So often smartwatches are about compromises. Sliding up the scale of features you want directly reduces the levels of aesthetics and usability, which means you can’t have a full colour screen without slashing battery life to a day.
The compromise game is played on every smartwatch in existence, but what’s impressive about the Nixon The Mission is that it seems to make fewer than its rivals. And it may just be one of the most complete watches that Android Wear has graced to date.
While we only got to see it behind glass at Baselworld 2016 – the company blamed Google for not allowing it out of the case – we still got a decent first impression of how it shapes up.
When it comes to raw numbers The Mission’s spec sheet is positively bulging: the all new Qualcomm Snapdragon 2300 powers the show, which means when it comes to battery life and build size, Nixon gave The Mission the best chance it had.
Add to that immense 10 ATM water resistance which should see it through depths of up to 100m, built-in GPS, a full colour AMOLED screen (with no flat tyre in sight) and a built-in microphone for making calls and barking commands half way down a black run.
The build itself is pretty huge, and it’s likely you’ll only use The Mission while you’re out adventuring – rather than in the office. It’s 48mm and adorned in Gorilla Glass and polycarbonate to make it one of the chunkiest smartwatches you’re likely to meet. The overtly extreme sports styling might suit the kind of person who wears an O’Neil hat and Oakleys to work – perhaps the front man in Cornish ska-punk band Kernow Vibration – but for most it’s too big for every day use.
That said there are customisation options available. Buyers will be able to choose a colour faceplate and swap them in and out, and there are over 20 strap options as well.
But the devil is in the detail with The Mission. Beyond a complete set of features, little additions really elevate the smartwatch beyond its competitors. The Gore-Tex protection surrounding the built-in microphone which makes it splashproof when it’s exposed to the elements is one such detail, so you can make calls on a ski-lift without pulling your smartphone out and expose it to the elements.
Another detail is the partnerships with Snocountry and Surfline, two of the most respected sources of data worldwide, as well as Trace, which connects to a puck that you attach to your board for live data such as speed and air time. It’s built with sports in mind, and that’s refreshing.
The problem for Android Wear is that so many of its devices haven’t enjoyed that same attention to detail. The lazy comparison is with the Casio WSD-F10, an outdoor smartwatch with no built in GPS. But others in the range suffer similar problems. The Moto 360 Sport, which only supports running out of the box, is one such device that falls down on lack of finer detail. The same goes for its big brother the Moto 360 2015, which ruins its attempt at couture with the infernal flat tyre dead spot at the bottom of the screen.
But the Nixon promises more. A smartwatch designed with a specific user in mind, and while battery life and size are still concessions on the sliding scale of wearable tech compromises, there’s few smartwatches, it looks like The Mission could accomplish its objectives.