Armani Exchange Connected review

Wear OS gets a smart new suit

Image Credit: TechRadar

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Specs, features, interface and performance

  • GPS, NFC and wireless charging
  • Aging processor lets the side down
  • Rotating crown is a smart way to use Wear OS
  • Good range of customizable watch faces

As with other Wear OS smartwatches running the three-year-old Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, our first impressions of the Armani’s performance were not great.

Once paired with the Wear OS smartphone app (available for iOS or Android), the watch stumbles its way through a brief tutorial with the elegance of a giraffe on roller skates. The interface stutters, pauses, and has moments where it is completely blank.

The setup process is brief, and many owners will only ever do this once. But this is your very first interaction with a new purchase; it should be seamless and inviting, not jarring.

Thankfully, once the watch has been set up its performance improves. The buttery smoothness of the Apple Watch 4 is missing, but the Armani Exchange buyer has an extra $105 / £120 in their pocket, which feels like a fair compromise.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

We can’t put the blame entirely on Armani Exchange for the watch’s lack of performance. The Snapdragon chipset is getting on a bit, and Google’s Wear OS is long overdue a major upgrade.

As with other fashion smartwatches, the Connected has a good range of watch faces to pick from, and each is heavily customizable. Some allow you to change the color of up to nine different elements to make something truly unique. These faces can then be saved in custom categories, accessible via a press of the button at two o’clock.

Swiping up from the home screen (your current watch face) shows a list of recent notifications from your smartphone, which can be scrolled with a swipe or by rotating the crown. Swiping down brings up the quick settings panel for adjusting screen brightness, switching on airplane and low battery modes, and activating Google Pay.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

A swipe from the right edge opens a Google Fit widget, and a swipe from the left opens the Google Assistant.

It’s easy to criticize Wear OS for lagging behind Apple’s watchOS and Tizen (used by Samsung), but we feel fashion watches like this are likely to be interacted with less than those from technology companies.

We can see Armani Connected buyers setting the watch up, picking which notifications they want to come through, maybe checking in on their daily step count every so often, and leaving it at that.

This is a watch to primarily look good and remind the wearer they are an Armani-wearing sort of person, and so we don’t see buyers being too hung up on apps being a little slow to open. Those who want a more impressive tech experience should consider the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active.

All that said, once the watch is set up it performs acceptably, with notifications coming through from your phone, and Google Fit keeping track of your walking, running, heart rate and exercise.

NFC is a welcome addition, meaning you can make contactless payments using Google Pay. Once set up with your bank card, just swipe down from the watch face and tap on the Pay icon, then tap your watch against the card reader.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Health and fitness

  • Google Fit comes pre-installed
  • Heart rate monitor
  • GPS for tracking outdoor runs phone-free

The design of the Armani Exchange Connected lends itself well to being a fitness-friendly wearable. Where some fashion watches would look out of place in the gym, or worn alongside your running gear, this one feels at home on the treadmill and at the dinner table.

Integrated GPS means you can track the location, distance and elevation changes of outdoor runs without needing your smartphone with you; it’s a welcome feature, especially on a fashion smartwatch at this price point.

Also welcome is the heart rate monitor, which takes multiple readings throughout the day and night, then plots these on a chart which is viewable both on the watch and the smartphone companion app. If you open the Google Fit watch app and tell it you’re exercising, the heart rate monitor will record constantly until you finish your session.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

The main focus of Google Fit is to close two rings; one called move minutes and the other called heart points. The former increases as you move throughout the day, and the latter earns points when you raise your heart rate through exercise.

Dig deeper into the Google Fit app, and you will find a huge list of sports and exercises which the watch can track. There is everything from aerobics and American football, to boxing, cricket, golf, hiking, rowing, skiing and more.

How accurately the watch tracks each sport is perhaps debatable, but we like that whatever sport you’re into, the Fit app probably has the right option for you.

Google Fit also includes meditation and yoga tracking, and a guided breathing app, which walks you through two minutes of controlled breathing.

Sleep tracking is not offered on this watch by default, but there are plenty of specialist apps to pick from on the Play Store. That said, if you wear the watch all day then track eight hours of sleep, the battery is going to need a top-up before getting much further through the second day.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Battery life

  • Manufacturer claims up to two days
  • We found 36 hours to be more accurate

A general rule of thumb with smartwatches is that their battery life falls a little short of the manufacturer’s claim. This is also true of the Armani Exchange Connected, with the maker claiming up to two days, but reality pegging this between 24 and 36 hours.

As with other smartwatches, there are a lot of variables to take into consideration. Enabling the always-on time function (off by default) cuts battery life, and so too does leaving GPS switched on, having the heart rate monitor take readings regularly throughout the day, and asking the watch to alert you to notifications from all of your apps.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Best practice here is to pare things back. You do not need constant notifications on your wrist about Instagram likes, so switch those off and ask the watch to only alert you to the essentials - phone calls, text/WhatsApp, and maybe upcoming events in your calendar.

That way, the battery lasts longer, and you won’t become frustrated by a barrage of notifications buzzing your wrist all day.

In any case, the magnetic contactless charger makes it easy to dock the watch each night, or if you like to track your sleep, then a top up while you shower or sit at your desk should be plenty until the next day.

Alistair Charlton

Alistair Charlton is a freelance technology and automotive journalist based in London. His career began with a stint of work experience at TechRadar back in 2010, before gaining a journalism degree and working in the industry ever since. A lifelong car and tech enthusiast, Alistair writes for a wide range of publications across the consumer technology and automotive sectors. As well as reviewing dash cams for TechRadar, he also has bylines at Wired, T3, Forbes, Stuff, The Independent, SlashGear and Grand Designs Magazine, among others.