The Martian Notifier is the first 2014 smartwatch we’ve tested that’s actually a watch. Yes, this affordable Rs. 8495 tech timepiece is an honest-to-goodness analogue quartz watch - the small OLED screen for displaying alerts is what makes it ‘smart’.

If Samsung wristputers and expensive fitness bands have stopped you strapping in so far, the Notifier could be the perfect entry into wearables. But with the bold ambitions of Pebble and Android Wear becoming clearer, this Martian watch looks the practical, not particularly future-gazing, choice.

A Watch That's Smart

This wearable hybrid really is a proper mechanical watch - Japanese movement, real hands that ‘glow’ in the dark, a two year battery for the analogue part.

The Notifier’s combination of a plastic case (in white, black or red), stainless steel bezel and matte silicone strap is neither strikingly classy nor ugly. The important thing is it’s subtle, inoffensive and will only turn heads for the right reasons. In this respect, the Martian automatically has more mass appeal than, say, a Samsung Gear 2.

As with any slightly sporty budget watch the Notifier is also comfortable to wear and light, at 52g. Plus if you don’t like Martian’s selection of rainbow coloured Quick Change Straps, any 22mm watch band can be fitted without the need for fiddly tools.

It’s just a shame it’s not waterproof - unlike the Pebble and Gear 2, it’s only splashproof if the port flap is sealed and Martian recommends wiping off water drops as soon as possible.

Tons of Compatible Apps

The main Martian Notifier companion apps are free on the App Store and Google Play and setting up the Bluetooth connection is simple.  The Alerts section of the Martian app lists core alerts - calls, texts, calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail etc - with the options to tick to activate and customise the vibrate pattern. And more compatible apps are available as a longer, hidden ‘Installed app notifications’ list too.

There’s some difference between compatible apps on iOS and Android but both platforms have strong offerings of news, fitness and the social apps smartphone addicts use everyday- WhatsApp, Snapchat, Skype, Vine, Instagram, Tinder.

There’s a couple of bonus features too - Find Phone triggers an alarm on your phone or tablet, remote shutter quickly launches the camera app and, finally, pressing the top button from sleep activates Google Voice on your device. Full voice controls and phone call functionality are missing.

Ultimately, the Notifier is a one-trick pony. It’s extremely reliable at displaying alerts with lots of granular customisation - speed and delay of scrolling, date and time formats, do not disturb - and the Bluetooth connection dropped out just once in an entire week. But we missed being able to skip Spotify tracks - as on the Pebble Steel - or see info that needs a bigger screen like maps or train times. The Notifier’s simplicity is admirable but Pebble hits the sweet spot for now.

Four Day Battery Life

We’ve been using the Martian Notifier as it was designed to be used - that’s plenty of alerts coming through from eight to ten apps, worn almost all day until slung to one side before bedtime. And we’ve been getting a three to four day battery life tops which is less than Martian’s quoted five to six days.

It’s not the only smartwatch to offer alert vibrations but Pebble devs have been advised to use the feature sparingly to extend battery life. To stretch the Notifier to five days, the vibration strength slider needs to be 3 or below and non essential alerts culled.

It’s easy to keep an eye on battery with an icon in the watch’s settings menu and a percentage in Android notifications. But it takes two to three hours to fully charge and it can only be used with the bundled long-plug microUSB cable as the port is embedded so deeply into the device. Of course you can start using this for your phone too, for trips away, but it’s one more cable to lose.

With a screen this small and functionality this simple, a longer battery life - say, a week - would really make the Notifier stand out. Still, three to four days is decent. 

Martian Notifier Verdict

Smartwatches may have come a long way but we’re still waiting for that ‘iPhone moment’ for the category. The Notifier isn't the watch to do it.

It does one job - alerts - impeccably well and you won’t be ashamed to wear one in public. It doesn’t completely shake off smartwatches’ dorky image but does offer a design which blends a regular-looking watch with smartphone smarts into an affordable, comfortable, reliable - if not flawless - package.

If the Martian’s functionality is too simple, try the Pebble Steel. If you want a truly next-gen smartwatch for 2014, keep your eyes pinned to our Android Wear coverage for news of the upcoming Moto 360 and more.

Stuff says... 

Martian Notifier review

Affordable, simple and (relatively) stylish, the Notifier has its limits but is still a practical, reliable smartwatch
Good Stuff 
Essentially an analogue watch
Custom vibrations work nicely
iOS and Android compatible
Works with lots of apps
Bad Stuff 
Needs charges every three-four days
Limited to alerts
Tweaked microUSB cable for charging
Not waterproof
Small screen