Wearable Tech World Feature Article
August 01, 2013

Is Your Next Watch a Phone?

While people have been trying to squeeze more into and out of the "traditional" smartphone, I've been wondering when someone would go minimalist and design a phone (well, voice device) around the watch form factor. PH Technical Labs is going to take a different run at the concept with its HOT Watch and Kickstarter campaign.

The HOT Watch rolls together a smartwatch with a touchscreen, a SHARP e-paper display, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, microphone and an accelerometer with gyroscope for gesture control. A watch can take a call from a paired phone from up to 20 feet away, with a user seeing the caller ID name and phone number on the watch. Holding the watch palm up to the ear tells the HOT Watch to connect the call, while waving "bye-bye" ends a call.

Additional functions and features of the HOT Watch include the ability to receive and respond to texts, social media interfaces for Facebook and Twitter, instant messaging, send and receive e-mail with either vibration or audio notification, contact access from the user's phone, calendar, stopwatch, calculator, pedometer, music control and the ability to build custom applications.

HOT Watch has a phone "fence" app built in, with an alert occurring if you walk away from your phone having left it somewhere. There's also a health safety function to trigger a text alert to an emergency contact if the device detects a fall or lack of motion after a period of time.   

One day into its $150,000 Kickstarter campaign, PH Technical Labs already has commitments for over $156,000 by almost 900 people -- with another 36 days to go on the campaign. A pledge of $109 dollars gets a basic watch ($169 suggested retail ) for delivery in December 2013 while promising $169 will get you the high-end "Curvy" model expected to retail around $249 or more with a January 2014 delivery date.

I'd love to get my hands on the watch to hear its "cup and listen" audio delivery to compare it to regular smartrphone audio and a Bluetooth headset. The nice thing about the form factor is that if you already a watch wearer, you typically don't go anywhere in the morning without putting it on. I have bought and carried around a Bluetooth headset, but don't use it in daily practice because I need to 1) remember to charge it and 2) stick it my ear because I don't walk around with it out of the house.

Ultimately, someone somewhere is working on a watch with an LTE chip in it, so you can make phone calls via touchscreen or voice interface without having to remember to shove a smartphone in your pocket.  In a lot of use cases, a phone-watch makes sense because it makes calls easily accessible in a hands-free mode while providing some liberation away from the addiction/burden of the smartphone. Time will tell what form factors and uses will win out.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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