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MyKronoz ZeTime review

MyKronoz’ ZeTime juggles traditional design with smart features, drops the ball

While smartwatches like the Apple Watch Series 3 offer up a wide variety of smartphone-like functions, hybrid watches opt for subtle notification alerts along with some smartphone control options. The benefits of the latter include more than a few months of battery life, and a wearable that looks like a beautiful, traditional watch. Still, there’s no denying the benefits of a digital display on a watch — and that’s where Switzerland-based MyKronoz comes in. The MyKronoz ZeTime Hybrid Smartwatch tries to bridge the gap between smartwatches and hybrids, and in our review we explain why it’s promising, but the tech doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Uninspired design

There are a few different versions of MyKronoz’s ZeTime. The regular ZeTime has a silicone band, which you can get in white or black, with a silver stainless steel case and sapphire glass. Then there’s the ZeTime Premium, which adds a black or pink gold case options, along with leather strap variants. The ZeTime Elite introduces a gold case, with either metal mesh or link bands. At CES 2018, the company introduced a “Petite” size option, which now means you can get any of these watches in 44mm or 39mm. Our review model is the 44mm ZeTime Premium with a brushed leather band.

At a first glance, the ZeTime looks like a traditional watch. It’s a tad bulkier than most hybrids, but it still manages to sit comfortably on the wrist. The lugs jut out, creating a sizable gap between the edges of the case and the wrist, but it doesn’t affect comfort. There are three buttons on the right edge of the stainless steel case: A crown that rotates, and two rectangular, clicky buttons above and below it.

The ZeTime is rather uninspiring.

The watch face is encased in sapphire glass, which is a nice surprise. Sapphire glass is durable and is extra scratch resistant — it’s often used on more expensive wearables. While the glass is a great choice, it still manages to attract a lot of fingerprints. Worse yet, we noticed the stainless steel case picks up scuff marks rather easily.

The leather band on the ZeTime Premium feels cheap, but thankfully the bands have a quick-release pin so you can easily swap it out for any other 22mm strap.

Overall, there’s nothing that really stands out from the ZeTime’s design. It’s rather uninspiring and looks a little dull, but that’s because the screen is off. That’s right — there’s a digital screen behind the analog watch hands. It’s where you can see your notifications, and the touchscreen glass lets you interact with everything.

A brilliant blend of digital and analog

MyKronoz bills the ZeTime as the first watch to combine a color touchscreen with mechanical watch hands, and it’s certainly a fresh take of hybrid smartwatches. This combination allows the watch to use its full color TFT panel only when necessary. While the watch hands are always ticking, the screen is only activated when you press its buttons or receive a notification.

MyKronoz ZeTime review
Steven Winkleman/Digital Trends
Steven Winkleman/Digital Trends

That doesn’t mean the watch uses a Quartz or another type of movement — the watch hands are simply controlled through software. When the watch’s battery dies, time doesn’t continue ticking. It does allow for neat tricks like both hands aligning horizontally when you get a notification so you can see the digital screen as much as possible; and the hands automatically adjusting the date and time whatever time zone you’re in.

The TFT screen behind these mechanical hands, however, is disappointing. There’s a lot of glare from the sapphire glass, and the screen doesn’t get too bright, so it can be difficult to read in broad daylight. The resolution is also low at 240 x 240 pixels — most smartwatches now have a higher resolution, and it’s easy to see the pixels on notifications and app icons on the ZeTime.

Sadly, you have to press a button to turn on the screen; you can’t just tap the glass.

Unintuitive interface

So what exactly can you see with the digital watch face? First off, there’s a collection of watch faces to choose from, so you can set a nice backdrop to the mechanical hands. You can also make your own watch face via the ZeTime app on your phone, but it frustratingly takes a few minutes to load up on the watch.

MyKronoz ZeTime review
Steven Winkleman/Digital Trends
Steven Winkleman/Digital Trends

Other than designing or choosing your watch face, the display serves as the way to see your notifications. Like an Android Wear watch, swipe up from the bottom of the screen — or rotate the crown — to scroll through your notifications. There’s no haptic feedback, making it difficult to tell what you’re scrolling through, especially because the font is small.

Tap on a notification to open it, and swipe to the left to get rid of it. The touchscreen doesn’t register our taps sometimes, so we found ourselves repeatedly tapping or swiping just to clear one notification. There’s no visual alert when you delete something, so it’s unclear what exactly happened when you interact with the watch in a certain way. There’s a fair amount of delay with the touchscreen as well, so many times the watch feels slow and unresponsive.

The watch feels slow and unresponsive.

The top button takes you to the home screen, while the bottom button takes you back one step in the menu; it can also turn the watch on or off.

Since the ZeTime uses a proprietary operating system, there are limits to what you can do. You can receive notifications for emails, texts, calls, calendar events, Facebook, and in general any notification alert that shows up in your phone’s notification stream will be available on the watch. It’s very rudimentary, but it’s good to see that at the very least you can see all of your notifications. Sadly, clearing a notification doesn’t remove it from your phone. You can’t respond to anything, or interact with these alerts any other way.

Fitness functions and charging

If you flip the ZeTime over, you’ll see an optical heart rate sensor. The sensor monitors your heart rate throughout the day, and you can find the full data via the app. You can also manually check your heart rate. Comparing the data with manual measurements, we found the sensor to be incredibly accurate.

There’s also a built-in pedometer for basic fitness tracking functions, including steps, calories burned, distance traveled, and there’s even a sleep tracker. These functions work well and provide relatively accurate data, similar to our experience with other hybrid and smartwatches.

Battery life is one of the better qualities of the ZeTime smartwatch. While MyKronoz claims you will get about three days when using all the features on the watch, we were still at 30 percent battery life at the end of our third day. If you opt for the default settings and don’t use all the features, the battery will last about a month. Although we didn’t test the unit for that length of time, we only saw a 20 percent drop after a week of use. This puts the battery life on par with that the Nokia Steel HR, another hybrid smartwatch with a heart-rate tracker.

Charging is fairly simple. There’s a little circular puck you place the watch on, and it starts charging. The dock is magnetic, but the connection is very weak; you can easily knock the watch off the charger. It took about an hour for the watch to fully charge.

Overall Impression

The MyKronoz ZeTime Hybrid Smartwatch has a lot of potential, but the benefits of the digital display are under utilized. The mechanical hands and great excellent battery life make it a solid option for people who want a watch that lets you read your notifications. But the low-resolution screen and frustrating user interface makes the ZeTime a watch that’s difficult to recommend.

The ZeTime starts at $200, with the Premium costing $230, and the Elite sitting at $250. If visible notifications are a must, we recommend going for a cheap Android Wear watch like the Mobvoi Ticwatch S or spend a little more on the Samsung Gear Sport. If you prefer the traditional look of a watch, check out the Nokia Steel HR.

DT Editors' Rating: 2/5

Steven Winkelman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven writes about technology, social practice, and books. At Digital Trends, he focuses primarily on mobile and wearables…
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