Evolution of Wearables: Two Functional & Affordable Smartwatches at CES


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Dec 30, 2010
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So far, the evolution of wearable computers has been glacially slow. Google is taking their sweet time perfecting Google Glass (which is appreciated, because we are all sick of half-baked devices spamming the market before they are ready). Speaking of half-baked devices, Samsung Galaxy Gear leaves a great deal to be desired. It doesn't quite have enough functionality to warrant its high price. Still, if you think that wearable devices are simply a fad that will fade away you might want to rethink that perspective.

Nearly every big-name manufacturer in the technology world is moving toward offering something in the realm of wearable computers starting this year and beyond. Of course we have the obvious companies like Google, Samsung, LG and many others who have either announced or are working on wearable computing devices. We also have the not-so-obvious companies even getting in the game. One example is Intel's new "Edison," which is a computer in an SD card designed to be a "plug-and-play" device for OEMs to jump start a wearable line. Even Qualcomm, the chipset manufacturer for other OEMs, has announced plans to make and sell their own line of smartwatches.

Make no mistake, 2014 will see a big push into this market from around the globe, and because of this, eventually we might actually see some useful devices emerge. But... is it possible they are much closer than expected? Thanks to Kickstarter, that question is a yes. At CES this year there are two small indie startups putting forth Android based smartwatches which are possibly a big step forward in the technology and may actually usefulness and even get close to being affordable. What is truly intriguing about both of these devices is that neither of them need another smartphone to tether to via bluetooth. They both can accept SIM cards and become your wearable phone-watch.

First we have a device called the TrueSmart from Omate. Here's a spec breakdown of the device and a video above where you can see it demoed. It has a version which starts at $250 (Source: Phandroid).
  • 1.3 GHz dual-core Cortex A7 processor
  • Android 4.2.2
  • 1.54-inch TFT display (240 x 240)
  • Multi-touch Capacitive Touch Screen
  • 2G/3G/WiFi/bluetooth 4.0/GPS
  • 5 MP camera
  • Speaker & microphone
  • 512MB + 4GB of internal storage (expandable by microSD 8/16/32GB)
  • Micro SIM card slot
  • 600 mAh battery (up to 100 hours standby)


Next we have the Neptune Pine. It too is a standalone Android smartphone for your wrist and began on Kickstarter. It's still a bit on the pricey side at $335 bucks, but that is part of the Kickstarter funding. Here's a spec list for it (and here's the company website - NeptunePine.com):
  • 2.4-inch display with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels
  • 5-megapixel main rear-facing camera (Useable because you can detach the smartphone piece out of the wristband)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 (Cortex A5-based) processor
  • A microSIM card slot
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 810mAh Battery
What do you think of these devices? Could it be small startups that finally get the ball rolling on this burgeoning industry?
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I think trying to make it a watch is the problem. Society has kind of stopped using watches. Putting a device on your wrist that has a primary function as a watch unless you are directly using it for something else is viewed as "old timey". Give me something like what Captian Jack Harkness wears on his wrist. Use one of those fancy new screens from Samsung or LG so it can flex and bend around your arm and have it do stuff other than answer the phone and play music. Right now, the wearable devices are very limited and expensive. I don't want something that answers my phone that I already have to carry with me to receive those calls. The two devices in this article are nice because they are the phone themselves. But then you lose the added functionality of having the rest of a smartphone with you. Google Glass, though IMO is not that amazing to me, is the only device that has functionality outside of answering a phone or checking the weather.
^^^ As always, I agree 100%. To perhaps put it a bit differently: it seems as if somewhere along the way, the tech community has bought into the assumption that "wearable" (esp. smart watch) means "smart phone on my wrist." If so, I couldn't disagree more with that view. I think Glass does a much better job illustrating the concept, that is, having a PC's-worth of computing potential on my wrist should translate to: how many ordinary, everyday activities can be facilitated or enhanced with a device that seamlessly senses my movements (and better yet, intelligently senses what's going on both internally and externally) and responds appropriately.

tl;dr I think the smart-phone-on-a-wrist is a really limited idea. Wearable designers should focus on "everyday" scenarios instead, e.g., I'm at work, or hanging out with friends, or commuting, or exercising, and demonstrate that a wearable can integrate into these tasks/experiences and enrich them. Being able to take a call...or check the time...or lookup an address with my wrist is NOT what I would call "enriching."

EDIT: to put a sharper point on my comment, how about this -- I received an email this morning as part of the community I work in, announcing a special issue in the Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments. The issue topic is, "Affect Aware Ubiquitous Computing." (By the way "affect" in this sense means "emotion" or "subjective experience.") Feel free to take a peek (link below, however beware the high level of technical mumbo-jumbo) -- the take-away point is that the computer science and engineering communities are light-years ahead of the smart-phone manufacturers as far as wearable computing is concerned.

CFP JAISE-Thematic Issue: Affect Aware Ubiquitous Computing

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