The latest Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch is the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45. It continues the dubious traditions of word salad branding and smartwatches that cost an arm and a leg, in this case $1,600. That’s $100 more than 2015’s Tag Heuer Connected, but what’s a Benjamin between low-tier luxury watch friends?
Jerry Bautista, vice president of New Technology Group at Intel insists that this is much more than an Android Wear module in an expensive body. He says that Intel worked with Tag to build this watch like any other expensive mechanical watch, with exacting standards on the internals.
The “modular” part of this watch denotes that you’ll be able to customize a ton of the parts of the watch before you buy it. You can choose different colors, “modules, horns, bracelets, and buckles.” And when the tech inside inevitably becomes obsolete, Tag will let you swap out the module for something mechanical or trade the whole kit in for a Heuer 02T Tourbillon Chronograph. (Tag’s trade-in program sounds weird, but it’s kind of clever, as Dan Seifert wrote in 2015.)
Before I get into the details, let me just set the context. On paper, this seems like a frustratingly good watch. It’s probably the most reasonably sized and reasonably specced Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch. Everything else out there so far this year is too big or has terrible battery life. It’s the one I would probably get and recommend... if it cost $1,300 less.
It’s also an all-metal design, which is notable because Intel and Tag pulled that off without having to cut out NFC, which means this will work for Android Pay. Bautista says that the 1.39-inch AMOLED display is round without a flat tire, surrounded by a ring that contains all the necessary antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It also manages to fit an ambient light sensor in, with a light pipe from the sapphire cover glass on the watch channeling down and inside to the board.
Spec-wise, you’re looking at Android Wear 2.0 with Intel’s Atom Z34XX processor — they’re claiming even with ambient mode on you should get 30 hours of battery life. There’s GPS, too, though there’s no LTE or a heart rate monitor. It’s good underwater down to about 100 feet with a tympanic membrane over the microphone. Intel says it’s 13.2mm thick, which is still more than an Apple Watch but blessedly less than the massive watches other Android Wear manufacturers have been shipping lately.
One last thing, and maybe the most interesting thing for most of us (aka people who can’t imagine spending $1,600 on a smartwatch): Intel is developing its own intelligent assistant that will eventually appear on this watch — and elsewhere. Bautista couldn’t tell me much about it, although he dropped some hints:
- It will be able to help based on your current activities instead of just the time of day. So, for example, it might realize you left work late and still give you your home reminders rather than annoy you by giving them to you when you’re still at the office.
- Like Siri and Google, it will be able to handle asking follow-up questions without losing context.
- Although it won’t be on the Tag at launch, it’ll come. It’ll also show up on other devices from companies Intel partners with, like Oakley.
- It won’t have a name or a gender.
Its not super clear why Intel is putting its own intelligent assistant on a device that already has the Google Assistant, but Bautista insists that it’ll be differentiated and smart in its own way. Intel and Tag call it a “new experience of time,” which is precisely the sort of dangerous language that damages eyeballs from excessive rolling.
I guess if Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon all have assistants, Intel just doesn’t want to feel left out.
Anyway, don’t buy the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 for the assistant, buy it if you like the look of the watch and don’t blink at spending $1,600 on a piece of jewelry.
Google’s strategy with Android Wear 2.0 is to get as many different kinds of companies making smartwatches as it can. So I don’t have a lot of angst that an expensive Android Wear watch exists. The angst I do have is that this Tag seems like the best of the Android Wear 2.0 generation right now — everything in the sub-$500 range is either too big or has worse battery life.