The hybrid smartwatch is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it gives you the chance to enjoy a “smart” watch with traditional looks, and a curse because its very existence gives every brand on the planet a chance to augment its range with a fashionable smart product. You know, to prove the brand is down with the kids.
Emporio Armani is the latest to put its name on a hybrid smartwatch. It’s called the EA Connected Watch, and we’ve been wearing it to see if it’s more than just a cash-in by a big-name fashion company keen to get in on all the wearable tech fun.
Armani clothes can go either way: super-stylish, wonderful colors, and flattering cuts on one side — and bizarre catwalk-style touches, massive logos, and ultra-modern looks on the other. The EA Connected Watch thankfully falls into the first camp, and is contemporary and sexy without being dull or resorting to over-the-top flourishes. Despite the fashionable brand name, it’s suitable for everyone to wear, regardless of whether you’re a fashionista. Well, anyone who doesn’t have skinny wrists, because this is a large watch.
Our review model is made from stainless steel and has a stainless steel metal bracelet, all resplendent in stealthy matte black. It’s understated, damn smart, and does an excellent impression of a watch costing a lot of money. When I had the strap adjusted at a local store, the technician working on it thought it cost three or four times the actual $295 price. That’s a pretty significant reaction — designer products are supposed to be judged that way.
The Armani logo sits at the 12 o’clock mark on the dial, with Emporio Armani branding underneath it on the face, but it’s not too in-your-face. The numbers have been replaced by shiny lines, the slim hands are similarly chromed, and a single sub-eye shows further information. There are three buttons on the side of the body. It’s not a sports watch, so don’t expect timers or a rotating bezel. It’s the same basic layout and operation employed by Fossil on its ever-expanding range of hybrid Q smartwatches. That’s because the EA Connected Watch is manufactured by Fossil, and that’s no bad thing at all.
It’s suitable for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a fashionista.
The metal strap has a double clasp underneath, which is a bit of a pain to fasten, but very comfortable and secure once you’ve managed. Despite being a metal link strap, it didn’t catch any hair on my wrist (at least, not very often), and although it’s not a slim watch, it happily slipped under cuffs without a problem. However, it’s heavy — considerably heavier than the Q Crewmaster we recently reviewed, yet the functionality and the build is fairly similar. This gives us the feeling the extra weight may be artificial, there to make an impression and boost its expensive, luxury aspirations.
You can buy the watch with a leather strap, and while it’s unlikely to make a massive difference to its heft, it may feel more secure. It’s the 43mm body that’s heavy, and you’ll notice it flopping around on your wrist with the metal strap because it’s impossible to precisely tailor to your wrist size. Armani doesn’t give an official weight, but it tipped our scales at 151 grams. The other drawback of the weight is it’s uncomfortable to wear during the night. It’s also not a watch to wear while at the gym or playing any kind of sport. It just doesn’t look quite right in those environments.
There are two metal strap models, one in black and the other in steel, plus three with leather straps, with a choice of gold, steel, or gray bodies. The straps are 22mm and can be swapped out, if you prefer. Emporio Armani’s Connected Watch looks absolutely stunning when worn in the right situation. Very much like any other piece of Armani fashion wear.
Features and app
The EA Connected Watch shares the same operating method as the Fossil Q hybrid watches. There are three buttons on the side of the body. The top alternates the sub-eye from showing progress toward your step goal and the date.
Anyone put off by the complexity of a full smartwatch will appreciate how easy a hybrid is to use.
The center button shows a second time zone when pressed, and the third button activates a feature on your phone, which is set up in the app. For example, it can be used as a shutter release for the camera, or to control music playback. The apps in question need to be open to use these shortcuts, and some features require multiple presses of the button.
Connecting and setting up the watch took less than five minutes, and the Bluetooth link activated on our iPhone 7 Plus without a problem. The app is also available for Android. A firmware update downloaded and installed first time, taking only a few minutes. The app works in the same way as the Fossil app, but has been given an Armani makeover. It actually looks a lot better in places — the graphs and activity tracking are real standouts — but some of the buttons are a little small and easily missed. We like the user manual built into the app, which explains how to use the watch and its features. It’s not always obvious what the buttons do, or how to read the sub-eye, especially for newcomers, and this is a welcome addition.
Compared to setting up an Apple Watch, getting started with the EA Connected Watch is a breeze. There’s no cloud accounts, no passwords to input, no payment systems to approve, and no user agreements. Anyone put off by the complexity of a full smartwatch will appreciate how easy a hybrid is to use.
Activity tracking, notifications, and battery
Notifications can be delivered to the watch, and are handled in an unusual way that ensures you get the most information quickly, even though the watch doesn’t have a digital display. Which apps send notifications to the watch are selected in the app, and you can choose up to six, each of which are assigned a number. If WhatsApp notifications are given the number 2, then the watch hands move to the 2 when a message comes through, and the watch vibrates to alert you.
