Guess Connect full review

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Here in the tech press we spend a lot of time talking about smartwatches, but in the world at large they remain a niche concern. (The Apple Watch bestrides the wearables market like a colossus, but sales of even that comparative success story are so low in comparison to the iPhone and Mac that Apple rolls them in with its Other Products category when making quarterly reports.)

Fearing that their industry will soon be disrupted, but conscious that most of their existing customers still prefer something more traditional, some watchmakers and fashion brands are hedging their bets with products like this one: 'semi-smartwatches' that combine more old-fashioned looks and controls (and battery life) with a smattering of smart features.

But how does the Guess Connect compare to other semi-smartwatches out there? And would conservative buyers be better off biting the bullet and plumping for a fully fledged smartwatch? Find out in our Guess Connect smartwatch review. Read next: Best smartwatch 2016

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Rivals

Pushing £300, the Guess Connect is one of the most expensive semi-smartwatches out there.

The Fossil Q Grant is a great option, and comes in at just £165; that'll be the main point of comparison in this article. You can go lower still with the Martian Notifier (£129, and based on the same software as the Guess Connect) and the Elephone W2 Smart Watch (£59), but they offer a considerably thinner feature set.

We'll also be keeping the Apple Watch distantly in mind; it's aimed at a somewhat different market, but cannot be completely ignored as by far the most popular smartwatch currently on the market.

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Design & build quality

Aesthetics are very much a personal matter, and the Guess Connect's design is likely to divide opinion. As a semi-smartwatch what we're essentially looking at is an analogue watch - physical arms and all - with the discreet addition of a few smart elements. But discreet isn't a word we'll be using again in this article.

Guess Connect smartwatch review

The Connect is big, loud and ostentatious. Whereas the Apple Watch is sold in 38mm and 42mm sizes, the Connect comes in 41mm and 45mm, but the difference is more striking than that: the Connect is heavier, and sticks out much further from the wrist, and its brutalist, polygonal look is a hundred times less subtle. (After a hug we were told: "Daddy, your watch hurt me.") There are hints here of the 1980s diving-watch school of design, and whether you prefer this, or a lower-key alternative like the Fossil Q Grant, is a matter of personal taste.

Guess Connect smartwatch review

We would add that the rubber flange covering the charging port doesn't feel very nice, is a bit awkward to open (you find yourself picking repeatedly with a fingernail) and, while it hasn't failed us yet, is held on by what looks to be a durable but very thin piece of rubber. It's a shame there's no wireless charging. And the chunky, mostly metal body (the back is plastic, as well as the charging port cover being rubber) is a magnet for fingerprints, albeit nicely shiny when new or recently polished.

There are three controls, all on the righthand side of the watch's body: a top button (or "pusher", to use the maker's terminology), a bottom button, and a larger, textured dial in between which is only ever used to adjust the analogue time. The lefthand side has a speaker and the charging port. A tiny letterbox OLED screen (with a resolution of 96 x 16!) sits horizontally across the lower portion of the face, its lower corners touching the circumference at approximately five and seven o'clock, and there's a little LED between eight and nine which changes colour to indicate various notification and modes.

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Comparison with Fossil Q Grant and Apple Watch

Visual comparison, left to right: Guess Connect, Fossil Q Grant, Apple Watch Sport

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Setup

We paired the Guess Connect with an iPhone 6s Plus, but it's also compatible with Android. Pairing was quick and simple, even taking into account a couple of false starts.

You have to download and install a free companion app (iOS or Android), which guides you through the pairing process and then controls various settings in general use. The app struggled to find the watch the first couple of times, and when we succeeded - the watch happily buzzed with notifications, was able to activate Siri on the phone etc - the app still thought the watch wasn't paired and wanted us to try again. Following the pairing process one last time, this time waved through with no delay, seemed to allay the app's worries.

Since then, the pairing has remained solid, within the limitations of the Bluetooth connection. We were quite pleased to find that the watch gives a little buzz and says 'Out of range' or 'Connected' when you wander out of or back into Bluetooth range of its companion phone - an optional feature called Leash. This is a useful thing to know, and may prove invaluable if you leave your mobile behind at a cafe.

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Features

It isn't possible to install apps or games on the Guess Connect, but short of this it does a decent job of performing most of the more commonly required duties of a smartwatch. You use the bottom select button to cycle through modes, and then activate them with the top command bottom. (Alternatively, many can be initiated by voice command: if you can't work out how to do something, try pressing the top button and simply telling the watch what to do.)

It isn't always clear how to access features - although the general rule is that the top button acts as a confirm, while the bottom one declines or cycles through to a different option - and those who are coming from a fully fledged smartwatch will find that not having a full-face touchscreen makes everything less intuitive to use, at least at first.

