Guess Connect smartwatch review

Here in the tech press we spend a lot of time talking about smartwatches, but in the world at large they remain a niche concern. (The Apple Watch bestrides the wearables market like a colossus, but sales of even that comparative success story are so low in comparison to the iPhone and Mac that Apple rolls them in with its Other Products category when making quarterly reports.)

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Fearing that their industry will soon be disrupted, but conscious that most of their existing customers still prefer something more traditional, some watchmakers and fashion brands are hedging their bets with products like this one: 'semi-smartwatches' that combine more old-fashioned looks and controls (and battery life) with a smattering of smart features.

But how does the Guess Connect compare to other semi-smartwatches out there? And would conservative buyers be better off biting the bullet and plumping for a fully fledged smartwatch? Find out in our Guess Connect smartwatch review. Read next: Best smartwatch 2016

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Rivals

Pushing £300, the Guess Connect is one of the most expensive semi-smartwatches out there.

The Fossil Q Grant is a great option, and comes in at just £165; that'll be the main point of comparison in this article. You can go lower still with the Martian Notifier (£129, and based on the same software as the Guess Connect) and the Elephone W2 Smart Watch (£59), but they offer a considerably thinner feature set.

We'll also be keeping the Apple Watch distantly in mind; it's aimed at a somewhat different market, but cannot be completely ignored as by far the most popular smartwatch currently on the market.

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Design & build quality

Aesthetics are very much a personal matter, and the Guess Connect's design is likely to divide opinion. As a semi-smartwatch what we're essentially looking at is an analogue watch - physical arms and all - with the discreet addition of a few smart elements. But discreet isn't a word we'll be using again in this article.

Guess Connect smartwatch review

The Connect is big, loud and ostentatious. Whereas the Apple Watch is sold in 38mm and 42mm sizes, the Connect comes in 41mm and 45mm, but the difference is more striking than that: the Connect is heavier, and sticks out much further from the wrist, and its brutalist, polygonal look is a hundred times less subtle. (After a hug we were told: "Daddy, your watch hurt me.") There are hints here of the 1980s diving-watch school of design, and whether you prefer this, or a lower-key alternative like the Fossil Q Grant, is a matter of personal taste.

Guess Connect smartwatch review

We would add that the rubber flange covering the charging port doesn't feel very nice, is a bit awkward to open (you find yourself picking repeatedly with a fingernail) and, while it hasn't failed us yet, is held on by what looks to be a durable but very thin piece of rubber. It's a shame there's no wireless charging. And the chunky, mostly metal body (the back is plastic, as well as the charging port cover being rubber) is a magnet for fingerprints, albeit nicely shiny when new or recently polished.

There are three controls, all on the righthand side of the watch's body: a top button (or "pusher", to use the maker's terminology), a bottom button, and a larger, textured dial in between which is only ever used to adjust the analogue time. The lefthand side has a speaker and the charging port. A tiny letterbox OLED screen (with a resolution of 96 x 16!) sits horizontally across the lower portion of the face, its lower corners touching the circumference at approximately five and seven o'clock, and there's a little LED between eight and nine which changes colour to indicate various notification and modes.

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Comparison with Fossil Q Grant and Apple Watch

Visual comparison, left to right: Guess Connect, Fossil Q Grant, Apple Watch Sport

Guess Connect smartwatch review: Setup

We paired the Guess Connect with an iPhone 6s Plus, but it's also compatible with Android. Pairing was quick and simple, even taking into account a couple of false starts.

You have to download and install a free companion app (iOS or Android), which guides you through the pairing process and then controls various settings in general use. The app struggled to find the watch the first couple of times, and when we succeeded - the watch happily buzzed with notifications, was able to activate Siri on the phone etc - the app still thought the watch wasn't paired and wanted us to try again. Following the pairing process one last time, this time waved through with no delay, seemed to allay the app's worries.

Since then, the pairing has remained solid, within the limitations of the Bluetooth connection. We were quite pleased to find that the watch gives a little buzz and says 'Out of range' or 'Connected' when you wander out of or back into Bluetooth range of its companion phone - an optional feature called Leash. This is a useful thing to know, and may prove invaluable if you leave your mobile behind at a cafe.