Update – January 25, 2020
Unfortunately we can no longer recommend the Nixon Mission. Nixon has ceased production and support as well as app updates. Unfortunately they never made the iPhone app work properly which was ridiculous, and a disservice to many customers. If you are looking for a smart watch for surfing we now recommend the Apple Watch Series 5 along with the Dawn Patrol app and Surfline Sessions. Check out our article about the best surf watches.
The Nixon Mission is a smartwatch geared towards the action sports crowd – specifically those who like the ocean and the snow. Smartwatches are becoming more and more popular these days, and with The Mission Nixon is attempting to corner a niche. The watch is sleek, stylish, large, and full of versatility. I bought one of these bad boys (we weren’t given one by Nixon) for our surf watch review series and have been wearing it for about two weeks so I could write up an in-depth review of this nifty little device.
Design And Appearance
The Mission is a big watch, probably one of the bigger watches you can get. The design is eye catching and rugged, however, and Nixon offers a multitude of customization options and different colors. The one I got is all black as I tend to go for objects that will match with anything. But I digress – the Mission looks great. It’s probably the best looking smartwatch out there if you’re someone that likes more rugged design.
The Mission has a wide band made of a dual layer silicone that is soft and grippy. Each layer has a different color, depending on what colorway you order. I have read complaints that if you have very large wrists the strap is almost too small. However, the strap can be changed out. I’ve seen people writing that they have used the Leatherman Tread as a band, which is actually a very cool idea.
The design is overall more masculine leaning, however I can see women wearing this as well depending on their overall style. It might not be the watch that you wear out to the opera, however, as it’s definitely a bit more on the casual end of the spectrum.
The 1.39″ circular screen is bright and vibrant inside the 48mm case, boasting a 400×400 pixel resolution that is colorful and easy to read. It’s not quite at the level of a retina display, but it’s very good.
The touch screen is responsive and easy to operate, although occasionally my taps weren’t registered. I was worried the big screen might get dinged up, but thankfully it’s made of gorilla glass for fewer scratches.
There’s a lot you can do with this watch, and it’s almost impossible to go through all the various features in this article. However I’d like to touch on some of the more cool and useful things you can do.
Watch Face Customization
One of the things I found most fun right off the bat is that you can customize the face and appearance of the watch with the touch of a button. Nixon includes a variety of different faces that all have the Nixon aesthetic, however you can also download different faces from the Google Play store for even further customization. The Nixon faces allow you to select various features to go in the small dials or “complications” as they are called.
You can set yours, for example, to show the local weather, the tide at your local surf spot, and the snow report for your local mountain. That’s just one example, however. There are a plethora of other options, and after a few weeks of having the watch I’m still finding it fun to try out different faces and data to show on the face.
Thanks to Androidwear 2.0, iPhone compatibility has been upgraded. You can receive app notifications on your watch from your phone, read texts, pause and skip songs that are playing on your phone, and use tracking apps. Setting up the watch took a little bit of time for me simply because I was unfamiliar with Androidwear watches and software. A little tinkering revealed that I had to upgrade the watch software as well as some of the apps to have compatibility with my iPhone. Once I did all that, pairing with my iPhone was simple. I do sometimes lose connectivity with my phone, but not often.
Google Play Store
Getting apps and new watch faces on your watch is as simple as going to the Google Play store right on your watch. You can browse for new apps and ensure that the ones on your watch are up to date. If you find the watch a bit constricting in terms of browsing apps, you can also browse for them on your computer and send them directly to your device.
The watch has a standalone GPS which enables you to use various tracking apps such as fitness and map applications. You can do this all without your phone–I have been using Strava to track my runs lately and it has worked incredibly well.
The Google Fit apps also tracks your steps, allows you to set goals, and track different types of workouts. It does this all from the watch itself.
You can also stream music from Google Play, or import MP3’s directly to the watch and listen over bluetooth.
Action Sports Tracking
Surf and Snow tracking is done via connection to a Trace device, a small puck that you put on your surfboard or snowboard. Unfortunately you can’t track surf data with you Mission watch by itself. This is a drawback, however an Android app may surface that allows you to do this. I’m not sure why Nixon tied themselves and this watch to Trace for this particular feature….I almost expect that to change in the future.
In order to preserve smartwatch voice command compatibility as well as ensure the watch is extremely waterproof, Nixon engineered a special mic lock that allows you to ratchet the microphone open or closed. You can then use the “Ok Google” voice commands that are a part of Androidwear. This feature worries me a tiny bit because I just know that I might forget to close this before I get in the water. Because I rarely use voice commands with any device, I tend to leave it closed. The watch can’t hear you if it’s closed, however, no matter how loud you yell.
The Mission allows you to get information at your fingertips, such as the weather and calendar entries. Although I haven’t had a flight yet since getting the watch, you can also apparently get flight status updates. Other apps that you can install through the Play Store include reminder apps, list making apps, and other useful tools for everyday use.
The Nixon Mission has to be charged pretty much every night. I can’t get quite more than 24 hours out of it, however others have reported slightly longer wear times. It comes with a magnetic charging cable in a cool orange and black braided material. I just charge it along with my phone on my nightstand every night.
If just a cord is not really your style, there is a third party charging stand from Artifex that is pretty cool and seems like a much more attractive way to charge your watch.
The Mission comes in a very cool zippered case when you buy it, making it extremely satisfying to purchase and unbox. This makes for a great gift presentation as well as a great way to store your watch for travel.
If you have an iPhone you will be a bit more limited in terms of compatibility. Thanks in part to the fact that Apple doesn’t play nice with other companies, you won’t be able to respond to iMessages on your watch, or use the watch to answer or make phone calls. You can answer or decline calls from your watch, you just can’t use the watch to talk and listen.
The Nixon Mission is not as smooth and doesn’t have all the features that an Apple Watch would have in terms of compatibility with an iPhone. However, for those that are not that into the Apple Watch appearance or the principle of only using Apple products, the Nixon Mission makes a great smartwatch alternative. It’s also more durable and waterproof than an Apple watch.
Androidwear 2.0 is relatively new, however, and I expect more and more app compatibility with the iPhone.
Nixon’s Mission app is also rather buggy at the time of this writing, as the surf and snow report data doesn’t update on the watch unless the watch is re-paired or restarted. This is frustrating however it’s a software issue and I believe Nixon will fix this in future updates.
In practice I really like The Mission. I enjoy wearing it, despite some of the compatibility hangups with the iPhone. I can switch songs on my wrist, read my texts, and monitor calls. This is helpful when I’m out for a run or bike ride and I don’t want to dig out my phone. Switching songs when DJing a party with your iPhone has never been easier. For me personally (being a female) it’s a little big for anything other than casual wear, but I often swap out watches for this reason anyway.
Overall I’m actually not that upset that I can’t reply to texts or calls directly on my watch. I really don’t need to be that connected to everything all the time. I like being able to see that I got the text and read it.
Hopefully Nixon gets its act together and updates the Mission app and gets rid of the bugs. But beyond that I’m actually pretty stoked to put this on every day. For people new to Androidwear expect a few days to get used to the software and set it up to be customized the way you want as you get used to the different features.
Need a surf watch? Check out our full rundown featuring the latest watches available now.