The last candidate in our Smartwatch Roundup is here – Meet the Olio Model One…
Wearables are the thing for 2015. Nearly every major smartphone manufacturer, including Apple, Microsoft (who delivered MS Band and MS Band 2 in less than a year’s time), Samsung, Motorola, and LG to name a few; not to mention fitness and GPS companies like Garmin, Nike and Fitbit have released a band or smartwatch in 2015.
Wearables, and in particular, smartwatches, are a hot commodity right now. Those that have been successful have been hard to get. The Apple Watch certainly falls in that category. The MS Band, at least back in November and December of 2014, also qualify.
However, there have been a few new players enter the market. Some of these, like the Tag Heuer Connected represent the high end of the smartwatch market. Others, like the Olio Model One, however, also firmly fall into this category, but unlike the Tag Heuer, are smartphone agnostic. They don’t prefer a particular flavor of smartphone OS; and its here that we’re going to end our smartwatch journey; because… it has arrived.
The Olio Model One. Its luxurious. Its waterproof. Its simply stunning. Let’s take a look at it and see how it stands up in a new market, but one that is quickly maturing and see if it’s the smartwatch for you.
This is perhaps the one and ONLY area of the Model One that Olio got right. The watch casing and the band on the Model One are really exceptional. If there’s one area of the product that is going to pull a lot of interest from current and potential customers, it’s the band and watch casing. If there’s one area that might make me not return the device to Olio and request a refund, it’s going to be the casing and the band.
In fact, its perhaps the only reason why I haven’t returned the device at this point. The device looks and feels great. It looks like a product that costs as much as it does, and it really just oozes luxury.
Nothing looks or feels cheap on the Model One. The screen looks great, despite the touch screen issues (see below). The casing is solid and well put together. The watch has some heft to it, giving the device the feel of something special.
Check out the pictures below. Once you see this thing, I know you’ll agree, this is an awesome looking device.
Unfortunately, that’s all the good I have to say about the hardware. Once you get past the surface, it all goes south.
I’ve outlined a number of different hardware related functionality issues, below. If you are interested in the Model One, please don’t order one until you have the opportunity to read through everything that I’ve outlined. Based on what I know about the device, the issues that I’ve outlined below, and the one customer-wide, web-based quality call that Olio has done to address customer concerns and issues, it’s clear that the problems that I’ve outlined are NOT isolated.
There’s also no way to take a screen shot of the device that I can see, as it has NO hardware buttons and no way to view the contents of the screen in Olio Assist. All of the device shots I’ve taken have been with a physical camera.
Watch Software & Complications
Olio’s product pages all show a continuous, moving second hand. It flows around the watch face with a sense of elegance that really shows off the luxury points of the Model One.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to make YOUR Model One’s second hand move in a continuous, elegant, sweeping motion. The second hand on my Model One “ticks” as a second hand would on a mechanical, analog watch. This is nice, but why the Model One won’t mimic this – when it should clearly be an easy get – is beyond me. According to Olio Assist, the watch face isn’t customizable. Each Bespoke watch face is preconfigured for your type and color (Steel, Black, Yellow Gold, or Rose Gold) of watch, and cannot be changed (other than day/ night settings and its activity streams that help create a unique face, each day.
The Notifications complication is the default watch screen for the Model One. As you can see from this screen, you get the time of day, the activity bars and the date in mm.dd.yyyy format. When a notification is sent to the Model One, its most easily seen here. You can also most easily see both Temporal Streams (see Notifications in the Issues and Problems section, below), Early and Later.
|The Model One Notifications Complication
||The Notifications Screen
|Tap on an individual Notification and get the details
||Swipe to the left, and get the ability to clear the Notification; but be careful. If you don’t do it right, you can dismiss the Notifications without seeing the Clear button, or you can move to the next Complication, OR you can get the Earlier Temporal Stream
The UI here looks nice. Its modern. Its semi-transparent. It’s also difficult to get to and work with.
This is an interesting view of your daily calendar. The only issue I have with it is that as appointments come and go, they fall off the complication. This is good and bad. Its good, because the complication is only good for up to 12 hours at a time. It’s bad, because once an appointment has passed it falls off the display. If you were looking to see how busy you were today, this isn’t the day-view that you’d probably go to first. It is, however, GREAT at the beginning of your day, and as your appointments progress. Eventually, you end up with a blank display until the next day.
This is probably the most interesting complication in the entire cache of displays on the watch. It’s not animated, and you shouldn’t expect any kind of animation out of any of the model one screens (except the second hand movement); but it will change based on changing weather conditions throughout the day.
