Saturday, September 23, 2023

Montblanc Summit 3 review: a watch for no one

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Shreya Christina
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A few weeks ago I pulled down my sleeve to hide the Montblanc Summit 3 on my wrist. I felt self-conscious wearing a $1,290 luxury smartwatch on a not-so-special day, let alone on the filthy New York City subway. (Don’t mind the fact that I have no problem pulling out a high-end smartphone on a commute.) But this fancypants smartwatch is the first non-Samsung watch with Wear OS 3, and i wanted to try it.

For $1,300 I expected James Bond level advanced features or something flashy enough to be worn by some financial bro on a yacht in Mallorca. But it’s neither.

The Summit 3 is the first smartwatch with a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus chip to launch with Wear OS 3. Every other smartwatch on that platform is still stuck on Wear OS 2, and future Wear OS 3 watches will likely be on the newer ones. Running Snapdragon W5. Plus. Samsung’s Wear OS 3 watches also run on a newer chip. The Summit 3 is also the first Wear OS 3 watch to work with iPhones. The upcoming Pixel Watch won’t support iOS, and Samsung said goodbye to iOS last year with the Galaxy Watch 4.

So the Summit 3 is a bit of an odd one out. It’s a $1,300 watch with the guts of a $300 watch but fewer features, with tomorrow’s software on last year’s chipset working with a platform where no one in the slightest would buy an Android smartwatch. It’s almost again thirteen hundred dollars.

Out of the box – a very luxurious box – it looks nice, with a titanium case, sapphire crystal and calfskin strap. But as a co-worker said when I wore it to the office, “This looks like a $500 watch. Not $1,300.” I might spend that much for a fancy Swiss automatic watch that is meant to be passed down as an heirloom But this is a smartwatch It takes about two to three years to upgrade And from a distance it looks like any other analog-inspired Wear OS watch – just one with exclusive Montblanc watch faces.

Box of Montblanc Summit 3 and all its accessories.

It’s a beautiful box! You get the charging dock, USB-C cable, two bands, and documentation.

Up close, the craftsmanship is more apparent. When I went to pick up my review unit, a Montblanc representative said that each case has a hand-polished satin finish to give you that artisan feel, and it looks nice too! In terms of design, the crown stands out thanks to the Montblanc logo. It is also one of the better constructed crowns I have ever used. It’s less prone to accidental presses and feels like a real watch crown rather than a button. My only concern is that people with limited mobility or weaker hands may struggle as it takes a little more force to twist or press.

The Summit 3 wears large compared to other 42mm watches. That’s probably due to the case design, which measures 1.65 inches in diameter and is about half an inch thick. The case weighs 52 grams, which is strangely heavy for a titanium watch. The 45mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which also has a titanium case and sapphire crystal, weighs just 46.5 grams.

Montblanc Summit 3 watches in black, silver and silver with two-tone pushers and different colored straps

The case is available in three colors: black, silver and silver with two-tone pushers.

Despite the design, the specifications of the Summit 3 are nothing special. It has 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage. You also get Bluetooth 5.0, built-in GPS tracking, Wi-Fi, contactless payments, and heart rate and SpO2 monitoring. This is standard for the handful of 4100-powered Wear OS watches out there – the TicWatch Pro 3 and the Fossil Gen 6 watches. The Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus chip is capable of delivering snappy performance on this stripped-down version of Wear OS 3. It’s noticeably less laggy than 3100-powered Wear OS watches, but that’s not saying much. The bar is really low here. I’ve got about a day of battery life on this thing, and that’s pretty common for Wear OS smartwatches.

While the Summit 3 has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, I wouldn’t say the extra durability makes it good for fitness tracking. you can Track outdoor workouts with the watch, but the display is hard to read and the weight is distracting during vigorous exercise like running. It’s fine for following casual activities, but I’d leave it at home for more serious business. Personally, I was too paranoid to take a $1,290 watch for more than a few short 30-minute runs.

The back of the Summit 3

As far as the sensors are concerned, the Montblanc Summit 3 does not contain anything special. Here you can see the optical heart rate and SpO2 sensors.

As for fitness tracking accuracy, again, it’s fine. Of course, my runs were later recorded as walks, but the distance, maps, and heart rate data matched the results I got on my Apple Watch Series 7 and in the Runkeeper app. It’s possible that I’m hitting the walking activity instead of running (I didn’t), but it’s more likely that the native fitness app is a bit unpolished, especially since you don’t see the workouts included in the Montblanc fitness app. can’t even watch it on the phone yet. That will come in a later update. For health features like sleep tracking and SpO2, this is good if you want a broad overview, but there are several other wearables that do a better job.

Aside from the clean look, the most interesting thing about the Summit 3 is that it’s our first indication of what Wear OS 3 can be outside of Samsung watches. Google will almost certainly run a more “enhanced” version on the Pixel Watch, given what we heard from I/O. (This is somewhat corroborated by the fact that Montblanc told me that this is the most basic version of Wear OS 3). Samsung also has a skin over Wear OS 3 for the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 5 series. Other Wear OS 2 devices powered by the 4100 platform haven’t gotten the Wear OS 3 upgrade yet — and possibly not until the Pixel Watch has had its debut. So for now this is it!

