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The Smart Watch Project

THE BEST SMART WATCH?

by Dalibor Lanik

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    After trying out the cheapest SmartWatch there is (only 10$ US), it was obvious that this area has more to offer than just calls and notifications over Bluetooth. What about, not Android Wear, but full Android SmartWatch? Wear is great, but it is just a bit more than notifications. It doesn't support all Android apps. But full Android on a watch? Hell, with Tasker, the possibilities are endless! So I researched and found that the best thing available today is iMacwear M7 Sparta. It is a full Android 4.4.2 SmartWatch, with 1.54" screen and almost all features today's smartphones have. Could Tasker work on it?



ORDERING AND DELIVERY

The cheapest price for this little gem was 130$ US at the time of writing. The order was placed on december the 30th, and arrived in the Czech Republic on january 26th. Couple of days later, I had it. So, almost a month - a standard time for items with free shipping. This time, it came with the box, and there were not any problems with the customs. There are 2 variants of this watch. Black one and silver (metal) with orange strap.



I have decided to buy the silvery one, because I thought that scratches might be less visible on metal.



THE WATCH - HARDWARE

The specifications for this watch are impressive; 1.54" screen with 240 240 pixel resolution, Mediatek MTK6572 Dual Core processor, 512Mb RAM, 4Gb internal storage with slot for SD card (up to 32Gb), GPS, compass, G-sensor, vibrator, speaker, 5 megapixel camera, slot for SIM card supporting 3G, GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz and WCDMA 2100MHz, 600mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11b/g/n... how did they fit all that on a watch???!?!!!? :) My worries that 512 Mb RAM would be too little were unfounded, since the watch works smoothly for a month and a half since I got it.

OLD CHARGING CRADLE

The watch comes with the charging cable and cradle - don't forget that it doesn't have any USB ports since it has to be waterproof, so the cradle is the only solution. The older variants used to have cradle that encompasses the watch, so you could still see the screen while it charges - but you couldn't press the buttons!

NEW CHARGING CRADLE

Luckily, the new version comes with the magnetic cradle that attaches to the back metal plate on your M7, so you can operate the buttons as well. Also, according to the reports on XDA and other places, the old one was prone to breaking, so this is a good change.

The 600mA battery is pretty decent, if you charge the watch to 100% and turn off data and Wifi, and leave it overnight, it will still be at 100% in the morning. Fantastic. Without data and WiFi, it will last you for several days, probably a week or more. I never tried that long because I just like playing with it. But it looses very little juice. If you have WiFi on during day, it will last you like 2-3 days. If you play with it... it will manage through the day. That is to be expected. As with all devices, the main consumption goes to the screen.

The charger is great, but the only problem is that you have to carry it on yourself if you want to charge the watch. That is the price of being water-proof. It charges the watch pretty quickly, from 50% to 100% in like 1 hour.

Talking about the screen, it is really well lit, I have it to like 20-30% at all times and I always see everything. I rarely set it any higher, maybe only on direct sunlight when reading very small text.

THE WATCH - INSTALLATION

Strange to have section for installation when it comes to watch, right? Think again! This watch is supposed to be ip67 waterproof and that means that it is harder to open, that it can't have standard USB micro connector etc. Well, this is a bit of a problem. You do get a small screwdriver with the package so you can do this yourself, but please read on...



Installing SIM card is no big deal. There is cover on the side of the watch that is fastened with 2 small screws. You have to pay attention and have good sight to do it, but it is really no big deal. There is a piece of rubber under the metal "lid" and it all fits perfectly and is pretty straightforward and you'll do it in no time, unless you're completely anti-technical type of person :)



The SD card is another matter. There is no slot visible from the outside but you have to open the back lid of the watch, remove the battery and insert the card. This can be pretty tricky as the screws are small and there also is a piece of rubber between the lid and the watch. The screews just don't go deep enough and I suppose you have to apply a significant amount of force in order to screw them back in. So, removing the cover is not a problem, but after around 20 minutes of trying to screw it back, I just gave up and screwed the lid back on without the rubber insulation.



Then I took the watch to the professional clock repair store and the girl that worked there also tried for 10 minutes to screw the lid with the rubber insulator and also gave up and replaced all 4 screws for the longer ones. That is at least my experience. Otherwise I had no other problems so far. So you won't be changing your SD card very often. Not that it is needed - if you put (now) relatively cheap 32Gb SD card it should be more than enough for anything. Hey, it's a watch, you probably don't have bigger capacity SD in your phone!

THE WATCH - SOFTWARE

The watch comes with pretty standard android 4.4.2 and couple of specialized apps that are better suited to such small screen. The settings are pretty standard, but there are different launcher, dialer, contacts and SMS apps. You can install almost anything that will work with such a small screen. Most of the apps work, but some are too small to be practical and some just don't work because they don't display properly. But don't worry, most of the apps work just fine. It is even possible to type on builtin keyboard. I tried several replacement keyboards and by far the one built in the watch is the best. The SMS and contact apps are nothing much but they work just fine. Also the launcher is pretty basic but it has big icons and you can organize apps in folders so I guess that is enough.

