Phone on your wrist!

twitter-logo Nidhi Singal        Print Edition: March 2013

In a bid to stay relevant in these ever-changing times, the wristwatch is now reinventing itself. It is not quite dead yet, but the clock display on phones has made many people decide not to wear a separate watch. Hence there has been a noticeable decline in the number of wristwatch purchases.

So watchmakers have started wooing customers with new features, which include full connectivity and operating systems. The concept of smart watches started way back in the 1980s when Casio came out with calculator watches. This was followed by timepieces that could measure altitude or pulse rate and even ones with television screens and radios. But it was only in 2012 that we saw some real smart functionality being added. While most of these smart watches today pair up with our smartphones, there are some that support a SIM card and let you make calls directly.

As expected, for these watches, being smart means being like a smartphone. So they too run the Android OS and can take apps. But only will these devices ever go mainstream? That is a question only time can answer.

One look at the i'm watch and I wanted to wrap it around my wrist. It was a headturner and that was not the only reason why I was astonished. Yes, there was time on the watch, but it was also a phone and could show my messages and contacts. Slide the screen left and we have the main menu. There, four icons dominated the homescreen. We could scroll further down to check more apps. Similar to the notification bar in the Android smartphone, there is a tab here that can be dragged down to show shortcuts for sound, settings, sync and trash.

HOW IT WORKS: There are pre-loaded apps for address book, alarm, appointments, compass, I'm FB, I'm Gallery, I'm Time, I'm Tweet, etc. But none of this works out of the box. We had to register the watch and then pair it with our Android smartphone . After connecting the device over Bluetooth, we had to turn on Wi-Fi hotspot to pair the watch. It took a visit to to configure the apps followed by syncing with the I'm Cloud to install the apps and get notifications on the watch. We could also transfer contacts and media files by downloading more apps from

HOW GOOD IS IT: While everything sounds cool about this smartwatch, there are a few shortcomings as well. If you were to command it, most of the times the screen response was lazy, sluggish, and the I'm Droid 2 OS crashed often. On several occasions, the Facebook and Twitter apps crashed. On others, the screen froze completely and the i'm watch needed to be force-restarted. The Italians definitely know what they are doing when it comes to design, but they seem to be a long way away when it comes to ensuring good performance.

Burg Phone Watch
The Burg watch phone actually had us confused and forced us to think whether this is exactly a smart watch or not. While the other smart watches are extensions of the smartphone, the Burg 13 is a phone in itself. Hidden below the screen is a regular SIM card slot accompanied by a memory card slot. Once you insert a SIM card, the watch turns into a phone.

HOW IT WORKS: Just like a regular phone, we could dial and answer calls in speaker mode using the Burg 13. Though loud and clear, thespeaker sounds a bit weird, but the watch can be paired with Bluetooth headsets. Interestingly, the watch picked up Internet settings automatically and we could do some basic browsing over it. Like basic phones, it has features such as image viewer, file manager, task list, organiser, alarm clock, media player etc. Plus, there is a front facing camera which could be used for a bit of spying if needed as we could record both audio and video using it. The Burg 13 has a resistive touch display accompanied by a small pin stylus. Surprisingly, the touch screen works even with your fingers. But this experience is spoiled by the small screen that forced us to take out the stylus.

HOW GOOD IS IT: This definitely is a much more user-friendly watch then the I'm Watch. But it has an ordinary, boring design, which makes it look like a toy. Also, it doesn't run on a smart operating system. Hence, one cannot install any apps on the Burg 13. It can't replace a phone, but it sure can be an additional device to flaunt in front of your friends.
The Consumer Electronics Show 2013 witnessed tech companies pushing 'smartwatches'. Most of them were designed to be an extension of the smartphones.

Toshiba Computer Graphic Watch: The prototype Computer Graphic Watch has changeable dial images. Its high performance ARM SoC supports realistic computer graphic display. The smart functionality includes connectivity with Android smartphones and the iPhone. Once connected, the watch can alert of incoming calls, emails and calendar schedules. Toshiba says the watch can be used to navigate with the smartphone GPS or display news and weather updates. There was also an ECG enabled sensor on the watch that recognises the owner’s unique pulse pattern. Interestingly, smart functions are disabled if the watch fails to recognise the pulse.

Pebble Watch: This is a customisable watch with downloadable watchfaces and Internet-connected apps. For instance, a cyclist will be able to use the watch as a bike computer, accessing GPS through the smartphone or even display speed, distance and pace. Capable of pairing with the iPhone and Android smartphones over Bluetooth, the watch can alert the user with a vibration for incoming calls, emails and messages. One can only prebook the watch as of now as it is not yet ready for shipping.

Cookoo: The company is referring it as a wearable extension of the smartphone that helps one manage their connected life. Designed considering the scenario that our smartphone is not always in our hand, the watch will let the user know about the happenings even when the phone is kept in the pocket. This watch can alert for incoming calls, calendar reminders, text and email, social media and low battery. (Price: $129)

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