Can the company behind the smartwatch with 30-day battery life make one that never needs recharging?

Startup Vector Watch is readying a range of watches with a classic look, understated tech, and a really long battery life.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor
The Luna model Vector Watch.
Image: Vector Watch
This April, the product that was meant to kickstart the smartwatch market arrived: Apple launched its long-awaited Watch. That was supposed to invigorate the wearables category received positive, but muted, reviews, often highlighting the frustration of a battery that wouldn't even last a day.

A few weeks prior at Baselworld, the biggest event in the watch industry's calendar, a Romanian-British startup had been quietly gathering attention with its smart timepieces, which the company claimed could go 30 days between charging.

In a matter of weeks, Vector Watch will begin shipping its first watches to buyers who have pre-ordered their devices, giving them the chance to test out the 30-day battery life claim for themselves.

While the startup is cagey on the technology it uses to achieve the Vector Watch's month-long lifespan, it has built the OS that powers the watches from scratch to ensure it's very low power.

"Our own OS is very energy efficient. When you build it yourself, you can remove everything," Joe Santana, Vector Watch's CEO, told ZDNet.

Battery life isn't the only way the startup is hoping to distinguish itself from its Cupertino competition: Vector Watch's products are designed to be as much a watch - a piece of wristworn jewellery - as a piece of computer hardware.

With silicone, stainless steel or leather straps and metal accents, on the surface the Vector Watches have more in common with old-school Swiss models than Apple's own products.

According to Vector Watch CEO Joe Santana, since the company began working on its first watch, it has been moving the design away from technological design tropes.

Initially, the watch was to come with a rectangular display - the shape common to almost all connected items, from phones to tablets to laptops. Now, the company is prioritising circular-faced models - a change that saw the company invest in a display supplier to bring more circular faces, rare at the time, to market.

The most popular model is perhaps the most traditional of the lot, a rose gold and black version. "We don't want to have lots of colour and lots of lights, because that's technology, that's not a watch," Santana said.

There remains a rectangular watch among Vector's lineup. With its black plastic strap and perpendicular lines, it harks back to the first digital watches of the early 1980s. The circular-faced watches, however, wouldn't be out of place in the window of a traditional watchmaker - a casual observer might not even notice they were smartwatches at all, so played-down is the technology inside.

The display itself is black and white, and there's no touchscreen. While apps can be accessed by touching the buttons on the side, the idea is, says Santana, that there should be as little touch interaction between the device and the user as possible. "That was my instruction to the team - in future you shouldn't have to touch it at all."

As much information as possible is served up to the screen constantly - meetings are highlighted on the watch face as arcs at the edge of the dial, and customisable 'streams' of information - such as stock tickers or a weather forecast - can also be added.

Traditional apps, such as news, are available however, and can be accessed by touching the physical buttons on the side of the dial.

The company has its own app store where both apps and custom watch faces can be downloaded. Currently, the available software is only made by Vector Watch, but the company is calling for third-party submissions and is already working with the likes of Uber, Twitter, and Spotify. Due to the prioritisation of battery life, there will be "clear guidelines" on what app makers can and can't submit, according to Santana. "We'll be using more of the model Apple has than the Android model."

Other elements of the UX also nod towards the traditional analogue watch. It displays the time constantly, for example - rather than just bringing it up when the wearer lifts up their wrist. In contrast, notifications such as new messages and incoming calls will be signalled with a vibration, but will only be displayed when the user lifts their hand up in contrast to the usual smartphone delivery mechanism. "It should be a watch, not a mobile for the wrist," says Santana.

Vector Watch buyers will need to keep those mobiles very much nearby: Vector Watches are intended as companions to, not replacements for, smartphones and to work properly, the watch has to be paired with a smartphone. iOS, Android, and Windows Phone are supported, though features may be slower to rollout to the latter OS.

The smartphone connects to the watch via Bluetooth LE and acts as a conduit for uploading apps and custom dials to the watch. It also allows the wearer to examine the fitness-tracking data the watch gathers, including information on their sleep patterns, steps taken, or calories burned.

Vector Watch began taking orders for its products earlier this year, and those that have preordered their devices will see them arrive in September. Taking orders directly through its website will be the chief plank of its go to market strategy, but the company expects to see its products sold through department stores and consumer electronics outlets too.

It's already working on its next generation of products, Santana told ZDNet. As well as upgrades to its current portfolio, it's working on more products for women - while its products have both male and female sizes, the watch faces are on the large size for a women's range at 44mm for the Lunar and 40mm for the Meridian. "It's pretty big," says Santana, "but fashion watches are pretty big right now, like with Michael Kors."

The Vector Watch team are also working on something way more interesting. According to the CEO, a watch that "almost never needs recharging" is in the offing.

"People don't think we'll be able to do it, but they didn't think we'd be able to get 30 days battery life with this watch either."

That OS will also become the basis for more devices in future, the company hopes, including B2B and Internet of Things hardware. In the long-term, it looks like Vector Watch is aiming to have its wristwear be an information conduit for field workers, gathering data and relaying messages from the office. "There's all sorts of information we could collect," says Santana

Meet the Vector Watch

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