I geeked out this past summer when I saw LG’s cool watch phone. Sadly, it was only available in the UK. Well someone at Kempler & Strauss must have heard my jealous pleas, because they’re selling their own watch phone here in the US and around the world. The W PhoneWatch has a 1.5 inch touchscreen with a respectable 128×128 resolution, a camera with MPEG4 video capabilities (128×104), built-in MP3 player, and a modest price tag: $199. Best of all, it’s GSM unlocked, so you can take a chip from another phone, plug it in, and you’re good to go. It comes with a BlueTooth headset that can double as a stylus, and despite the claims of K&S that the W PhoneWatch is fingertip friendly, at 1.5 inches that stylus will be a necessity. I know watch phones are impractical, but just looking at this thing makes me want to go all Dick Tracey and get one. Judge for yourself by watching the promo video from K&S below.
There are actually many watch phones on the market. Most are cheaper devices out of China, with moderate to fair capabilities. Others are more expensive than the W PhoneWatch and don’t seem to have its size or versatility. Still, as reasonably priced and functional as the K&S phone may be, I can’t imagine actually using it as anything but a status symbol. I’m all for miniaturization, and putting a mobile phone, a clock, a MP3 player, and a video camera all on your wrist is the essence of tiny badassery (if only it could do video calling too!). However, no wrist mounted interface is going to do those capabilities justice. You can make tinier devices, but our hands aren’t going to get smaller along with them. K&S have tried to solve the problem by including a remote (the BlueTooth headset) but if you have to use one device to access another you sort of lose the novelty of the watch phone anyway.
I think that personal augmented reality systems like Pranav Mistry’s Sixth Sense have got it right. Instead of shrinking the phone to the size of a watch, switch to a projector system and the phone and watch can be any size you want. Pico projectors let the interface be larger than the device, and that’s going to be a key concept as miniaturization continues. The only real advantage watch phones have is style – I’m sure even Mistry would admit that his system is anything but suave looking. With that in mind I’ll support you if you go and buy a W PhoneWatch. Yeah, it’s impractical, but sometimes you just need to look like a super-spy.
[image credit: Kempler&Strauss]