(Pocket-lint) - Cogito is looking to shake-up the smartwatch market with its newly announced Cogito Pop - an affordable, fun and fashionable watch that also offers basic notification from your top apps via four icons on the watch face.
Smartwatches are all the rage at the moment and as new models grace us with their presence seemingly every week, it's difficult to keep up with what's hot and make the decision on which one is right for you. Cogito hasn't opted for the tech-heavy approach with the Pop, as there's no screen-based interface, nor is there the hefty price tag that would go with such a feature. The Pop is a watch first and foremost, with physical watch hands and a battery that lasts just as a normal watch would - no need to recharge every few days.
Described by the company as a "connected watch", we've been wearing the Pop to see whether Cogito is onto something special and how it fits into the wider smartwatch market.
What is Cogito Pop?
The Cogito Pop smartwatch is the cheaper of two smartwatches launched by Cogito, alongside the Classic model which has a more premium build.
Both watches operate just as any normal watch, yet the addition of iOS and Android compatibility means the devices can notify when you receive a call, email, text or message via one of four light-up icons and an accompanying audible beep.
With the Pop you won't be able to see who is calling or what type of message you have received, but the icons acts as a subtle way or alerting you to check your phone. It's a simple way of managing your phone without the need to check for that important imminent call.
Smart, comfortable design
The Cogito Pop features a combination of a plastic face, chunky metal action buttons plus a lightweight rubber strap. We loved how our review sample looks - ours is the bright pink, but there are more subtle colour variants ranging from blue to grey, black or white.
The Pop's strap is flexible, comfortable and easily adjustable to fit the wrist. There are nine holes and it fastens like a standard watch with a single plastic pin that slides into the hole to secure it, while the rest of the strap slides through the square hole and into a subtly branded loop to keep it flush. It felt secure, looked good and fitted well with no excess rubber strap left flapping about to catch on anything.
We like the visible indented dots on the outside of the strap as they made for a more exciting feature than a boring plain rubber strap, plus the raised dots on the inside of the strap sit against the skin for added grip. Because of this even in hot weather we didn't get a sweaty wrist and given how lightweight and comfortable the Pop was to wear we barely noticed it was there.
However, in addition to the bright pink colour variant the watch also features a chunky face and prominent action buttons - it's certainly not a subtle design and one that won't suit all outfits. We found it looked much better with more casual clothing rather than anything smart.
These metal action button to the right-hand side make the watch look a little more premium than plastic and rubber finishes would otherwise insinuate. We found the trio of them easy to use, with the middle ribbed dial allowing you to change the time when pulled out half way, the power button sat below this and the command button above.
The watch face features the Cogito logo as a stand-in for the three o'clock line marker. We liked this design feature as it adds a little something extra to an otherwise plain face. It's easy to read the time too, despite the hands' colours blending in with the design.
As the Cogito Pop is water-resistant to 10ATM it also has a surround rotational bezel typical of a diving watch. This displays in five-minute increments from 0 to 55 and turns anti-clockwise should you want to measure elapsed time. It's not something we needed beyond dipping in the bath or shower, which was no trouble for the watch at all, but it's also worth noting Cogito's own warning: "This is not a scuba-diving watch ... to maintain water resistance do not press any buttons or pull out the crown while under water."
A smartphone extension
At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking the Cogito Pop was just a watch and nothing more. It's not until you pair it up with your smartphone and setup the notifications that it takes on a new lease of life.
There are four notification icons that will light-up when you receive the respective notifications on your smartphone: there's a speech bubble icon that sits between 10 and 11; a message icon that sits between 11 and 12; a social icon that slots in between 12 and one; and an information icon that sits between one and two.
The speech bubble icon will flash when you receive a text message; the message icon will flash when you have been sent an email; the social icon will appear when something has happened on your Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype, Instagram or any other social network you are signed into on your smartphone; and finally the information icon flashes for calendar events and alarms.
When it comes to incoming calls, all four icons will flash at once, and the Cogito Pop will vibrate on your wrist, like it will when you receive any of the other relevant notifications. You can also set it to bleep once when a notification comes though, which is useful if you're in a quiet place - but we struggled to hear it if we were somewhere busier. If you are an Android user, you will get all four icons flashing when your alarm goes off too.
The beep notification is great most of the time but we found it a little irritating when we were having a conversation on WhatsApp, as it will go off with every message received. It's easy enough to mute the watch though: simply holding the command button for nine seconds and that'll shut it up. If you want the noise back, you just need to hold it again.
The idea of the Cogito Pop is that you don't need to check your phone as much as you otherwise might. However, you are still required to check your phone when a notification comes though as the watch gives you no information other than the type of notification you have received. As the product says, it's "connected" but perhaps less "smart" than much of the competition.
