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Frederique Constant smartwatch review: Time-tested activity tracking in a beautiful Swiss watch

Jon Phillips | Aug. 7, 2015
Fanny packs. Dad jeans. Bright yellow mock turtlenecks purchased at the Gap circa 1991, and still worn defiantly, inexplicably, today. If you wear any of these items, feel free to accessorize your outfit with a touchscreen smartwatch. You're already style-compromised, and the smartwatch can't do any more damage.

So what's going on here? Fullpower's VP of Technology, Arthur Kinsolving, explains: "With the fragmentation of Android and the number of cooks in the kitchen to make an Android handset, the Bluetooth Low Energy implementation on the Android handsets is quite poor. It's getting better, but there's still a ways to go. So we are constantly working on ways to make connectivity better, working around these issues."

The MotionX app

Once you're inside the mobile apps, you'll find an experience that's very similar to the apps for the first two generations of the Jawbone Up wristband, which also used MotionX activity-tracking algorithms. The data is nowhere as deep as what you'll get from the world's most advanced activity trackers, like the Basis Peak, which provides real-time heart rate numbers, and REM sleep tracking. Still, for casual users, the MotionX data is solid. Step counts are generally very accurate, and the sleep data captures just enough info to provide a reliable picture of your bedtime habits.

Dip into the MotionX Activity panel, and you'll see your current step counts, your total time active, and the distance you've traveled. There's also a report of all the calories you've burned, broken down by step calories and rest calories. Drag your finger across the timeline, and you'll see exactly when your steps were logged.

The Sleep panel follows a similar UI. Tapping into subtle wrist movements recorded by the watch, MotionX can delineate between periods of light and deep sleep. The app also shares exactly when you fall asleep, your night-time interruptions, and when you wake up. Before using the watch, I was concerned it would be too cumbersome to wear to bed, but the leather strap is quite comfortable, and easy to put on and take off. Of course, you can swap it with any 21mm replacement band you like.

I could never find much utility in the app's Coach panel. It offers daily, weekly and monthly summaries of all your activity metrics, and provides vague, somewhat meaningless tips, like "Avoid using loud alarm clocks" (which can be stressful ) and "Go camping and hiking" (which benefits stress reduction more than exercising inside). It's certainly not bad advice, but it feels like a throwaway feature.

Truly automatic timekeeping

Like the MotionX Jawbone experience, the watch can issue "get-active" alerts to get your rear in gear if you've been sitting for too long. While activity-tracking wristbands typically send get-active alerts via subtle haptic vibrations, the Frederique Constant smartwatch issues a quick double beep from its built-in piezo speaker.

The speaker volume is loud enough for effective get-active alerts during daytime hours, but this speaker is also used for MotionX "sleep cycle alarms." These alarms wake you from sleep during periods of light sleep, working off the premise that you'll feel more refreshed if you wake during light sleep rather than deep sleep. Will the speaker volume be loud enough to rouse heavy sleepers? I have my doubts, as the alarm emits a rather anemic beep. I never had a chance to test this feature (such is the heartbreak of insomnia), so I'll be interested in reading user reviews.

 

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