Another One Bites the Dust – So long Olio

I’m sorry to report that Olio Devices didn’t make it… as far as I can tell.

Back in 2015, I spent most of the year doing an extended round up of smart watches. I’m sorry to report that most of the devices that I reviewed as part of that round up, including

The Microsoft Band
The Fitbit Surge, and the
Pebble Time

have all met a rather disappointing demise. None of these devices are available for purchase today, not even two years since I published each review (or there abouts…)

Microsoft introduced Band in December of 2014; and it was one of the HOTTEST items for that Holiday season. I was fortunate enough to get one for both me AND my wife. Unfortunately, they weren’t very comfortable and the battery life sucked. Microsoft followed Band up with Band 2; but then discontinued the device in the middle of 2016. The entire team had their direction refocused on Microsoft Health; but even THAT is nowhere to be found. It seems Microsoft’s foray into wearables and in the health market doesn’t have a consumer presence to speak of, and never will.

The Pebble Time wasn’t as well received as the original Pebble or even the Pebble Steel. As such, Pebble sold itself to Fitbit; and they laid off all their people, closed their software store, and called it a day in December of 2016. They were the first on the market with any real success, but they didn’t last, unfortunately.

Since Fitbit purchased Pebble, there really hasn’t been anything out of Fitbit of note. While they have released the Alta and the Alta HR, those devices aren’t innovative at all and don’t offer any new features that the Charge 2 does.

Fitbit’s best asset is its software, the Fitbit App. It’s really some of the best fitness tracking bits that I’ve seen. Unfortunately, their hardware leaves a great deal to be desired. I was hoping that Fitbit might be able to do something innovative with the IP from Pebble, but it hasn’t emerged yet, and we’re coming up to a year since the acquisition. If “it” isn’t out by the 2017 Holiday Buying Season (whatever “it” might be…), they likely aren’t going to do anything of note with it.

So, the Band and Pebble are gone; and the Surge is a huge non-influencer (like the rest of Fitbit, in my opinion…). Unfortunately, the other big watch player I reviewed in 2015 is also now… gone.

The Olio Model One has also been discontinued. Their website is still active, and has been most of the year, but every model of every collection they have, including Steel, Black, Rose Gold, and Gold, indicate that they are sold out. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, this has been the case for the better part of the year (2017).

I got in touch with Steve Jacobs, the former CEO of Olio Devices, and he confirmed that th company has indeed been sold. While the organization existed for four years, this was apparently their entire overall goal (as it is with many start ups…). Olio was hoping to be purchased by someone… whom that might be, however, is unknown.

While Mr. Jacobs and I are acquaintances, and we did have direct and open communications during 2015 and the early part of 2016, I can only assume that part of the conditions of the sale of Olio Devices included keeping the entire deal confidential. Steve simply won’t give up the goods on who purchased Olio, or what they plan to do with the site, the watches or the IP.

As it stands, right now, the site, while still active, is a ghost town. The software used to manage the smartwatch, Olio Assist (iTunes App Store Link, Google Play Store Link) while technically available if you’ve previously downloaded it, may or may not be available for new users to download.

The biggest problem with it, however, is the way the software was designed to work. As of this writing, its nearly completely deprecated.

Olio watches are designed to pair with an Android or iPhone smartphone. The device software must be running on your smartphone – not just merely installed – while using the watch. For most smartwatches, this is usually enough. However, Olio Assist has an additional dependency. In order for its digital assistant to work, Olio Assist must communicate with a central server. Olio Assist only communicates with this server when the watch is paired and actively in range of the smartphone, with the software running.

The central server knows exactly which watches are connected to which smartphones. It provides data to support ALL of its complications, including weather, time zones AND your schedule. That last one kinda surprised me. Olio Assist doesn’t synch contact or calendar data between your phone and the watch, it synchs it to the central server first, and the server provides data to the complication, back through your smartphone and the app.

With Olio Devices now no longer functioning as an active entity, all of their servers are off line. The only thing that the watch can do now is get notifications, because they are sent directly to the watch from the smartphone itself. The watch will also notify you of incoming calls and will still control music playback. However, everything else… every other feature that Olio Assist provided, Schedule and Weather complications, time zones, Rules, Earlier, Now and Later Services, and ANY part of its Digital Assistant, now no longer work due to an interruption of communications with their central servers.

Steve Jacobs also indicated to me that it is very possible that even those services that are currently providing value, may also stop working. If this is the case, then the watch is living on borrowed time; and the $450 to $650 price tag that many paid for this device may soon become a huge issue.

Most luxury watches costing this much work for years, if not decades. This apparently won’t be the case with the Olio Model One… and that’s hugely disappointing.

My suggestion for you is this – buy an Apple Watch. It’s the only one that I reviewed that is really still around and that is being improved on. Apple will be releasing watchOS 4 in September of 2017. If you must have an Android Wear watch, make sure you get something that is either made or branded by Google directly or from Samsung. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to figure out how to make an expensive orphaned device work after it’s no longer being actively supported.

And that… totally sucks.

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  • Chris Janson

    Is there any way to get the old software updates for the Olio devices ? I’ve tried Googling it, but with no luck.

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