The wearables space has taken its time to get to where it is now, but it’s finally here to stay. Although Google’s efforts with Android Wear haven’t quite gained as much popularity as first expected, the success of the Apple Watch and the plethora of fitness trackers available today makes us positive about the prospects of the wearables industry. And while I’ve used my fair share of smartwatches and fitness trackers, I haven’t used a hybrid smartwatch till now.
But before we get into the details, the key question here is, what is a hybrid smartwatch? Well, it isn’t quite a smartwatch in the traditional sense. Smartwatches such as the Samsung Gear and Apple Watch typically act as a second screen for your smartphone along with a handful of other features such as fitness tracking, and notification push. A hybrid smartwatch is closer to a traditional ‘dumb’ watch, but with a handful of smart features thrown in that makes it a bit more capable than other ‘dumb’ watches.
What is the Diesel On Time about?
One such hybrid smartwatch is the Rs 16,795 Diesel On Time. Diesel has been in the business of watches for some time now, but this is among its early forays into serving the increasing demand for connected devices. At first glance, the Diesel On Time looks like any ordinary analog watch, and is indeed an ordinary analog watch in most respects. There’s no fancy LCD screen here; the watch tells the time using its hands, which travel around the dial and point at numbers, just like any other ordinary watch.
However, there’s no seconds hand here, and no crown either. Instead, you get three physical buttons on the right; the one on top is the quick toggle for alerts, the button at the bottom is the trigger button for phone functions, while the middle round button which sits where the crown normally would cycle through the functions on the watch itself. This includes the second time zone, the date display and the alert display.
To set the time, you need to pair the watch to your smartphone, which will instruct the watch to set the time correctly. You can also set the time for the second time zone the same way, through the companion app. The date is displayed rather uniquely on the phone, with the hour hand pointing at the day printed on the left side of the dial, and the minute hand pointing at the number on the right side. Also on the right side of the dial is a turning display, which tells you what you’re looking at.
The review unit that I used is the all-black variant, with red accents on the dial of the watch. It’s solid metal and comes with a rubber strap. It’s an impressive looking watch that sticks to the typical design and brand language of Diesel, including the build quality, styling and heft. It will particularly appeal to buyers in their 20s and 30s, thanks to its contemporary urban styling, and tough looks.
One of the biggest advantages of a hybrid smartwatch is one you’ll find here; the watch doesn’t need regular charging like many devices that comes with a digital screen. It runs on standard watch batteries, and will go on for months at a stretch, even with regular use and maintaining a connection to your phone at all times. And how does it maintain a connection to your phone? Bluetooth, of course!
There’s an app for that
Just like pretty much any wearable device available today, the Diesel On Time Hybrid Smartwatch has its own app (available for Android and iOS devices) that enables the watch to connect to your smartphone. While the connection is maintained using Bluetooth, the app controls the functions and settings of the watch, along with decoding the step tracking and sleep information sent from the watch, and displaying it for you to see.
Step tracking is fairly basic and not completely accurate, while sleep tracking is also simple and sometimes inaccurate. The watch itself uses a simple pedometer for tracking, which then translates the data into distance and calories burned. Since the watch is particularly heavy, I wasn’t very comfortable using it as a sleep tracker or for my morning alarms, instead taking it off while I slept. You can also set a countable goal, such as drinking water, exercising or any custom goal, and then use the bottom button to keep a count of it. Every time you press the button, it adds to the counter, which essentially makes this function a glorified instance counter.
The Diesel On Time also has one very important feature that gives it some of its smarts – an in-built vibration motor. Apart from giving you vibration prompts when using the bottom button, the watch can also be set to vibrate when your phone receives a notification or alert from pre-determined apps or people. You can thus set the watch to vibrate only when certain people call. For example, you can set it to only buzz when a family member calls, or with a particular app, such as when you receive a phone call. This selective notification alert is something I was particularly impressed with.
You can also use the app to set alarms, which will cause the phone to vibrate and will alert you silently. You can also set the bottom button to trigger a specific function on the phone; there are four options to choose from, including ringing the phone to help you find it, controlling music when you have a music app open, trigger the camera shutter remotely, or as previously mentioned, to track goals. The app settings let you set step and sleep goals, control the vibration strength, and more. You can also see the battery level of the watch through the app.
Do you need a Diesel On Time hybrid smartwatch?
Well, the utility of this watch entirely depends on how you intend to use wearables. There are some key advantages to the Diesel On Time, the biggest of which is the battery. This isn’t a watch that needs charging at all, thanks to its standard watch battery, and low energy consumption despite its functionality. You don’t need to ever adjust the time manually either; just connect the watch to your smartphone and the electronics will take care of it. And if you prefer good old analog time-keeping, the Diesel On Time is a traditional watch with hands and a dial.
If you want a proper smartwatch, the Diesel On Time isn’t the ideal device for you. Its smart functionality, while nifty and clever in its own ways, is woefully limited compared to a proper smartwatch such as the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S3 or any Android Wear device. With LCD touch screens and smartphone-grade innards, those devices will serve you better as second displays for your smartphone, to let you read and reply to messages and emails, answer or reject calls, track fitness and more.
The Diesel On Time does have its own simple way of dealing with notifications, can act as a remote trigger for certain phone functions, and even serves as a basic fitness tracker, but the Rs 16,795 price tag is more about the branding and craftsmanship than the actual functionality. For a similar price, you will be able to buy either the still-capable Samsung Gear S2, or an Android Wear device such as the Fossil Q Marshal, Moto 360 or Asus ZenWatch 3. While these don’t have the old-world charm of an analog watch, they are ‘smarter’.
And even within the hybrid smarwatch space, there are options from various brands, including Fossil, Emporio Armani, Skagen and Casio, to name a few. However, there’s a very specific appeal that Diesel holds, and it’s one that makes the Diesel On Time a great option if you want some smarts, but also like your watches traditional.