Ofcourse, you can change everything to your liking - it is a plain vanilla Android! First of all, you need to root this baby. This is done by using Kingroot 3.5. You just run it and press the green button and after a while it reboots and voila! Root. For me it worked immediately, on first try, but I've read that sometimes it takes several tries for it to work (as much as 10 tries!).

Next thing to do is install Xposed framework. You should use version 2.6.1, it works fine. Useful modules? I use, for the time being, XMate hacks, which displays status bar in Nova and Apex launchers (which both work fine), and Secure Settings which are needed in Tasker in order to be able to change some system settings. I also read that App Settings works just fine (set per-app settings), but didn't have time to try out.

So what is the best setup? The main thing, ofcourse, for most of us will be selection of watch-faces. After all, this is a watch. Since you can't add any new faces to the existing setup, there is only one app that comes to aid - WatchMaker Live Wallpaper. This app has thousands of watch faces, all free to download and use. For example here and here. The downside to this app is that it works only as a live-wallpaper. What does that mean in practice? Well, that if you put live wallpaper, you can't have any icons over it, or you won't be able to see the watch. And it looks ugly. The original concept of M7 is that watch is displayed as lock screen and once you unlock it, it displays launcher. This changes the concept entirely. What I did is disabled the original lock screen, installed Apex launcher (for me it works slightly better than Nova in this case) and put WatchMaker Live Wallpaper watch as a wallpaper. In Apex, I created like 5 screens. Default, middle screen has no icons at all. Other screens have grid of like 5x5 icons and have icons only in corners of the screen. That way you stll get some icons on your homescren and they don't cover the watch very much.

apex1  apex2  apex3

With these 4 screens, you have 16 of your favorite apps on desktop and the rest you can select from the app-drawer. I found that the best grid for the app drawer is 3x3 icons.

appdrawer  menuapex  selectface

To make things easier, you can set gestures in Apex or Nova. I set it so that sliding from the top down brings the notification screen, sliding it from the bottom up brings app drawer. By default, sliding from the right edge is back and sliding from the left edge is menu. Perfect! I also made double tap popup the window to change clock face. I did this in Tasker, but more on that later, in separate article. I also made icons in Apex slightly bigger than 100%. You have to experiment a bit and set it to your liking.

notifications  quicksettings  mynotifications

Now from the screenshot of the Apex menu, you can see why I chose Apex over Nova - even though Nova might be slightly more customizable than Apex, it had one functionality that really bothered me - popup dialog on screen lock. On such a small screen (and on my mobile phone as well) it makes sense to lock the screen so you wouldn't move icons by accident. Especially on such a small screen, it is easy to interpret slide for press and drag, and you end up with your icons in a mess. It is not easy to position them on such a small screen. So I used lock screen in Nova. But every time there was a longer press, Nova popped up a dialog asking if I wanted to unlock the screen! It really happened a lot. In Apex, if you long press on a screen  nothing happens. You unlock it from the menu. Hence Apex instead of Nova.

Another useful app is AirDroid. Believe it or not, this is the only app capable of remote desktop from your watch to the PC. This is really needed if you are to implemet any automation with Tasker, especially if you want to crate your own scenes (dialogues, buttons, etc in Tasker jargon). I freeze it with Titanium Backup when I'm not using it in order to conserve RAM usage (you know Android apps, they all want to run all the time).

Other apps that work well are GMail, Google Maps, AdFree (removes ads in apps and bowser), ES Explorer, Keep, B92 (serbian news)...

For alternate launchers, I have also tried Big Launcher (there is also Big Launcher Weareable which is even better because it is adjusted to small screens, but I didn't try that one), and also Koala Phone Launcher which has big buttons and some things are perfect for small screens. Good one is also Square Home 2. But all in all, I prefered to use Apex and just have watch as live wallpaper on every screen :)

Thing I just found out: to enter the engineering mode, enter *#*#3646633#*#* in the dialer. Just pay attention not to mess up anything! :)

IN PRACTICE

As you probably know, M7 is a stand alone unit. It is not a device to be used in pair with Smartphone. It has it's own SIM card, so phone is not needed. But sometimes it is easier to control it from the bigger screen. Also, it would be nice to be able to receive notifications from phone, since most people will still call you on mobile phone. If you want to talk on M7, you can, but over speakerphone only. Or you can use Bluetooth headset with it. But still, the smartphone is main device. And since M7 runs normal Android, there is no integration with the phone as on Android Wear. That's when Tasker comes in handy. You can make most of the functionality of Wear or other "Smart" watches (like the really cheap U8 I reviewed here) that are really simple but have functionality the M7 is lacking. And it is also more fun to do it yourself! And you can customize it perfectly to your needs and liking. But that is a matter for another article, please find the link at the end of this text, where I will explain how to make remote calls, remote notifications and change clock faces from your phone.

Finaly, here is a short screen recording of M7 in action:




CONCLUSION

At 130$, this smartwatch is really a best buy. After a month of use, I like it more and more. It is not for the types of people that like everything out of the box, since it is lacking several things much cheaper watches have. It is more for those that like to play with their gadgets and who like to customize, even though it is pretty useful by itself as a spare phone. So if you are a type that likes to tweak and customize your gadgets, and if you are ready to start your customization, click to the next article on the link below...


Customizing your M7 Sparta


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