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Tuesday
Jan082013

Cookoo Smart Bluetooth Watch Review

The Cookoo is a $130 watch that we've heard about not long ago when it made it's way onto the crowdfunding platform they call Kickstarter. Made by a brand called ConnecteDevice which is secretly developed by Bluetrek, a company that specializes in making Bluetooth headsets such as the ultra-sleek carbon fiber-made Carbon headset, the Cookoo is a smart Bluetooth connected wristwatch plainly cloaked under a minimalist analog watch face.

If you didn't get the memo yet, telling time isn't the main focus of this watch. Think of it as an extension of your smartphone that's worn on your wrist. The Cookoo is an iOS and Android app driven watch that pulls various notifications and alerts from your smartphone or tablet ensuring that you'll never miss an important call or notification; by displaying them on your wrist using visual, audible and sensory alerts. How does it compare against the other smart watches including the Pebble and the G-Shock DB-6900? Join us after the break as we go wrist-on with the Cookoo.

You're busy with your daily life and you have urgent messages and calls that you don’t want to miss, but sometimes you just don’t hear your ringtone or feel your phone vibrate which has happened to me more times than I can remember. It’s frustrating to check your phone and find that you have a bunch of messages or calls that you had no idea you received. ConnecteDevice has created a solution that will help you avoid all of these nuisances.

Housed inside a unique bird house packaging, the Cookoo watch definitely lives up to its Twitter-inspired and social networking name. The packaging can be reused as an actual bird house/nest, which is a very cool idea. Inside you'll find the expected user manual and nothing else of importance.

The watch face is a very basic analog one featuring a second, minute and hour hands with a clean interface of blue dials depending on the color chosen - which is offered in five different colors. Analog watch dial aside, the Cookoo watch of course features a hidden monochrome LCD display that springs into life when a notification is received in real time, or upon pressing the Mode or Command button. An icon will blink indicating the type of alert or notification received thru your smartphone or tablet ranging from an incoming call, missed call, calendar alert, Facebook message/post and a low phone battery alert. Rather than displaying text or detailed information like caller id, the Cookoo's simple icon concept is quick to acknowledge but it lacks convenience and actual useful information. It's worth mentioning that both the LCD display and watch dial lack a simple date indicator.

When you get an incoming call or any other notification for that matter, the Cookoo watch will vibrate and sound a chime only once. While I can appreciate the short vibration on my wrist, that isn't enough to grab attention. The app should at least give you the option of customizing the Cookoo's notification features to continuously chime and vibrate depending on your preference, including the ability for a pulsating backlight to visually grab your attention. Not only are these two notifying means weak, the display isn't bright enough nor is it very legible in broad daylight. It isn't much of a problem during the night when turning on the blue backlight to see what's on the display.

There are four function buttons around the watch. A dedicated backlight button, a "Connect" button that lets you turn on the smart features which essentially pairs the watch with your device, a "Command" button which can be configured via the app to perform various tasks like remotely triggering your iPhone's camera or dropping a Map pin at your current location - and lastly a "Mode" button which is highlighted in a toyish blue color. It enables you to dismiss notifications and toggle between the notification settings. Users can adjust the way the Cookoo watch notifies them by toggling between the different settings for notifications which include a silent mode, vibrate mode, beep mode and vibrate plus beep mode. A traditional knurled pull-crown lets you adjust the time.

Even if you don’t have your phone on you, the Cookoo watch will still notify you as long as you're in the same vicinity of the Bluetooth range. And if you're not in range, it'll sound an alert that'll notify you that you've forgotten your smartphone which is a welcome feature. Bluetooth 4.0 keeps it connected with your phone at all times, or at least that's the proclaimed gist of it, while drawing very little power from the internal battery.

Another useful feature is that the Cookoo watch can help you quickly locate your device a la Find My iPhone/iPad in and around your home or office by sounding a coo-koo chime thru your device much like the "locate handset" feature of a wireless home phone. You do the same from your device if you want to quickly find where you left your Coookoo watch. It'll beep until you find it.

