Cookoo analog smart watch makes early debut in Hong Kong, we go hands-on

Remember the Cookoo smart watch? For those who don't know, 'tis an analog watch with a notification display plus Bluetooth 4.0 low energy connectivity, and it prides itself for its much longer battery life compared to other smart watches. We originally covered it as a Kickstarter project back in May, and seven months later we found ourselves at its humble launch event in Hong Kong. That's right, it turns out that ConnecteDevice, the company behind this gadget, is based in said city; though it did also emphasize its multinational effort on this project -- French design, American engineering, Indian plus European coding, and Hong Kong plus Shenzhen R&D on integration and manufacturing. Interestingly, the company decided to make a commercial debut in its home town ahead of the bigger launch at CES next month. Read on to see how we got on with this wearable -- there's a hands-on video after the break as well.

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Cookoo analog smart watch makes early debut in Hong Kong, we go hands-on

From afar, the Cookoo is no different than any other ordinary analog watch: there's a crown for adjusting time, and the usual marks underneath the mineral glass glow in the dark. The obvious difference is that the body is bigger (44mm case diameter, 16.3mm thickness; works well as a men's watch), and there are also four buttons for operating the smart part -- a large LCD behind the watch arms plus the Bluetooth radio. Given that the Japanese analog movement and the smart part run on separate batteries, the Cookoo is essentially a wearable Bluetooth notification display with an analog watch slapped on top; in other words, even if the smart part runs out of juice (after half a year to a year; and the CR2032 button cell is easily replaceable by user), the timepiece still functions on its own -- it should last for about three years. On top of that, the Cookoo is water resistant up to 5 ATM.

At launch, the Cookoo is only compatible with iOS devices that support Bluetooth 4.0 (including the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 3 and above, iPad mini and fifth-gen iPod touch), but CEO Henri-Nicolas Olivier said his company's already working on apps for Android and Windows Phone. For now, the watch is able to notify users on incoming or missed calls, text messages, Facebook messages, calendar reminders, low battery on host device and whether the host device is out of range (in case you forget your phone or tablet). Unlike the Sony SmartWatch and the Pebble, the Cookoo doesn't have a dot-matrix LCD to display text; instead it uses a simple monochrome LCD with five pre-defined icons that blink to notify the user. At the same time, the user can use the top-right "Mode" button to toggle between silent mode, vibrate mode, beep mode and vibrate-plus-beep mode for notifications -- each toggle are responded to by the corresponding actions, as well as a visual indication around the LCD logo at the top (the Kickstarter special edition has a bird, as pictured below, whereas the retail version has just "cookoo" printed in the same spot). Very straightforward.

Cookoo analog smart watch makes early debut in Hong Kong, we go handson

As we mentioned earlier, there are three more buttons on the Cookoo: the top-left "Light" button simply toggles the backlight for the LCD, then the bottom-left "Connect" button is for turning the watch's smart part on and off, and finally, the bottom-right "Command" button is for sending commands back to the host device. You see, if you take a look at the settings in the host device's app, you can assign an action to each of the three press durations (short, medium and long) of the "Command" button: you can do Facebook check-in, drop a pin on the map or locate your host device (the device would respond with a cute owl hooting sound). On the same settings page you can toggle notifications for incoming call, missed call, Facebook posts, Facebook messages and calendar reminder, as well as setting the thresholds for battery level alerts.

Another cool feature of the app is the wireless camera trigger: once you start the camera through the app, you can use the Cookoo's "Command" button to trigger the camera for either a still shot or for starting and stopping a video recording. That's pretty much it for now in terms of software features, but ConnecteDevice reps assured us that they'll soon be adding music playback control as well as a countdown trigger in the next app update -- it could be up to two weeks for Apple to approve this, apparently. Also, the CEO has set his eyes on supporting Chinese social network services like QQ in order to tap the market in China, though it won't happen until after ConnecteDevice and AT&T launch the Cookoo in the US on January 7th -- just before CES officially begins. After that, ConnecteDevice is targeting 20 more countries.

Cookoo analog smart watch makes early debut in Hong Kong, we go handson

For those interested, you can now grab a Cookoo in one of the five colors (blue, pink, silver, black and white) for HK$1,080 (about US$140) at City'super and Log-On stores in Hong Kong. There's also a limited green edition only available online, and as for the ladies who would prefer a smaller version, Olivier told us that there's one in the works. For now, frankly speaking, the Cookoo feels a little steep when compared to the more versatile (but very power-hungry) Sony SmartWatch, which is available on Amazon for just $110 these days; but the Cookoo is definitely much prettier. If it makes any difference for you, Monsieur Olivier is also quite proud of the fact that the Cookoo's box can be reused as a bird feeder or a bird house -- peeling off the sticker on the back reveals a circular hole for the birds to poke their heads through. Nice one, nice one.

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Cookoo analog smart watch makes early debut in Hong Kong, we go hands-on (video)