The Weather complication divides your day into four quadrants morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening, and gives you general weather info for the day. The active quadrant, based on the hour hand, is highlighted, white.
You can set a single or repeating alarm with the Model One on this screen. I haven’t played with this at all, because, to be quite honest, the watch has never given me the opportunity to want or need an alarm to be set on the actual watch, largely because I’m not expecting it to have enough power to actually ring the alarm later (see Battery Life, in the Issues and Problems section, below).
You can set a countdown timer with the Model One on this screen. Like Alarm, I haven’t used the Timer complication at all, because, quite honestly, I haven’t had enough battery life or power on the device to actually warrant playing with this. I’m just worried about the bloody thing having enough power to tell the time while I’m wearing it. Its nearly always run out of power before I’ve been able to get home and plug it in.
You can use your Model One as a stopwatch with this screen. This complication has turned on once or twice due to issues with the touch screen not being sensitive enough, or too sensitive and I’ve had issues stopping it or clearing it back to zero. Again, I’m not very trusting of using this complication because it’s going to burn battery power (and yes… battery life really IS that big of an issue Keep reading…).
Companion Smartphone App
Originally, I had plans of taking you through the entire app. Lord knows I have enough screen shots of the software on my iPhone.
I’ve been in mobile devices for nearly my entire software QA career. I know mobile devices like the back of my hand, and all of my experience is telling me that Olio Assist needs work, some time to mature and is currently buggy.
I’m not going to show you everything. After going through the cache of screen shots I have, there are simply too many of issues and bugs and quirks that I’ve found to display them all. I will, however, provide you with some screen shots so you can see what the software looks like, and then see where some of the rough edges are.
|You choose a DND range, ideally so the watch doesn’t receive notifications and will save battery power. However, your battery will likely never last long enough to see this happen
||You choose calendars to tell Olio Assist to only provide appointment notifications for the noted calendars. However, I have yet to have any appointment notifications fire on my Model One.
||The setup process attempts to use your home and work locations from YOUR contact record on your phone. However, location services in Olio Assist don’t work right and you end up with the error dialog you see directly under this caption.
||If you want Olio Assist to know where you live, you have to enter the location in manually
|After you enter in your location manually, it can find your location and pinpoint it on a map.
||After it asks about your residential address, it asks about your work address and goes through the same process.
||This is the error message you see when you try to have Olio Assist use either your residential or work address out of your personal contact record, as I noted above.
||Again, you have to search for your address manually.
|After you enter in your location manually, it can find your location and pinpoint it on a map.
||The only way to get out of the “add address loop” is to tap Skip, which doesn’t make any sense. I should be asked if I’m done with addresses, and then be given an opportunity to add more, or move on. Skipping a step makes it seem as though none of the data that I just entered, found and identified will be used.
||Olio Assist asks you what kind of transportation methods you use, presumably so that it can provide you with the correct navigation directions. I have yet to see any evidence of this outside of setup, but with the battery problems I’ve had, I really haven’t pushed my luck and tried.
||Setup is completed. Note that there is a finish button, even though the progress indicator (the 4th of four progress icons, below the finish button) has been on the last or 4th bar the entire process.
What you’re seeing here is extremely immature device software. It’s clear to me that the testing process here wasn’t as robust as it could or should have been. Olio has a lot of work to do here. For the cost of the watch, I expected a very finished software product.
Instead what I got was an unwanted opportunity to be a beta tester.
Issues and Problems
As of this writing, I’ve had the Olio Model One for a little over a month. During that time, I’ve been able to wear it for approximately one (1) – yes, just ONE, single, solitary full day. I have a number of issues with the Model One that I purchased, and I’ve been in nearly constant contact with Olio’s Customer Care Lead, Cristina Hall. With everything that you see documented below, Olio has decided that my Model One is defective. They are in the process of preparing (flashing the latest software update, which as of this writing is not finished yet) a new Model One for me and will send it next day air. I’ll turn around a return of my original Model One after I receive the replacement. I’m expecting my replacement to arrive sometime between Thursday and Friday of the week of 2015-11-16.
However, I can tell you with 100% certainty, I’m extremely disappointed so far in the Olio Model One. For $695USD, one expects a better out of the box experience than what I’ve currently received. Up to this point, I’d pretty much consider this to be one of the worst customer experiences I’ve ever had with a piece of consumer electronics in the last five to seven years.
