Montblanc’s $1,300 Wear OS smartwatch isn’t all that smart (yet)

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Pros

  • Titanium case looks and feels premium
  • Smooth sapphire glass display
  • Google Wear OS 3 app support
  • Leather and rubber bands included

Cons

  • No Google Assistant, yet
  • No speaker for hands-free calling
  • Very limited fitness functionality

While millions enjoy wearing smartwatches that last for just over a day before needing a charge, there are also people who enjoy wearing luxury smartwatches that offer limited functionality with elegant designs. The new Montblanc Summit 3 attempts to bridge the gap by offering high-end watch hardware with the intelligence of the Google Wear OS platform.

One aspect of smartwatches is their relatively short technological end of life. Luxury watches last for years, decades, or longer and are often passed down in families as heirlooms. Smartwatches that last five years are pretty rare, so there is a balance here between the hardware and the technology. 

While Montblanc’s Summit 3 is expensive for a smartwatch, it’s actually inexpensive for a luxury watch. High-end watches typically cost multiple thousands of dollars, so the $1,290 price is not that unreasonable. Montblanc also offers a trade-in program to help you soften the blow. 

I’ve been primarily testing the Montblanc smartwatch with my iPhone (while alternating to an Android device ever so often) but the software experience is clearly not as good as what Apple Watch provides. Switching over to an Android smartphone means you get better support for third-party applications and generally a better-optimized experience. Currently, fitness functionality with the Summit 3 is virtually nonexistent, with a major software update scheduled for September, so I will update the review and give the watch a score once that update is provided.

Specifications

Display 1.28-inch AMOLED with 416×416 pixels resolution
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus
Materials Black titanium case, stainless-steel back and bezel, sapphire glass
Storage 8GB internal storage
Water resistance 5 ATM
Connectivity and sensors Heart rate, barometer, accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, NFC
Bands 20mm width
Dimensions 42 mm diameter by 14 mm thickness

Hardware

Montblanc delivers the Summit 3 in a jewelry box befitting the luxury brand. Open the top of the box to reveal the watch, with a calf leather band attached, wrapped around a pillow in the center of the top. Two drawers are positioned below the top that slide open to reveal a detailed user guide in the top drawer and the charging dock, USB-C cable, and rubber watch band in the bottom drawer. The USB-C cable slides into the charging dock, which has a silicone bottom to prevent it from moving around a surface. There are four gold connection spots on the back of the watch that rest on top of four pins on the charging dock.

Montblanc Summit 3 in a box

Packaged like the luxury smartwatch that it is. 

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

With titanium case material, sapphire glass, and handmade construction, the Summit 3 is a gorgeous watch with lots of potential. It’s also the first Wear OS 3 watch that works with the iPhone and also one of the first to sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus platform. This latest Qualcomm processor brings faster performance, longer battery life, and other advantages to the wearable device.

The sapphire glass display extends out to smoothly transition into the titanium bezel and casing. There are three prominent buttons on the right side, with the center button sporting the Montblanc logo and serving as a scroll wheel to help you easily navigate lists on the watch. Pressing the top button shows your recent apps, pressing the center button takes you to the app launcher, and the bottom button is programmable with the default set to Fitness. The top two buttons cannot be reassigned. A press and hold of the center button shows you the power-off option.

Also: The 5 best smartwatches: Apple and Samsung battle for your wrist

Standard 20mm watchbands work with the Montblanc Summit 3, but it does come with both leather and rubber bands for a night out or for hitting the bike trails. Quick-release pins in the bands release them from the lugs. Both bands are high-quality, and there are several other affordable band options available from Montblanc.

The heart rate sensor is found on the back of the watch with four contact points for the charging dock.

Montblanc Summit 3 case with watchbands and charging cord

All you need is included in the retail package.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Google Wear OS

Google’s Wear OS 3.2 is installed on the Summit 3 evaluation unit I am testing out for ZDNET. The Montblanc Summit 3 focuses on the visual experience, so there are 11 Montblanc watch faces to choose from.

Swipe down from the top to reveal the various quick controls, including airplane mode, theater mode, display brightness, do not disturb, battery remaining, settings, and flashlight. Swipe up on the display to view your notifications. Swipe left or right to move through the various tiles that you select in the Montblanc Summit smartphone app. 10 tiles are currently available on the watch, but as you install apps, tiles associated with some apps will also appear.

There are a few default apps installed out of the box, primarily the Montblanc health and wellness apps. Other than these, YouTube Music, weather, agenda, alarm clock, Find My Phone, and the Google Play Store appear in the app launcher.

Back of the Montblanc Summit 3

Titanium casing and the rear heart rate sensor.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

With an iPhone connected to the watch, all apps are installed and uninstalled through the Play Store on the watch directly. Google Maps, Google Wallet, Gboard, contacts, Google Keep, and more are all available for the Summit 3. Google Fit, Strava, and others are also available in case you prefer them to the Montblanc health apps, which for now you are not going to want to use since the data just lives on the watch at this time. I highly recommend that you install and use Google Fit at this time until we see what Montblanc offers with the update.