After a few weeks of testing, I’ve come to the conclusion that this version of Wear OS 3… is OK. It feels similar to Wear OS 2 on the Fossil Gen 6 – better than I expected, but not particularly exciting. You’ll still scroll through the main menu, but there’s a new map-like look that’s easier to read. You swipe through tiles and notifications. It all sounds very familiar, but I felt strange for the first few days of using it. I later realized that was because everything was running relatively smoothly, which I wasn’t used to on a non-Samsung Android watch. (Although Mobvoi’s TicWatches aren’t half bad.)

Close-up of the digital crown of the Montblanc Summit 3

The digital crown is quite nice.

The Play Store is much improved. It’s no longer a barren wasteland of forgotten apps. Popular services such as Strava, Spotify and Calm are optimized for the platform. The Summit comes with some Montblanc apps, such as one for fitness and stress, but you don’t have to stick to them. A robust third-party app ecosystem has been one of Wear OS 3’s main strengths thus far, and if it stays that way, this whole experiment stands a good chance.

The mind-boggling omission is Google Assistant. It’s just not there. I asked Montblanc why but was told to ask Google. Google Assistant is available on almost every Wear OS 2 watch and now on all Wear OS 3 Samsung Galaxy smartwatches. Apple Watches have Siri. The Fitbit Sense and Versa 3 offer you the choice between Google Assistant and Alexa. Other budget brands, such as Amazfit, also have Alexa. Huawei has its own assistant Celia. Voice assistants are everywhere on smartwatches that cost much less. It’s hard to fathom paying $1,290 for a smartwatch without it.

The other big change is that the Summit doesn’t use the companion Wear OS Phone app. Instead, you connect the Summit 3 to a Summit app on iOS or Android. The Summit app itself isn’t a meaty app either. There’s not much to do other than futz around with watch faces, read tutorials, adjust settings, and that’s about it.

Montblanc Summit 3 shows the Google Pay screen alongside several alternative bands

Google Pay is not available if you decide to use this watch with iOS.

I have paired the watch with both my iPhone 12 Pro Max and my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The experience is quite similar, at least in terms of pairing, setting, and swiping through actual tiles and notifications. But the Summit 3 works better with Android phones. Example: You cannot use Google Wallet or Google Maps if you are using iOS. Trust me – I’ve tried it several times. Although you can download the app on the wrist from the Play Store, you cannot add a card. It’s also pointless to download Google Wallet onto your iPhone in the hopes of adding a card to your wrist.

“At this time, Google Maps and Google Wallet are not available with iOS,” said Qualcomm spokesman Lauren Miller. The edge on behalf of Montblanc. “We will always work to make our features more useful and accessible to our users – and will let you know when we have more to share.”

That’s disappointing but expected. The vast majority of iOS users, especially those who have gone all-in on Apple gadgets, have no reason to buy a Wear OS watch. I imagine Montblanc’s decision to include iOS compatibility is because they’re targeting the handful of obscenely wealthy iPhone users who want to spend a lot of money on a smartwatch, but for whatever reason don’t want an Apple Watch — not even the Hermès version. But this fragmented approach suggests Wear OS 3 could still end up as a fragmented platform.

The Montblanc Summit 3 on a woman's wrist

It’s too expensive for smartwatch geeks and not interesting enough for mechanical watch enthusiasts.

You don’t have to look far to see the signs. Samsung’s Wear OS watches have a skin to give them more of a Galaxy flavor. You could bypass Google entirely on the Watch 4 and Watch 5 if you wanted. When Fossil’s Wear OS 3 watches arrive, I suspect they’ll follow Montblanc’s lead and use a Fossil-branded companion app. The same goes for Mobvoi’s upcoming Wear OS 3 TicWatch with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 Plus platform. And whatever we’re seeing on the Pixel Watch, it’s probably as close as whatever Google’s true vision for Wear OS 3 is. (Whether it’s successful depends on other things.) The fact that the Wear OS 3 experience can vary so wildly from watch to watch could be a good thing. Greater diversity has always been the benefit of Google’s decentralized software approach. Or it could go horribly wrong. We just don’t know because most of the Wear OS 3 watches aren’t here yet.

As for the Summit 3, my time with the watch left me with more questions than answers about the future of Wear OS 3. But as a watch, the verdict is simple. I cannot recommend this watch and have a great night’s sleep. Not because it did anything blatant – it’s a serviceable watch, and if it was more reasonably priced I might be singing a different tune. But at the end of the day, this is a mid-tier smartwatch with maybe three years’ worth of use, made of materials that are too good to throw away, at Swiss watch prices. If you can afford it, do it. Otherwise, I’d wait to see what the rest of fall has in store for Wear OS 3.

Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge


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