Smart watches are more than a phone accessory: they could soon replace the phone -- and Spice launches a budget model that shows you how
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, Serptember 1 2014: Eat your heart out Dick Tracy! The comic strip police detective's trade mark icon for thirty years from January 1946 -- his "Two-Way Wrist Radio" -- has moved from fiction to fact: Anyone with four thousand rupees to spare today, can outdo Dick and flaunt his or her, own personal communicator. Tech pundits say 2014 is the Year of the Smart Watch.
A dozen companies -- both watch makers and phone makers -- are currently engaged in a sangam or confluence of these twin technologies and are racing to bring their products to market.
Last week on the same day, two Korean giants unveiled their latest smart watches: Samsung's "Gear S", the latest iteration of its wearable accessory to the handset, is for the first time, a standalone device, capable of working, independent of a mobile phone. LG's "G Watch R" revives the classic look-and-feel of a circular steel wristwatch: Both these smart wearables will be available only towards the end of the year
There are swirling rumours, that Apple will launch its own wearable phone solution, along with its new iPhone model on September 9. From the other end of this merging market, Timex has just launched a WiFi-enabled wristwatch, the "Ironman One GPS".
On the application front, Japan Airlines has equipped its boarding gate staff with smart watches so that they can keep track of passengers' whereabouts, while both their hands are busy. And aero solutions leader SITA, has just released an app so that passengers can receive boarding passes on their smart watch and board flights with a scan of their of their watch dials.
Amidst these developments, it is entirely in character with the way things are happening in the mobile business, that an Indian enterprise -- Spice Retail -- should launch, arguably, the world's most affordable stand-alone smart watch-phone.
The Smart Pulse M-9010 has a 4 cm touch screen and packs in a 0.3 megapixel VGA camera with video; a torch; dual SIM slots, an audio player, FM Radio, alarm and calculator. The internal memory is enough to store some 300 numbers, but you can add an 8 GB memory card. Connectivity is dual channel GSM with GPRS ( a bit wobbly) and WAP. You can receive voice and SMS but understandably, no email.
It can be used as a standalone phone-- there is a built in mike and speaker -- but it is better to attach earphones. A Bluetooth wireless headset is supplied free, along with a two extra wristbands. The watch can also be paired with any Android phone via Bluetooth in which case it can serve as an incoming call alert and a means of taking the call without pulling out your main phone. You can't receive voice and data at the same time and I found you have to set up for one or the other.
Remember this is not -- unlike some of the upcoming smart watches from the biggies -- an Android device, but one that seems to run on Java. This means for installing things like Bluetooth you have to download the special Spice software. But I'm not complaining. For an amazingly small asking price of Rs 3999 ( exclusively from HomeShop 18), I got a great smart watch experience. It's not going to compete with my full fledged smart phone but sometime, somewhere, if my hands are full and I need to communicate while on the hoof, this dinky little device will make me Dick Tracy.