Wearable Wednesdays: Nixon’s The Mission

For the past week I’ve been sporting this gargantuan custom-made Nixon Mission on my wrist. Here’s a quick tour of the watch and software, with some thoughts and observations along the way.

This particular watch marks my return to Android Wear from Pebble. I was, as you can imagine, looking for something a little more substantial—and I specifically wanted to try a smartwatch made by a traditional watch company. I don’t consider Michael Kors to be a watchmaker by any means, nor am I a fan of the flat tires on those products. Ditto for the offerings from Fossil.

I am, however, a fan of big sporty watches like Casio’s G-Shock line, and when I saw an actual Mission on display in the company’s Hong Kong store, I was sold. I ordered my watch from Nixon’s Canadian site that evening from my hotel room, paying a little more for this custom colour combo—a brushed steel bezel in the gunmetal finish on a grey body, with blue on black straps. I was expecting the blue on the strap to be a little darker, but overall I’m happy with what I got.

It’s been a big adjustment coming from the four programmable buttons on my Pebble Time Steel to the single, non-programmable button on the Nixon. The Mission’s button can do three things: turn the screen off, on and return to the watch face from anywhere else in the Android Wear OS. Google addresses the lack of buttons in Android Wear by adding gestures, which on the Mission aren’t reliable at all. I’ve chosen to turn them off.

While we’re here, I’ll say that the strap is quite comfortable, if a bit short. Note that to change bands you’ll need a special tool. And I’ve yet to see any replacements straps for sale on Nixon’s site.

On the other side of the watch is, for me, its least-appealing feature. Because The Mission is aimed at surfers and snowboarders it not only needs to be waterproof but the microphone needs extra protection against the crushing impact of waves and snow. Their solution—a hinge and clip that locks the mic open or closed—it makes sense but is fiddly to deal with. Fortunately you can leave it in the open position, as I’ve done here.

The Mission’s underside reveals a feature that I look for in every smartwatch I own: the absence of a heart rate sensor. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe such things to be a private matter between my doctor and I.

One other thing while we’re staring at The Mission’s butt: its vibration motor is weaker than you’d expect. I’ve actually missed one or two notifications while wearing it, but thankfully, never a phone call.

Charging The Mission is taken care of with these five pins, flanked on either side by surprisingly powerful magnets. You get a neat braided rope cable as well.

I’m getting about a day and a half of use from a fully-charged battery. I’d be willing to give up that extra half-day if I could keep the watch face active all the time.

Here are The Mission’s default watch faces, selectable through the Android Wear app. As with any good smartwatch, you can use a third-party solution if you prefer… sorry Apple!

Nixon’s Mission-specific software includes The Mission, which tracks conditions at your favourite outdoor sporting locales. If you want to display location-specific data on your watch face you’ll need this app and will have to share location data with it as well.

There are also two on-watch apps called Trace Snow and Trace Surf. These presumably track the appropriate activities using The Mission’s built-in GPS.

Delivering a verdict on The Mission is tough because I don’t have another sporty smartwatch to compare it to—oh wait… Thanks, Amazon! I’ll have more to report on next Wednesday.

In the meantime, I’d say this is the best—perhaps the only—Android Wear smartwatch for the water and/or winter sport enthusiast. For everyone else, I’d recommend that you try to find a dealer that has The Mission in stock; once you try one on you’ll figure out pretty quickly whether or not it’s the smartwatch for you.

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