The best part is, you don’t have to recharge it everyday or even once a week. The Cookoo watch uses a button-sized battery to power the Bluetooth enabled features including the vibrating motor, and it will last you the entire year before you'll need to replace it. In addition, there's a smaller button-sized battery that separately powers the clock movement. Accessing the water-tight battery compartment is as easy as twisting the metal cap around the back using a coin.

Android support is currently non-existent unfortunately, but ConnecteDevice promises support and an Android app very soon.

The build quality isn't all too impressive I might add. The 44mm casing is partially made from a cheap feeling and looking plastic that should never be caught dead on a watch that costs more than $30 to be honest. And there's lots of it given the thickness. There's a brushed metal bezel thrown in to counter the cheapy plastic used, but it does not justice - which surrounds the watch face that is covered with a mineral crystal. Nothing about it says attention to detail or care for quality construction.

I fear that as it looks now, the Cookoo watch seems like its still in its prototype phase and it seemingly cannot stuff the hardware into a thin profile just yet. Buttons are also made out of plastic and are horribly mushy and offer no tactile feedback nor an audible chime for confirmation. You wouldn't know if you've actually pressed them correctly until something happens, and that's just unacceptable. And don't get me started about the side view of the Cookoo. You could probably find a better looking watch with $2 and a claw machine.

Despite its bulky thickness, the Cookoo watch is very comfortable to wear and there's nothing to fault here in that regard. The adjustable silicone strap feels velvety smooth against the wrist. The material is a bit tacky and grippy meaning it tends to hold the watch put when worn on the wrist, yet it doesn't pull on hairs. However, lint is easily attracted to the silicone strap like metal to a magnet. A small tab neatly gathers the excess strap ends as you'd expect with any normal watch. And there's plenty of strap length to fit any wrist. 

If there's anything more important than a smart watch doing smart things, is that it must work as it should straight out of the packaging. No matter how fancy it is, if the "smart" features in a smart watch don't work properly, it ain't worth your valuable time. Sadly, I've got bad news to share with you. The Cookoo shows potential, but it fails in both user friendliness and execution. But worst of all, its name ironically describes its Bluetooth behaviors precisely. It went cookoo on our ass. Pairing the Cookoo watch with an iOS device is strictly done thru the free Cookoo app, and that didn't go quite as well as it should have. Bluetooth pairing was a constant battle from the start. And once the Cookoo app successfully (more like miraculously) paired the watch with my iPhone 5 after countless attempts, I could finally test out the talked about notification features only to be disappointed with what I was presented with.

Once paired, the Cookoo watch is an unreliable source for receiving the few supported notifications from your smartphone. It constantly drops connection even with the app opened. And that's a bit surprising given the fact that Bluetrek is behind it. It's isn't clear whether these Bluetooth issues are caused by the poor app support or the Cookoo's internal hardware. As of this review, the Cookoo watch can only notify you of an incoming or missed call, a new Facebook post/message, a calendar reminder and low iPhone battery. Pretty barebones notifications if you ask us.

The promised Twitter, email and text message notifications aren't present nor supported by the Cookoo app and that'll be a big letdown for most people. ConnecteDevice does not have an iOS app for the iPad at this time. The Cookoo app is poorly put together and is in desperate need of updating and bug fixing. One of the more concerning issues is that when the app is running in the background it constantly uses location services in iOS when uncalled for, considerably reducing the iPhone/iPad's battery as a result.

ConnecteDevice pretty much released a smart watch that quite frankly isn't as smart as it should have been in an unfinished, unsupported state. In conclusion, the Cookoo is a poorly designed and bulky package with limited basic features that aren't very useful in practice. And worse of all, the one thing the Cookoo watch should have nailed down from the start is a reliable Bluetooth connection and effortless pairing. Sadly, this is not the case. More over, at $130 - the Cookoo lacks informative smart features like a bright legible digital display, caller id, twitter and email notifications and other true smart watch features you'd otherwise get with the $150 Pebble. You'd be cookoo to buy this watch at this stage; even if it were to be offered for 19.95 let alone $130.

Cookoowatch.com

 

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