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Stylish Olio Smartwatch Takes on Apple, Tag Heuer

Days after Tag Heuer and other luxury watchmakers announced high-end Android Wear smartwatches to take on the Apple Watch, another company has entered the fray with designs on the fashion and smartwatch markets. The Olio smartwatch, which will start at $595, is positioning itself as a luxury smartwatch with a novel interface and cloud-based assistant meant to manage your digital life by proactively making suggestions based on your location.

Unlike its competitors, the Olio will be released in very limited numbers. Initially, only 1,000 will be available for sale -- 500 of the Steel version ($595 with a leather strap) and 500 of the Black model ($745 with leather strap). Now available for pre-order, the watches will ship later this year.

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The Olio was designed by CEO Steve Jacobs, who has previously worked for Apple, Movado, Google and Beats By Dre. It looks every part the luxury watch; the case is made from hand-polished stainless steel. Those lucky few who can get their hands on it will be able to choose from a traditional stainless steel, or a blackened version. Both are available with a variety of leather straps or a stainless steel bracelet.

The face and back of the watch is made from a hardened crystal, and the touchscreen will work even if you're wearing gloves, or are under water. What's more, the screen has a rated brightness of 700 nits, so it should be more than easy to see outdoors. The only thing I didn't like about the design is the small cutout on the top of the display -- a concession to the electronics beneath.

The Olio runs a custom operating system designed around the idea that the watch will be deliver notifications and suggestions based on where you are and what you're doing. For example, if it sees that you're about to enter a meeting, it will ask you if it should silence all notifications for the duration of that meeting. 

Behind the minute and second hands are a number of spokes radiating out from the center; the longer the spoke, the more notifications you received in that time period. When a call or text message comes in, a wearer will be able to take some actions through a series of swipes, including responding with a custom message. Additionally, a microphone will let you interact with your phone via Siri and Google Now.

While the watch won't have apps in the manner of Apple and Android Wear, Olio has an open API, and is working with companies such as Nest to allow users to control those devices from the watch itself.

Jacobs said the Olio should last between two and four days on a charge, which would make it longer than the Apple Watch and most Android Wear devices, but less than the week battery life of the Pebble Steel. In a nice design feature, the copper charging coil is visible beneath the bottom crystal panel.

Due to the limited initial supply, the Olio probably won't make a huge dent in Apple Watch revenues, or even move the needle much in terms of overall smartwatch sales. However, its nice to see not only a new approach to smartphone design, but a stylish one at that.