New Boutique Watch Company, Olio, Launches Smartwatch

Olio_Model1_Black No Background.jpgThere have been one or two smartwatch announcements over the last year, mostly coming as extensions of already well-established companies. For all the trumpeting, (and with Pebble as a very notable exception), actual new smartwatch companies are pretty thin on the ground.

That’s one reason that Olio is so interesting. Here’s a company, based in Silicon Valley, with roots in designing nice hardware for the likes of Apple, Beats, Amazon, and HP, turning their thoughts to the wrist.

The Olio watches, which launch for pre-order today, are well-thought-out timepieces — good heft, substantial feel, nice bands. We’ve worn them and played with them briefly; it’s good stuff. Their software, which is custom, is similarly wrought.

At bottom, Olio’s watches function as notification devices rather than fitness trackers. But the software is designed to put your notices and calendar into a temporal stream, alerting you to what you may have missed and keeping you posted on what’s next on your calendar. More than that, the software and swipe-able color watch face are designed to learn your preferences about what you want to act on quickly and what you habitually ignore. There is even the promise of using your watch to manage connected devices around you (read: Nest thermostats and related ecosystems).

The software may have been interesting without good hardware. Fortunately, Olio sweated the hardware and the overall design. The watches are brushed stainless steel: plainly watches, not gadgets. The watch faces are interesting but not flashy (and not user-selectable; the designers made choices). Battery life is claimed in the “multiple days,” and the charger uses magnetic induction — much like the Apple Watch.

There are two versions, starting at $595 for stainless and $795 for a very elegant black. Link bracelets add $50. Olio’s made 500 of each for this round; they’re available online now for shipment this summer.

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