Android Smartwatch review: DOMINO DM368 Plus

Jul 15, 2017

The Domino DM368 now has a Plus version, doubling the available memory to keep up with its rivals...





The DM386 Plus lines up with the current standard of 1GB RAM/16GB ROM, while the initial DM386 had 512MB/8GB.
It still runs Android 5.1 on a MTK6580 processor, but clocked at 1GHz instead of 1.3, probably to preserve the life of the unchanged 400mAh battery which sits in the middle of the competition where batteries range from 350 to 450mAh battery (this rating is rarely accurate anyway).

Other characteristics are: 3G Phone, Bluetooth 4.0, Pedometer, Heart rate monitor, GPS, Wi-Fi.
There's no NFC, no SD card slot and no camera.

Unpacking

The watch travelled protected in a solid jewel case and has a screen protector already applied. A spare one in located in the accessories compartment with a magnetic USB data/charging cable. A short (English/Chinese) user manual and a screen wipe are also included.



First start

The watch came with a flat battery and a 20 minutes charge was needed before being able to boot the system.

The magnetic charging cable is the same as with many models in that range from KingWear and Lemfo, with standard USB pin-outs.

   

The watch boots in 20 seconds and greets you with a nice jingle.
In order to avoid it, the watch must be in silent mode (literally "Slience" on screen) before.

The watch is not waterproof but reasonably well protected against rain and occasional splashes. 
Overall the DM368 Plus looks nice and feels solid.

Using it as a watch:

The strap would fit most adults. It was a bit short for me but I could wear it comfortably on the last hole. The maximum wrists thickness should not exceed 21cm/8.3". 

Custom watch faces
One of the coolest feature in smart watches is the ability to choose the watch face! There's already a few of them in the device memory, but I found that only a few nice worth using. I personally prefer the analog style and found a huge collection available out there!

xda-developers.com is the place to start if you want to know more about how to add custom watch faces. The method described for No.1 D5 applies to the DM368: all you need is to upload your files to the watch memory into the ClockSkin folder.
There are many other great skins available in this Google+ Community.

Making your own creations is possible with ClockSkinMaker. Once installed, it will already unzip a collection of sample clock faces in %USERPROFILE%\ClockSkin.



My 'New' Citizen beside my old one...

Note: The custom face shows only when the watch screen is interacted with...I explain:
If you enable "Screen on raising" in the "gesture" section, the time will display for 3 seconds when twisting the wrist. In that case, a minimalist digital view will be shown, not the custom face. This is obviously a battery saving measure.
    

Using it as a phone:  

I've been impressed by the mobile phone coverage for this tiny device. It was comparable to my usual phone when tested in a place notorious for its poor coverage (my home).

The in-call sound quality is another story:
The integrated speaker is loud and clear, but the microphone sends a muffled, hard to understand voice to the other party**.
Strangely this microphone provided exceptional recording quality with the included sound recorder app...


However I had an excellent quality in and out with a Bluetooth earset (good old Samsung WEP200) and since I don't like to share my phone calls with people around me, I'd stick to that way.


**Update 24/07/2017: Further tests under better signal coverage gave a better, more than acceptable audio quality using the embedded microphone. However the best results are still obtained with in-car BT handfree system and BT earset.


Using it as a smart phone: 

The native applications are well adapted to the round screen.
Weather, time , system status, app list and notifications are clearly displayed. I just regret that the calendar is just...a calendar, not giving a close view to your agenda items. The real Google Calendar needs to be installed for that.


Of course, there's room for adding more apps from Play Store, but not all will fit well in the round screen. ES Explorer is an example of such app. When the edges of a screen are outside the display, a long press on the side button brings the power off menu where there's an option to un-zoom the display (Full, the default, or Small), this can temporarily help in such situations.


The on-screen keyboard is really tiny and, although it responds very well, writing email, using chat would be far easier with the voice recognition "typing" .
For the same reason, it is preferable to install your apps from Play on a computer browser.


Wifi FTP Server is the kind of app that proved very useful on this watch. I've used it to transfer my screenshots for this review. 


GPS turns out to be very reliable for such a tiny device. To avoid the tiny keyboard, I could plan a short trip by voice, although it is even better to plan ahead from Google Maps on a computer browser and use the "Send to your phone". The speaker did an excellent job in providing loud and clear instructions while driving.















Fitness options
The accuracy of the heart rate is comparable to most recent fitness watches, pedometer seems realistic for the time I used it.









The app that nobody wants to use...
I have to mention the companion app, the terrible SinWear/WiiWear, inflicted by most Mediatek-based Smart Watches vendors (Lemfo, KingWear, ...)

Good news: you don't really need it, unless you want the watch it to relay the phone calls and notifications from your phone. All the smart watches I tried before, some worth less than 20€ came with a much better sync app.
So, I'll sum it up in a few words: useless, awful, unstable, unfinished, don't bother...

Battery life: a day at most.

It is difficult to be specific about the battery life since any single function has a strong impact on it: display and brightness of course, but also pedometer, heart rate sensor, ringtone/vibration mode, BT, Wi-Fi, GPS, ... so much energy needed from that tiny battery!
Just expect to recharge it daily, nothing unusual for a smartwatch.

Conclusion

A supposedly profound motto at the back of the watch goes "Smart Watch Leads the Trend of Science and to Create a Better File".
The next model will probably read "This watch is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" (but we all know it's "42", right?)

Nevertheless, despite my initial reserve on these wannabe watch-phones, I must admit that Domino DM368 Plus is a very complete little gadget that comes handy on a day out, when you don't want to carry your phablet around, fishing, jogging, fitness...

Of course it is not meant to replace a full blown smartphone with a large, comfortable touch screen (although the 400*400 1.39 inch display is excellent!), but it covers all the functions of a smartphone, sometimes better (sound recorder), sometimes a bit worse (Bluetooth earphones are recommended for phone calls), plus a heart rate monitor.
At the same time, it may not replace a traditional watch that doesn't need to be recharged daily, like my good ol' Citizen Sky Hawk, but it will definitely be a convenient replacement for both in many occasions.

The Domino DM368 Plus is a well made, solid and convincing smart watch at the right price. It is available for 88.10€/99.99$ at Gearbest.com

Pros: 
- Nice, sober design and quality feel
- Good Android 5.1 implementation
- Good GPS and Mobile reception
- Bright 400*400px display
- Boot time around 20 seconds
- Accurate heart rate sensor

Cons:
- Average outbound sound quality during phone calls
- Terrible companion app (Wiiwear/Sinwear)






Special thanks to Kylie @ GearBest for providing this sample.



2 comments:

  1. Nice review! And a fascinating gadget.
    Amazing to get a 400mAh battery in that space, never mind all the electronics.

    ReplyDelete