UPDATE: As with everything that’s been happening with Olio, the organization failed to deliver on its promise of delivering me an updated and preflashed watch when they said they were going to. Just before Thanksgiving, Olio indicated that they were going to send me a replacement watch and that it should arrive no later than Wednesday 2015-11-25.
The watch didn’t SHIP until 2015-11-25. It was supposed to ship over night, so with Thursday being a national holiday, that means it should have arrived no later than 2015-11-27.
It didn’t arrive until Monday 2015-12-02, a full two business days after I was promised it would arrive.
On 2015-12-07, a new communication came out from Olio announcing a new version of Olio Assist – the watch’s companion app – and a new watch firmware update. Its 2015-12-07 as I write these words, and I’m still waiting for the watch to update itself to the new watch firmware version, version 1.1.47.
According to Olio, in order for the watch to update, it needs to be charged at least to 50%, must be sitting on its wireless charger and be connected to your phone via Bluetooth. According to Olio, it should update to the latest version within three hours of these conditions being met, so after three hours (or overnight at the latest), one would expect to see a new firmware version on the watch.
I’ve been sitting here all day, working, literally waiting for the watch to update… and… nothing.
That MAY be because even though my watch says its connected to my iPhone, and my iPhone’s Bluetooth page in Settings says that its connected to the watch, Olio Assist says that the watch is disconnected.
When I contacted Olio about this, I was told to go into Settings on the watch and restart it, and then to make certain that no other Bluetooth device was connected (like my Apple Watch). I was told that having another device connected to it could prevent the watch from updating correctly and that disconnecting other devices and then restarting the watch should immediately kick off the update.
It didn’t… but even if it did, it would be hard to tell.
Olio doesn’t want updating the watch to be something that the user ACTIVELY pursues. They want maintenance activities like that to be handled by Olio Assist and the watch and be totally transparent to the user. I like that… if it worked.
There’s no UI to push updates to the watch at all. There’s no way for me to know if the update has been found and downloaded by my phone, and then transferred to my device. Olio can see all of that from their backend… but the end user doesn’t have ANY way to monitor check, or troubleshoot that. So, if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, you’re screwed, as you don’t get ANY kind of notification from the software that there’s even a new firmware available for your watch, let alone a way to monitor, push or troubleshoot the transfer and installation.
I admire this type of update method – making it totally transparent to the user; but there needs to be a way to push it from the end user side, just in case things get stuck.
The Olio Model One charges hot. It charges VERY hot. Dangerously hot. Like, burn your skin or desktop, hot. I initially thought that it was only the initial charge. I was wrong; but not in the way that you might think.
Yes. The Olio Model One can charge hot. It can get burn your hands hot; but it doesn’t charge hot all the time, and it can cool down to an acceptable or understandable level while charging. However, every time my battery gets nearly or totally depleted, the next time I charge it, it charges hot.
The big issue here is that the device can get dangerously hot. The best thing for you to do is to set the watch to charge on a surface you know won’t burn or catch fire and then wait until the watch is fully charged. After that, you should disconnect it, and then wait for it to cool before putting it on.
The other charging issue that I’ve noticed with the Olio Model One is that even when sitting on its charger, regardless of its charging level, the level of charge can both rise AND fall according to both Olio Assist and the watch itself. How one is supposed to charge the watch so it can be used during the day, gets a bit confusing after this.
UPDATE: I’ve been using – or trying to use – the Model One now for a few weeks. This morning (2015-12-17), I woke up and the watch was at 61% charge after sitting on its charger overnight. In total, it sat on its charger for over 8 hours. However, it showed connected to my iPhone via Bluetooth in Settings, in Olio Assist, and on the watch.
When I got to the office, the watch was reading 1% charge. Yes… Just 1%. I put it on its charger and it immediately went to 10% and then over the course of about 90 minutes, 15%. I left it on the charger and went to a 30 minute meeting. When I got back to my desk, it was at 14%. Still on the charger and about 30 minutes later, it was at 11%, then about 5 minutes after that it was at 10%.
I pulled that watch off the charger and it was very hot. In fact, it was almost too hot to handle.
I restarted the watch via the watch’s Settings, and it took about 10 minutes to come back. The display was strange looking after that, as it was trying to display the Notifications complication, but was clearly having trouble; but the display righted itself. It clearing was having issues due to the high heat level it developed while charging.
Now… after about 5 minutes after restart, I’ve watched the charge meter on the watch jump from 10% to 15% to 22% to now 26%, again, in under 7 minutes.
