. A tiny let­ter­box OLED screen (with a res­o­lu­tion of 96x16) sits hor­i­zon­tally across the lower por­tion of the face, its lower cor­ners touch­ing the cir­cum­fer­ence at ap­prox­i­mately five and seven o’clock, and there’s a lit­tle LED be­tween eight and nine, which changes colour to in­di­cate var­i­ous no­ti­fi­ca­tion and modes.

Setup

We paired the Guess Con­nect with an iPhone 6s Plus, but it’s also com­pat­i­ble with An­droid. Pair­ing was quick and sim­ple, even tak­ing into ac­count a cou­ple of false starts.

You have to down­load and in­stall a free com­pan­ion app (iOS or An­droid), which guides you through the pair­ing process and then con­trols var­i­ous set­tings in gen­eral use. The app strug­gled to find the watch the first cou­ple of times, and when we suc­ceeded – the watch hap­pily buzzed with no­ti­fi­ca­tions, was able to ac­ti­vate Siri on the phone, and so on – the app still thought the watch wasn’t paired and wanted us to try again. Fol­low­ing the pair­ing process one last time, this time waved through with no de­lay, seemed to al­lay the app’s wor­ries.

Since then, the pair­ing has re­mained solid, within the lim­i­ta­tions of the Blue­tooth con­nec­tion. We were quite pleased to find that the watch gives a lit­tle buzz and says ‘Out of range’ or ‘Con­nected’ when you wan­der out of or back into Blue­tooth range of its com­pan­ion phone – an op­tional fea­ture called

Leash. This is a use­ful thing to know, and may prove in­valu­able if you leave your mo­bile be­hind at a cafe.

Fea­tures

It isn’t pos­si­ble to in­stall apps or games on the Guess Con­nect, but short of this it does a de­cent job of per­form­ing most of the more com­monly re­quired du­ties of a smart­watch. You use the bot­tom se­lect but­ton to cy­cle through modes, and then ac­ti­vate them with the top com­mand bot­tom. (Al­ter­na­tively, many can be ini­ti­ated by voice com­mand: if you can’t work out how to do some­thing, try press­ing the top but­ton and sim­ply telling the watch what to do.)

It isn’t al­ways clear how to ac­cess fea­tures – although the gen­eral rule is that the top but­ton acts as a con­firm, while the bot­tom one de­clines or cy­cles through to a dif­fer­ent op­tion – and those who are com­ing from a fully fledged smart­watch will find that not hav­ing a full-face touch­screen makes ev­ery­thing less in­tu­itive to use, at least at first.

No­ti­fi­ca­tions

Like most wear­ables, the Con­nect is at its best when de­liv­er­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tions. When you get a text mes­sage, a no­ti­fi­ca­tion ap­pears in the lit­tle dis­play, and it scrolls across so you can read what’s been said. (It takes for­ever be­cause the screen is so small, but you can just get the gist, then press the bot­tom but­ton to stop it.) Or you can tap the top but­ton, which ac­ti­vates voice con­trol, and tell it to read the mes­sage out. Like­wise for an email.

You can also get no­ti­fi­ca­tions when­ever you’re men­tioned on so­cial me­dia, and you’re en­cour­aged to set up dif­fer­ent vi­bra­tion pat­terns for each type of no­ti­fi­ca­tion. If you miss a no­ti­fi­ca­tion, tap the watch’s glass and it’ll re­play the most re­cent, if any­thing came through in the past five min­utes.

Phone calls

If you get a call on your com­pan­ion phone, too, you can an­swer it on the watch – or shake the watch to de­cline the call, if you’ve ac­ti­vated ges­ture sup­port. And while its speaker qual­ity isn’t great, we got through a con­ver­sa­tion with a three-year-old with­out ei­ther party los­ing the plot, which isn’t a given at the best of times. An­swer­ing phone calls on a watch is easy to mock, and will make most peo­ple feel self­con­scious, but it’s gen­uinely handy and feels en­joy­ably fu­tur­is­tic.

It’s also pos­si­ble to ini­ti­ate calls from the watch, but it wasn’t im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous how – there’s no ‘Phone mode’ when you cy­cle through the op­tions. In fact, any time you place a call on the com­pan­ion phone with the watch con­nected, it’ll de­fault to the watch’s speaker and mi­cro­phone, although you’re given the op­tion to switch back to the phone at the start of the call. The eas­i­est ap­proach, how­ever, is to press the top but­ton and then say “Call Lewis mo­bile” or what­ever.

Other fea­tures

You can set up your iPhone in a tri­pod and then ac­ti­vate the shut­ter with the top but­ton on the watch. (Sadly, on iOS at any rate, the watch doesn’t have the au­thor­ity to open the cam­era app, let alone over­ride a pass­code; so you’ll need to ei­ther set up the phone with the app al­ready open, or re­spond to a di­a­logue mes­sage on the phone’s screen check­ing it’s okay to open it.)

As we men­tioned, press­ing the top but­ton ac­ti­vates voice com­mands, which as well as plac­ing calls and get­ting the watch to read out mes­sages makes it easy to set re­minders, ap­point­ments and alarms with­out pick­ing up your mo­bile. You can con­trol mu­sic play­back on the phone or a con­nected Blue­tooth de­vice. And if you lose track of the com­pan­ion smart­phone, the watch can make it play a lit­tle tune.

How it com­pares to its ri­vals

The main ar­eas you miss by go­ing for the Guess Con­nect rather than a full smart­watch are gam­ing (and you’re not miss­ing much at this point) and fit­ness stuff – even though it has an ac­celerom­e­ter, this is only used for ges­ture de­tec­tion, and the Con­nect can’t count your steps, mea­sure calo­ries and so on. At present a ded­i­cated fit­ness tracker is likely to be a bet­ter, or at least cheaper, op­tion for those things any­way, so you could al­ways buy a sec­ond de­vice.

The Fossil Q Grant, the lead­ing light of the semi-smart­watch mar­ket, has more so­phis­ti­cated in­com­ing call no­ti­fi­ca­tions (you can cus­tomise LED colours for up to five favourite con­tacts) and can use its ac­celerom­e­ter to count steps. But you can’t an­swer calls on that de­vice, nor does it have voice com­mands of any kind.

Ver­dict

Looks-wise we’re not at all keen on the huge, chunky and os­ten­ta­tious Guess Con­nect: the Fossil Q Grant has a far sub­tler and more el­e­gant de­sign, and is less likely to bruise your child’s face when you’re hav­ing a hug.

But you may dis­agree, and if you can put up with – or are even charmed by – the Con­nect’s bru­tal look, there’s a strong fea­ture set here to get your teeth into: it feels only a step or two down from a fully fledged smart­watch. With voice com­mands and the abil­ity to pick up phone calls or have texts read to you, it’s head and shoul­ders above the Fossil for sheer smart­ness.

For fea­tures, this is prob­a­bly the strong­est semi-smart­watch we’ve seen: ac­tiv­ity track­ing is the only sig­nif­i­cant chink in its ar­mour. If that’s a pri­or­ity for you, plump for the Fossil Q Grant, which you may want to do any­way be­cause it’s also a lot cheaper and (in our view) more at­trac­tive.

Guess Con­nect app

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