Also: The best Apple Watch alternatives for Android users

Unfortunately, a major Google app is missing, despite the presence of a microphone on the watch. Even though the guide in the box says Google Assistant is available, Google Assistant is not present and currently can not be used on the watch with either an Android phone or iPhone connected. Given that the guide states it is possible, let’s hope we get an update with support for Google Assistant even if there is no speaker that can play the results. A connected Bluetooth headset could play results and even serve as the microphone for Assistant.

Side view of Summit 3 showing buttons

Montblanc built a lovely watch.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The Google Wear OS experience is pretty much the same as you will find on other Wear OS smartwatches, and there are a large number of apps to customize the watch for your needs.

Montblanc Summit smartphone app

On both iPhones and Android devices, the only current way to connect the Montblanc Summit 3 is through the Montblanc Summit app. The app is pretty basic, with limited functionality other than customizing the look of the watch. Then again, the Google Wear OS smartphone app doesn’t do much either, so I’m OK with Montblanc having its own app that optimizes the experience for its brand. The main tab, My Watch, facilitates customization of the 11 current watch face options and the tiles that you will swipe through. There is limited capability to customize the watch faces by changing the background color and hands on some faces. Others have no customization options, but if there is any option for customization, then look for the watch edit icon in the upper right of the Montblanc application.

The next tab in the Summit software is called Discover, and it hosts a large number of tutorials for using the watch and getting help with the watch. There are many details in the fitness section that should be considered previews of what is to come since there is not yet any companion app to view your health and fitness data collected by the watch, even though the discover tab mentions this app.

The last tab in the smartphone app, called settings, is where you can manage your Summit 3 experience. Options include notifications, battery status, screenshot shutter, always-on screen toggle, and reset.

There should soon be a Montblanc health suite application, possibly in September, that will sync sleep, steps, workouts, and more from the Summit 3 to your smartphone. At this time, all of the health data captured by the watch remains on the watch and is only viewable on the watch when using the Montblanc Summit apps. 

I recommend that you install and use Google Fit for now if you are interested in some health data since it will sync from the watch to your Google Fit account. However, you won’t see sleep, blood oxygen, body energy, or stress data in Google Fit, so the current experience is definitely missing some key elements.

iPhone vs Android smartphone experience

Most people have a single smartphone that is either powered by iOS or Android, so this section is merely present to help you understand the differences between the two smartphone platforms and the Montblanc Summit 3 experience. Google’s Wear OS is obviously going to be a better experience for Android smartphone owners since Google would love to have everyone using phones powered by its smartphone operating system. The Summit 3 is the first Wear OS 3 smartwatch that works with the iPhone, so that opens up the market for the Summit 3 to people who don’t want a square Apple Watch on their wrist and prefer a more traditional, luxury watch design. 

With an iPhone connection, there is no ability to respond to messages, emails, or any other notification that you receive on the Summit 3, so the watch performs as if it were a fitness tracker or basic sports watch when it comes to notifications. You can use your voice or Gboard to enter text into compatible apps. For example, Keep Notes works well with voice-to-text and Gboard swiping on the watch display.

The Summit 3 performs just like other standard Wear OS smartwatches when paired with an Android smartphone. There is no speaker on the watch, so apps with audio, such as Google Maps or Spotify, will not play directly on the watch.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

First and foremost, the Montblanc Summit 3 is focused on the hardware: a luxury watch design with modern smartwatch internals. The hardware is fantastic, with smooth glass, lightweight titanium, flawless buttons, and high-quality bands. It’s a large watch, but not as massive as others I have tried. Luxury watches are much more expensive, so for a luxury-brand watch, this is a fairly affordable option.

I’ve been a bit frustrated by the presence of Montblanc’s fitness and health apps, with no way to view the data on a connected smartphone. Google Fit is currently supported, so Android smartphone users can use the watch to capture health and fitness data. I understand that the Montblanc health app will support Apple Health and Google Fit, so I’ll hold final judgment on the watch, and my review score, until I get a chance to test the September software update.

I installed the Strava app and was hoping it would be useful for tracking my outdoor running and indoor rowing. When I launched Strava outside, it showed that GPS had been acquired, and I tapped on start. The app then only captured the time between when I hit start and end, with no distance, effort, elevation, or heart rate data captured on the watch. Unfortunately, Strava on Wear OS does not have an indoor running option, so I chose a workout, and it did capture my heart rate for this activity. It seems both the app and the watch failed here, but again I will see what happens when we get a more robust health and wellness option in September.

Messaging with my voice, Google Wallet, Google Maps, and other apps all worked flawlessly when paired with my Z Fold 4. The battery has proven to last a couple of days, which is typical for a smartwatch, but I’ll do more testing when I can fully test the health and wellness functionality. It’s a lovely smartwatch, but at $1,290, it is clearly for the watch buyer who wants a luxury piece of jewelry with smartwatch internals.

Alternatives to consider

There are not many luxury smartwatches available, but we do see a few options for those looking for more than a basic Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch. Check out a few other options we found.



Original Article

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