I’ve been concerned about an insufficient amount of current coming through the charging disc and USB cable, so I’ve stopped using a powered USB port on my computer (a ThinkPad T420 here at the office) to using a wall wart and AC current. It’s made a difference, but the device also charges much hotter, much more frequently now.
This is probably the most disappointing feature on the device, and its clearly related to the charging issues I’ve noted above. To put it quite bluntly – the battery life on the Olio Model One just sucks. On the original Model One that I received (I was sent a replacement unit), the battery life was 2-4 hours.
Yes. That’s right, not 24 hours; but two (2) to four (4) hours. Just 2 to 4 hours, and then the battery would go dead and the watch would be dead weight. According to Olio, the Model One has a maximum of 800 charging cycles for the life of its battery. There’s a huge problem with this.
When the battery needs charging four to six times a day, just to get you THROUGH the day so you can use the watch, you’re looking at a life span of 133.33 to 200 DAYS
Days. Not weeks or months… Days.
That means that the useful lifespan of the Olio Model One is about 4.5 MONTHS to just over 6.5 MONTHS before the battery will fail to take and hold a charge.
At one full cycle a day, the Olio Model One should last 2.20 years before the battery will fail to take and hold a charge.
That’s not long enough.
When a smartwatch costs between $595 and $1395, this is truly unacceptable. The Apple Watch starts at $399 and many people – including me – are busting a flange gasket over IT not holding a charge for more than 16 hours before running out of power (when it first came out). With a maximum life span of just over two years, even THAT’S a hell of a lot more than the Olio Model One.
You can get a LOT of traditional watch for $600 to $1400, and it won’t expire in four and a half months to two years. It will last you – potentially – years to DECADES with the proper care and battery changes.
While a computing component like a smartwatch will quickly lose its relevance in five years or less, at $600 to $1400, I’m expecting the Olio Model One to last well beyond five years. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t.
However, I have serious concerns about it surviving past Thursday next week, at the way this thing runs through battery cycles…
UPDATE: I had the watch on the other day and had put it on my wrist at 8am. I had purposely turned the Bluetooth radio off, as my phone was downstairs in my jacket, and I was upstairs in my office, charging the watch…again. I didn’t want the watch’s battery to drain or not to charge, so I turned off the device’s Bluetooth radio. Then, we went to Church, and I left the Bluetooth radio off.
I want to make certain everyone understand the timing around these events.
1. 8AM – Took Model One off the charger and put it on
2. 10:30AM – Left for Church
3. 12PM – Arrived back home
4. 12PM – Watch was dead
That’s a span of four (4) hours. The Bluetooth radio was OFF, and the Model One still managed to run through its battery.
Touch Screen Issues
I’ve been having a number of issues with the Model One’s touch screen. I’m not going to belabor these, either, and I’m quickly going to run them down and detail them out.
You have to touch it just right, and in the right spots (which aren’t very well defined), in order to get the screen to react to your touches. Right out of the box, the touch screen is both under and over sensitive. You can quite honestly tap and swipe this thing for days and the device will just ignore you. Other times, it will jet past three or four screens with a single swipe. The screen is very difficult to control, and I’ve noticed that you have to develop just the right type of touch in order to have the device not only recognize your touch, but to move the way you want it to. This is NOT easy to master, and honestly, you should have to try so damn hard to get the device’s touch screen do what you want or intend.This is a driver issue, and Olio has already issued two firmware updates to address it. No doubt others will follow.
- Display On/ Off
The watch is supposed to turn on when you raise your wrist. It doesn’t do that consistently. The watch is supposed to stay on long enough for you to look at it and mentally register the contents of the display. It doesn’t do that consistently. More often than not, it doesn’t turn on when you raise your wrist, requires you to tap it MULTIPLE (like four to five) times before it WILL turn on, and then won’t stay on long enough.
This is a driver issue, and Olio has already issued two firmware updates to address it. No doubt others will follow.
With both of these issues active all the time, interacting with the watch has not been easy. In many cases, I’ve given up, looked at the time, ignored the notifications I’ve gotten and just given up.
Bluetooth and Pairing
The biggest reason why the Olio Model One has the battery issues that it does have is due to problems with its Bluetooth radio. The Bluetooth radio in the Model One has serious problems staying connected to my iPhone.
Bluetooth pairing is not easy with the Model One. The initial pairing of my original Model One took me well over 20 minutes to complete. (See below for a bit more information on the initial pairing experience.) The Model One and my iPhone 6 apparently just don’t see eye to eye… or each other for that matter. I have no idea why, and no answers from Olio on this.