When a new notification comes the respective flashing icon will remain lit for a couple of seconds, before it begins to flash. You can stop the flashing by pressing the command button, which we found ourselves doing quite a lot. Stopping the flashing on the watch doesn't do anything on the phone though, so the Pop is a one-way street in that regard: it doesn't work truly in tandem with a phone, more as an receptacle for extending notifications.
The watch responded very quickly when notifications came through, sometimes before our Mac's Mail inbox did when it came to emails. The bleep and icon flash appeared immediately after we received the notification on our phone so it was reassuring to know we weren't missing anything.
We did have problems when in the outdoors sun though: the pink version we reviewed had pink LED notification lights and this meant we couldn't see them in bright conditions. The audio beep or feeling the vibration did let us know we need to look at our phone, but we weren't able to tell which kind of notification we had received. It could just be the pink colour that was the problem, but it meant that we had to check our phone sometimes unnecessarily to see what had come through, whereas we might have been inclined to leave the device in our pocket if we had known it was only an email.
Connected Watch app
The Cogito Pop will only be "smart" once you have downloaded the Connected Watch app on your iOS or Android device - no Windows Phone or other platform compatibility for now. Pairing by pressing both power and command buttons for three seconds is very simple and we were up and running in a matter of minutes.
If you have a device running Android 4.3 and above that supports Bluetooth Smart (i.e. low energy or Bluetooth LE) then all you have to do is find the Cogito Pop in the Device List and click on it to connect. The Device List is found in the bottom left-hand corner and is highlighted with a picture of a watch. For iOS 7 users you'll need to connect through your Bluetooth settings by pressing Pair when you are prompted. A full list of compatible devices is available on the Cogito website.
We did have a few issues with the Pop staying connected to our smartphone which led to several instances where the watch icon at the top of our smartphone display featuring a question mark inside it. Pairing devices again was easy enough, but this shouldn't have happened and was a little frustrating at times.
The Connected Watch app also allows you to manage the notifications you want to receive on the watch, which is handy if you get hundreds of emails a day and don't want your wrist to be bleeping, vibrating and flashing at you every five seconds.
The home page on the app will show you all the notifications you have received on your phone since the Cogito Pop has been connected to it. Heading to the top right will allow you to get into the watch settings and decide which notifications you want the watch to tell you about.
You can then select which of those notifications you want to see on the app home page by tapping on the respective icon. If the icon is coloured you will see all the notifications within that category, while if it's greyed out then notifications are hidden.
Any unread notifications will be highlighted in their respective colour too and clicking on them will load the relevant app they are in so you can reply. This part of the app is surprisingly handy as it puts everything in one place so you don't need to switch between apps to see who last contacted you and how.
Customising email notifications on an iOS device is a little more effort than on an Android device as you need to go to the notification centre, into Mail, select the alert style and then enable the "Show in Notification Centre" to allow the Cogito Pop to communicate with it. Overall everything to do with the Cogito Pop is easy to set up and get a handle of.
No charging necessary
The Cogito Pop nails one thing that other smartwatches haven't yet: battery life. Because it's a built-in battery it doesn't require a recharge every couple of days, plus there's not the power-hungry screen tech eating away at the battery either.
Many smartwatches on the market will run out of juice after a couple of days of using them - sometimes less - so the Cogito Pop wins a few points in this department. We've not worn it long enough to know for absolute certain, but the company claims the watch will last for around a year.
Not having to charge it up or worry about it running out of battery is a definite plus. But with every good thing comes a sacrifice and with this Cogito it's down to the amount you see (or don't) and how much it therefore allows you to do beyond telling the time.
The Cogito Pop smartwatch is a fun, fashionable watch that connects you to your smartphone without overbearing you with information. But it's also difficult to score as it doesn't put the "smart" in smartwatch and that sees it sit at a tangent to the rest of the market.
It gets a number of things right: the design is lovely, it's comfortable to wear, easy to setup, and you don't have to recharge the battery and the notification icons and bleeps help you check your phone less often.
But it's not all happy days. There were a couple of issues we found, including a temperamental connection at times, not being able to see the alert icons on a bright day when outside, and that the Cogito concept is a one-way street.
It does what it sets out to do, which is great to a degree, but as it can do no more than give a subtle nod that you've received a message (or whatever it may be) we continued to have to retrieve our phone a lot. As the watch also can't communicate back to your smartphone it can't do the more clever things that Pebble and other screen-based smartwatches can.
Overall we love the Cogito Pop for its simple approach to connectivity, but that could be seen as a burden too given what else is available on the market. If you're after a smartwatch then you will probably find the Pop's features are little too limited. But for those that want a fun, fashionable watch that is connected without being overcomplicated then the Cogito Pop is a great and affordable option.