Wearing Alexa on our wrists with the metal and ceramic CoWatch

Julian Chokkattu

Smartwatches may not be the most useful tools, but most today offer a way to connect to digital assistants like Google Now or Siri. You can add Amazon’s Alexa to that list.

The CoWatch is a smartwatch designed by Chinese company iMCO Technology, and it runs Cronologics OS. If the latter sounds familiar, that’s because they’re the same team providing the operating system for the popular Blocks modular smartwatch, which received more than $1.6 million in funding from its Kickstarter campaign.

The watch, which exceeded its funding goals by 281 percent on Indiegogo in April, and will soon be available on Amazon, more or less offers the same features as most smartwatches today. It tracks your fitness activity, including your heart rate, and it lets you customize your watch face. Where it stands out is its integration of Amazon’s cloud-based voice assistant, Alexa. If you can get past talking to your wrist, you can quickly and easily ask Alexa questions, get a traffic report, call an Uber, and control your connected home.

Ceramic and metal

iMCO has opted for a round smartwatch design, and is featuring a stainless steel silver or black design. It will also boast a Super AMOLED display, at a resolution of 400 x 400 pixels. That’s all powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, with 8GB of onboard storage (double what most watches have). iMCO claims the watch will last up to 32 hours of “normal use,” even with an always-on screen.

There’s also a ceramic ring on the underside of the watch, which Eric Jin, co-founder of iMCO, says can be customizable by color. Jin says the CoWatch is the first smartwatch to use ceramic — an up-and-coming trend with ceramic being utilized in Xiaomi’s Mi5, and the OnePlus X.

Along with customizing your watch face, you can also opt for a different band, like a leather variant. The CoWatch can be paired via Bluetooth with an Android or iOS device.

Related: There’s an Apple Watch for everyone, find yours now

Cronologics Operating System

Cronologics OS still had a far way to go to offer a smooth experience when we saw it in April. There were a few hiccups when Cronologics CEO and co-founder Leor Stern gave us a peek at the Android-based operating system. We will have a full review of the final watch in the coming weeks, but the experience is much smoother than before.

The OS is similar to what some other Android Wear launchers offer right now, such as Pujie Black. Tapping on a sub-dial on your watch face will open an app, and you can set each sub-dial to whatever app you like. Swiping right or left on the watch face will run through more apps you have pre-set in those dials. Now, there is also the beginnings of a standard apps menu, as well.

Related: Amazon Echo Dot review

The OS lets you send messages (in the demo Stern used canned responses) and offers the standard “garden variety” fitness tracking features. Alexa is the highlight here, and Stern simply had to tap a button to ask a question.

“Remind me to get toner,” Stern demanded — and Alexa said she added “toner” to his to-do list. He then told Alexa to turn his “bedroom off,” demoing how he can control his smart home.

Stern, who helped found NianticLabs at Google, said Alexa is the best solution that’s cloud-native. Google Now works best for Android devices, and Siri works only on iOS.

CoWatch_0010
CoWatch_0010

“By having Alexa on your wrist, you have access to, not just your Amazon ecosystem … not just your home … but also all of the ecosystem, which Amazon has been cultivating very well, of third-party integrations,” Stern told Digital Trends back in April.

But the CoWatch’s biggest roadblock is to get developers to build apps, watch faces, and tools for for users, and Stern says it’s “never trivial.”

“The CoWatch is a pretty compelling device, it’s coming out at a pretty compelling price point,” Stern said. “We believe when we open there will be enough of these out there … to make it attractive and worthwhile for folks to want to develop for.”

It costs $279 on Amazon and iMCO’s website and will come in two colors: ‘mineral silver’ with a stainless steel band or ‘carbon black’ with a matching stainless steel band, though the black version will raise the price to $299. Leather straps in black, gray, and brown are also available to swap in, and the company promises 20 watch faces at launch.

Updated on September 21 by Jeffrey Van Camp: We’ve added the new details of the watch going live on Amazon and its pricing. This article was originally published on April 18, 2016 by Julian Chokkattu when the product was launching on Indiegogo.