After getting them paired and connected, I have found that both the Model One and my iPhone 6 fail to see each other at all, though this has improved a great deal over the past week or so. If they do happen to “bump into each other,” they often drop the connection later.
And the initial pairing… oy what a painful experience that was. I’ve gone through the setup process with the Model One four (4) times. Connectivity problems have had me resetting the watch and deleting the partnership between my watch and my iPhone, as well as deleting Olio Assist on my iPhone to insure that any app information and device information have been deleted.
That usually clears things up with other products. Not always the case with the Model One. After putting Olio Assist BACK on my iPhone 6, I’ve also had to quit Olio Assist and restart it on many occasions to either get the initial pairing to work, or to get the device to reconnect to my iPhone.
The Bluetooth radio is one of the weakest parts of the Model One. It’s one of the main reasons that the battery tanks so completely and so often. While Olio has made some in-roads to this with device firmware version 1.1.47, they still have a LONG WAY to go.
If I go back and gather the same notification criteria that I outlined in my Microsoft Band Review, I can honestly say that the Olio Model One MOSTLY gets notifications right.
That is to say, you get notified when you think you’d get notified.
However, the Model One addresses notifications with a system similar to the Pebble Time. Notifications are grouped into two basic time streams – Earlier and Later.
Notifications that come in now, are automatically deposited into the Earlier stream (it’s an event that happened earlier). Upcoming appointments, weather forecasts and conditions, etc. are shown in the Later stream. This would be fine, if not for the Touch Screen issues I outlined above.
Viewing items from the Earlier or Later streams requires you to swipe either left or right from the left or right side of the screen to the opposite end. Earlier events are seen by swiping from the left side to the right side. Later, from the right to the left… if you can get the screen to recognize the input.
If you do, then you can look at the notification. You can tap on it to get additional information, or swipe it to the left to clear it. Again, this all works if you can get the touch screen to recognize your touches. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t.
I’ve learned that the best way to use the watch is to ignore the notifications entirely. The haptics on the device aren’t very noticeable, and there’s a good chance you’re going to miss the notification when it comes in, anyway.
Geez… where the hell do I start..??!!
Put bluntly, stay away from the Olio Model One.
The device doesn’t work; and no amount of discussion or verbal or printed rhetoric from the company can convince me that it does at this point. It’s also way too expensive to have issues like this… EVER.
The company clearly has some huge, HUGE technology hurdles to get past; and I’m really not certain that the company is going to make it long enough to see the issues resolved. This is a HUGE disappointment.
When you’re a technology company, providing an expensive, electronic accessory that realistically has a life span of three to five (3-5) years (if and when it works as designed) and should have a lifespan that goes well beyond even THAT, I see no way that the organization will be able to survive the technology problems it has and the bad press they WILL generate, given the current state of their product offering.
The watch charges hot, has issues taking and holding a charge, has a Bluetooth radio that won’t stay connected to the most popular smartphone in the US, and doesn’t handle notifications right due to its touch screen issues. Top that off with a price tag that is clearly out of line with its battery’s usable life span, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Is it possible for Olio to get past all of this and be successful with the Model One..?
Yes. Yes it is.
However, it’s going to take a eureka moment on their end. They are going to have to make the current hardware work correctly. They’re going to have to fix the Bluetooth radio issues they have with the iPhone. They’re going to have to fix the charging issues they have. They’re going to have to resolve the battery life issues they have. They’re going to have to make their iPhone app smarter and more intuitive. They’re going to have to address device updates and pushing firmware to the watch. They’re going to have to handle notifications a bit better and make them a bit more actionable and recognizable.
That’s a lot to accomplish in what I’m seeing as a VERY short window of opportunity for them – months. Like, less than three (3) months short…
Why so short..? Well, if they don’t get all of their battery and charging issues cleared up by that time, most of the first shipment of Model One’s that were put into service will have surpassed or come close to surpassing their 800 charge cycle life spans, and the watches will be useless.
So… hang out with this one and let’s see how it goes.
Until then, you can admire the hardware. It’s gorgeous; but I’d admire it from afar… The default size of the band is a bit tight for me, and you really MUST go to a jeweler to have the band sized; but if the software was something that Olio totally struck out on, their hardware (case and band) was an out of the park home run.
It’s too bad, too.
With a device that’s just so gorgeous, so water resistant, so and well designed, it’s too bad that the software that drives it is such a dud.