The extra weight may be artificial, there to make an impression and boost its expensive, luxury aspirations.
Six apps may sound restrictive, but it’s enough to add calls, texts, a couple of social networks, a messaging app, and an email program. Although how much use the email notification would be is up for debate. I found limiting the notifications the watch alerted me about, specifically avoiding email, increased its value for me personally. The notification alerts were reliable, and there are three different vibration strengths, although the difference between them is minimal. Don’t expect it to shake off your wrist, even when turned up to maximum.
Wear the watch all day, and it’ll track your steps, estimate your calories burned, measure the distance you’ve traveled, and monitor your sleep at night. All this data is presented in a series of graphs in the app, which, in the case of step count, separate your daily activity into three categories: Light, moderate, and intense. Sleep phases are also reported, and averages for both sets of data recorded. The EA Connected Watch isn’t a fitness tracker, and is there to give you a basic overview of your activity, so don’t expect any deep insights, motivational features, or individual sports activity tracking.
We compared the step count to a Fitbit Charge, and the pair were usually within a hundred steps of each other. Unless you sync the app and check, the EA Connected doesn’t show you exactly how many steps you’ve walked, with the sub-eye instead using a gradually larger bar to indicate how close you are to the goal. It’s actually the perfect metaphor for the EA Connected’s approach to fitness in general. It’ll tell you something, but won’t get caught up in the messy specifics. It’s a watch for wearing and looking good, not for sweating it out in the gym or out on the track.
One distinct advantage of most hybrid smartwatches is the battery. The EA Connected Watch has a coin cell battery which should last at least six months, depending on whether you have notifications active or not. Not adding another device to your list of things to charge is a definite bonus, and the battery is easy to swap out. All that’s needed is to remove the watch’s rear cover, using an included key.
Warranty, availability, and price
An EA Connected Watch with a polished stainless steel body and a leather strap costs $245, or 200 British pounds, and is the cheapest model. All the other versions will set you back $295, or 260 British pounds. Each is available through Armani’s online store.
The watch is covered by Fossil’s two-year warranty, which includes materials and workmanship under normal conditions. It doesn’t include the strap or the battery, and won’t be honored if the watch has been mistreated or abused.Our Take
With the merest nod in the direction of activity tracking, the EA Connected Watch is a contemporary, fashionable timepiece with just the right amount of tech inside to satisfy us.
The DT Accessory Pack
How long will it last?
The stainless steel body, water-resistance, and on our review model, a metal strap mean the EA Connected Watch will be able to survive all but the most violent of accidents. Even the battery has at least six months of life in it before running out. Unless you’re careless, or drop it from a great height onto something very hard, the EA Connected will easily outlast any of your own fickle fashion preferences.
Because it’s a connected watch, its longevity is more affected by the app. At the time of writing, it operates without fault. Unless Fossil stops supporting it, or abandons it after a catastrophic update, everything should be fine.
What are the alternatives?
There are many challengers to the EA Connected Watch. In the hybrid wearable world, the strongest competition comes from Fossil itself. We adore the $175 Q Crewmaster, and found it to be more versatile in its style and provide greater fitness insight on the watch itself, due to its numbered step tracker sub-eye. It’s also cheaper, and there are plenty of designs to choose from.
Due to the price of the EA Connected, it faces competition from the $400 Withings Activité and $150 Activité Pop, along with the $180 Runtastic Moment Elite. These all match classy looks with excellent activity- and fitness-tracking features. Plus, those with small wrists may find the subtle looks of the Withings watches suit them better than the masculine EA Connected. Additionally, Misfit’s $170 Phase and Garmin’s $130 Vivomove should be considered, if fitness is more the priority.
Many will be attracted to the EA Connected watch due to the Armani name. Buying a watch is primarily a looks-based decision, and the cachet of having a famous designer brand attached only increases its draw. For this reason, you may want to check out the $300 Micheal Kors Android Wear watches, and if money is no option, Tag Heuer’s Carrera Connected, too.
Should you buy it?
Yes, provided you like the style, and don’t have a problem with the brand name’s prominence, then the EA Connected Watch puts everything we like about the Fossil Q hybrid watches into a more fashion-forward body. It works without fault, makes us feel pretty special when its on our wrist, and doesn’t have to be charged up regularly. Those are three very strong positives.
However, in the same way you’re unlikely to buy a pair of shoes without trying them on at some point, we’d say that the size of the EA Connected Watch may mean it doesn’t suit everyone. Try it on if you can, and if you love the way it looks, you’re going to be satisfied with the way it works.