Archive for September, 2011

September 14, 2011

The SmartWatch has arrived…again


I am one of those guys who carries his mobile phone in his pocket. In fact with screens becoming bigger & phones consequently heavier I almost always need a belt to hold my pants in place 🙂

Don’t get me wrong. I love the large screens.

What annoys me is the fact that every time I get a notification the phone chirps and I feel obligated to check out the message. I have to reach into my pocket, slip out the case, press the ‘Power’ button, unlock the phone, slide my hand over the top of the screen and click on the message to read it. Call me a lazy ass, but this has become cumbersome, especially considering the number of notifications I get these days – credit card purchases, e-mail, text messages, chat messages, alarms etc. One can argue that I could disable notifications…. but I want them.

The problem is compounded when you are sitting in a car or a restaurant and the phone chirps. Extricating the phone out of your pocket is no easy task. To avoid this many of us tend to leave the phone on the table. This of course means you have to remember to pick it up when you leave.

The cell phone has rendered a lot of devices useless – the calculator, the alarm clock, personal radio and others. It hasn’t got rid of the watch yet though sales are beginning to dip.

However the convenience of knowing the time at an instant is still only possible with the watch. Not to mention its role as a style statement.

Microsoft launched SPOT watches in 2003 to some good reviews but while they were good concepts they were not practical – bulky, low battery life, expensive and came with a wireless service subscription plan!

However there seems to be revival of sorts now with a bunch of new players getting into the game with everything from programmable watches to iPod Nano straps. Technology – OLED screens, low power silicon, touch interfaces, low power Bluetooth connectivity and smartphones with ubiquitous connectivity to the web have helped.

I follow this space with interest because I am looking for a solution that frees me from having to dig into my pockets and go thru the entire rigmarole to read my notifications.

I was first impressed with tiktok – the iPod Nano straps. The Nano is a neat form factor, nice screen and a great touch interface. However it is not programmable and not connected to the external world.

There is a rumor that Apple is going to introduce a Nano with a camera and low power Bluetooth for connectivity.

The I’m watch though is connected and has a bunch of apps. All watches need to do is connect to cellphones via Bluetooth and pick up notifications from the cell phone. The phone remains in your pocket but with just a flick of your wrist you read the notification. When the phone rings you can do the same and screen your calls before deciding to answer. If these phones were also connected to a wireless headset you can answer it without ever reaching for your phone.

This is useful particularly for one-handed use cases – driving, standing in a bus or train etc.

The I’m phone comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, power connection, microphone & built-in speakers. It claims a talk time of 3 hours with speaker phone and a standby time of 30 hours with Bluetooth and supports audio and video playback.

The programmability of the watch brings other useful features like different clock faces to match your clothes, mood or setting, temperature, heart rate monitors, twitter feeds etc.

InPulse is another company that is working on bringing programmable phones to the market. Though I have to admit they lack the aesthetic appeal of the I’m and LunaTik. It may appeal to the hacker as it offers a downloadable SDK and simulator to develop apps. Not convinced they will be popular though.

The touch interface can also be used effectively as a TV, iPod and music system remote.

You could even use the watch to locate your phone.

Since you rarely have to take your phone out of your pocket the chances of you misplacing it significantly reduces.

With recent news that a bunch of industry veterans including the heads of Fossil’s connected watch group have acquired the assets of Meta Watch, this space is beginning to get interesting.

I for one am very excited about it and will be watching the space closely.