Notifications

Like most wearables, the Connect is at its best when delivering notifications. When you get a text message, a notification appears in the little display, and it scrolls across so you can read what's been said. (It takes forever because the screen is so small, but you can just get the gist then press the bottom button to stop it.) Or you can tap the top button, which activates voice control, and tell it to read the message out. Likewise for an email.

You can also get notifications whenever you're mentioned on social media and so on, and you're encouraged to set up different vibration patterns for each type of notification. If you miss a notification, tap the watch's glass and it'll replay the most recent, if anything came through in the past five minutes.

Phone calls

If you get a call on your companion phone, too, you can answer it on the watch - or shake the watch to decline the call, if you've got gesture support activated. And while its speaker is scratchy and sound quality isn't great, we got through a conversation with a three-year-old without either party losing the plot, which isn't a given at the best of times. (Sound quality falls off alarmingly when you approach the limits of Bluetooth range, unsurprisingly.) Answering phone calls on a watch is easy to mock, and will make most people feel self-conscious, but it's genuinely handy and feels enjoyably futuristic.

It's also possible to initiate phone calls from the watch, but it wasn't immediately obvious how - there's no 'Phone mode' when you cycle through the options. In fact, any time you place a call on the companion phone with the watch connected, it'll default to the watch's speaker and microphone, although you're given the option to switch back to the phone at the start of the call. The easiest approach, however, is to press the top button and then say "Call Lewis mobile" or whatever.

Other features

You can set up your iPhone in a tripod or just prop it up somewhere and then activate the shutter with the top button on the watch. (Sadly, on iOS at any rate, the watch doesn't have the authority to open the camera app, let alone override a passcode; so you'll need to either set up the phone with the app already open, or respond to a dialogue message on the phone's screen checking it's okay to open it.)

As we mentioned, pressing the top button activates voice commands, which as well as placing calls and getting the watch to read out messages makes it easy to set reminders, appointments and alarms without picking up your mobile. You can control music playback on the phone or a connected Bluetooth device. And if you lose track of the companion smartphone, the watch can make it play a little tune.

How does this feature set compare to rivals?

The main areas you miss by going for the Guess Connect rather than a full smartwatch are gaming (and you're not missing much at this point) and fitness stuff - even though it has an accelerometer, this is only used for gesture detection, and the Connect can't count your steps, measure calories and so on. At present a dedicated fitness tracker is likely to be a better or at least cheaper option for those things anyway, however, so you could always buy a second device.

The Fossil Q Grant, the leading light of the semi-smartwatch market, has more sophisticated incoming call notifications (you can customise LED colours for up to five favourite contacts) and can use its accelerometer to count steps. But you can't answer calls on that device, nor does it have voice commands of any kind.

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Prices and where to buy

The Guess Connect is available in two sizes (41mm and 45mm; the firm and its distributors occasionally refer to these as women's and men's size respectively, but the 45mm is so big that thin-wristed gentlemen such as your reviewer may prefer to go for 41mm) and a range of colours:

41mm

  • Silver & Sky Blue 
  • White & Rose Gold 
  • Blue & Rose Gold
  • Black and Gold

45mm

  • Silver & Black
  • Blue & Rose Gold (the model we tested)
  • Brown & Rose Gold

Guess Connect smartwatch review

From left: Silver & Black; Blue & Rose Gold; Brown & Rose Gold; White & Rose Gold

If you buy direct from Guess, the 41mm watches cost £289, and the 45mm watches cost £299. But at time of writing, Guess's online store has only 5 out of the 7 colour options: blue & gold and brown & gold for the men's (no silver & black); and blue & gold, white & gold and black & gold for the women's (no silver & sky blue).

Watchshop.com has a slightly larger selection, adding the 41mm silver & sky blue to the offering direct from Guess, but still doesn't stock the silver & black men's watch, for which we suggest a trip to Amazon. Prices are the same as from Guess: £289 for the 41mm watches, and £299 for the 45mm ones.

Buy now links:

41mm

Silver & Sky Blue (C0002M5): Watchshop.com | Amazon

White & Rose Gold (C0002M2): Guess | Watchshop.com | Amazon

Blue & Rose Gold (C0002M1): Guess | Watchshop.com | Amazon

Black and Gold (C0002M3): Guess | Watchshop.com | Amazon

45mm

Silver & Black Men's (C0001G4): Amazon

Blue & Rose Gold (C0001G1): Guess | Watchshop.com | Amazon

Brown & Rose Gold (C0001G2): Guess | Watchshop.com | Amazon

Specs

Guess Connect: Specs

  • 96 x 16 OLED display
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Directional Personal Speaker with adjustable volume
  • Noise-Cancellation Microphone
  • Charging via micro USB
  • Dual power sources: claimed battery life of 3-5 days of smartwatch use & analog watch battery for up to 2 years

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