Hands on: MyKronoz ZeSplash

The fun, colorful ZeSplash smartwatch looks past the basics of only delivering notifications to your wrist, and ups the convenience factor by letting you make and receive calls using the device instead.

If there’s one country traditionally synonymous with making watches, it’s Switzerland, so it’s a bit surprising we haven’t seen all that many smartwatches coming from it. The first to potentially gain international recognition is the ZeSplash, produced by a company called MyKronoz, and freshly announced at CES 2014.

The company has been around since the beginning of last year and has a comprehensive range of smartwatches already; an impressive achievement given its young age. The ZeSplash stands apart from its previous models though, as it has a great design, is well built, and doesn’t just rehash the same old features we’re slowly getting used to on smartwatches. Instead, it does something a little different and doesn’t just get lost in the crowd.

More on that later, but first let’s talk about the design, something which can almost solely make or break a smartwatch. The ZeSplash comes down on the right side of the fence. It’s chunky, but well proportioned so it doesn’t look unwieldy, even on a small wrist. It’s available in several colors, including a pair of two-tone models that look particularly striking. It’s obviously not a dress watch, but we love the sporty look of the blue and white version seen here, over the very sensible (and a bit boring) black.

MyKronoz Ze Splash hands on voice control

The watch is controlled using a set of side-mounted buttons or by using the touchscreen. It’s a capacitive display measuring 1.54-inches, with a 240 x 240 pixel resolution. It’s very responsive too, and the proprietary OS is filled with large, finger-friendly buttons. We never found it awkward at all. Digging into the software reveals a lost phone mode (so if the watch loses contact it’ll alert its wearer), a pedometer, and a voice recorder. The calculator, normally the last thing we’d try, made us smile. It showed the ZeSplash has a willingness for gesture controls, and a swipe to right deleted the previously entered number.

All this is viewed on a color LCD, and as you would expect the battery life suffers. Just 90 hours – that’s not quite four days – can be expected from the 280mAh cell inside. This is standby time, so it could potentially halve under heavy use. It’s the price you must pay if you’re set on having a color display.

Going back to the ZeSplash’s break from what’s rapidly becoming tradition in the world of smartwatches. If you like the idea of answering calls with your watch, the ZeSplash has you covered. Once coupled to your phone using Bluetooth, the built-in speaker and microphone make it possible to make and answer calls, then hold a conversation, and end the call when you’re done. It’ll connect to both iOS and Android smartphones, and Siri is available using the watch on the former.

So, not your usual, everyday feature then. The ZeSplash takes another surprising turn, as out of the box, it doesn’t support notification alerts for iOS. This is quite a departure from what we’ve become used to with our wrist worn gadgets, and we’ve asked the company to confirm if this is permanent, or if it’ll be addressed in a future update. Android users must download a companion app, which will bring vibrating alerts to the watch whenever an SMS, Gmail message, or social networking alert comes through. The iOS situation is unfortunate, and may impact sales if it can’t be fixed.

MyKronoz told us it will have the ZeSplash on sale in Europe next month, and that the U.S. will follow afterwards. When it does arrive, the price is going to be a very reasonable $150, matching the basic Pebble. This makes it affordable, and as it doesn’t skimp on features, good value too. We think it’s the sweet spot for smartwatch pricing.

MyKronoz’s decision to concentrate on the dialling and making calls looks to have paid off, as it’s different to other models around the same price; plus the chunky, funky looks should see it appeal to both men and women. Here’s hoping for some news on its eventual U.S release soon.

Highs

  • Funky, colorful design
  • Wireless dialling
  • iOS and Android compatibility
  • Competitive price

Lows

  • Uncertain U.S. release date
  • Color screen means battery life is short
  • Notifications aren’t universal
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