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Yesterday, I received a new MetaWatch STRATA. I was one of the backers in a Kickstarter campaign to get these watches produced, and so was amount the first few 1,767 to get one.

In case you aren’t familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a place where entrepreneurs can go to get startup money for projects. There are books, movies, games, and all sort of devices, to name just some of the items looking for funding. Depending on the level of funding you pledge, you may or may not receive some sort of item in return. (In some cases, the project fails, in which case you’re pretty much out of luck and your money.)

The STRATA is a few weeks later than originally predicted, but that’s not too bad. Unforeseen problems will always arise with a new project. But they are to the point of taking retail orders for holiday delivery, so they’ve brought the original project to completion.

So what’s the deal with the STRATA watch? If you didn’t watch the video, the short answer is that it’s designed to be a companion to your iPhone or Android phone. In addition to the time, the STRATA can show you upcoming appointments, the weather, you phone’s battery status, messages (from the messages app), caller ID for incoming calls, and at some point, will support mail notifications and 3rd party apps.

The watch has up to four screens of widgets, each screen cut into quarters, so you can show up to four widgets per screen. Some widgets take up half a screen or a whole screen. You can place the widgets on the screen of your choosing via an app on your phone. The app also provides a connection between the watch and some of the phone’s functions. You still also need to pair the phone via Bluetooth (at least with the iPhone).

In these photos, I have set the watch to “reverse” – normally the darker portions are light and vica versa, but it’s a bit easier to see in the photos this way. You can actually set reverse or normal on the individual widgets as well as the whole watch.

The watch itself is a bit on the large side, but is all plastic, so it’s light. The watchband is molded into the case, so I hope it holds up – you would need to replace the entire case to replace a damaged watchband.

So how does it work? Well, it’s definitely a new product with some teething issues.  It came with v1.0 firmware, and the same day I got mine, v1.1 appeared, with quite a few bug fixes. Unfortunately, the only way currently to load the firmware is with a Windows system (and not through Parallels or VMWare, either). A Mac updater is in the works (and I suspect will be out soon) but to get these bugs fixed I decided to take the watch to work and update it there.

The update was easy enough – download the driver and install, download the firmware, and download the installer program. Start the program verify you can talk to the watch, point the program at the firmware, and a few minutes later it’s done.

I do still have a few of issues though. One, the watch keeps randomly losing its connection (even though it’s only a few feet away from the phone). It seems to be turning off Bluetooth on the watch. Sometime it’s 15 minutes, and sometimes it’s 2 hours. Turn Bluetooth back on, and it reconnects.

Sometimes, it disconnects and the Bluetooth is still on. In that case, I open the iPhone app, hit connect, and it reconnects.

You are also supposed to be able to control playing music with the watch. You can stop/start a song, skip to the next one, and change the volume – when it works, which seems to be maybe 30% of the time. The rest of the time, it seems to just do nothing.

If you have an appointment, with a 15 minute warning, your phone will dutifully go off 15 minutes before the event. But the watch will go off at the exact time of the event. By then, if you aren’t there, you’re late! So not very helpful.

Still, it’s a good first effort, and I suspect that the bugs will be worked out relatively soon. At least the firmware is easily updated (and hopefully soon easily updated on a Mac).

I did like the caller ID notification – I got the name from my address book and the phone number showing. In addition the watch vibrates to let you know there’s something happening (same thing for other messages and alerts).  Text messages are a bit small, but that lets you get in a large message.

The watch also vibrates to let you know it’s become disconnected, so at least you can figure out why (like maybe you left your phone in the bar…). That could be a lifesaver right there.

Still, you might want to wait until v1.2 and a Mac updater is out before getting one of these.

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