LAS VEGAS — Wrist computing has been a trend of late, with WIMM showing off its WIMM One and Sony introducing its SmartWatch here at CES. Upstart Italian company I’m Watch hopes to dominate this field as it introduced its stylish and powerful line of high-fashion Android watches. We had a chance to see the watches, which all have the same internal components but come in a variety of styles ranging in price from $249 for the basic design called “I’m Color” to well over $2,000.
Even the most basic I’m Color version of the watch looks vibrant with its color plastic frame and resin band. You can get the watch in a rainbow from bright colors including red, blue, yellow, green, white, black, pink and orange. Shoppers can also choose between the less-expensive 64MB and the pricier 128MB model, which holds more apps.
The really innovative thing about I’m Watch is that it combines high-fashion with a totally new and unique application of Android. Running on the older Android 1.6, the device’s 240 x 240 screen is much sharper than the WIMM One’s 160 x 160 display. Unlike the WIMM which goes into grayscale mode when just telling the time, the I’m Watch’s screen powers down completely when it goes to sleep so you can’t even see the time on its face until you hit the side button.
In addition to the 64MB or 128MB of internal storage memory, the I’m Watch has a 450-Mhz Freescale IMX233 CPU and 4GB of built-in SD card memory. Unlike the WIMM One, which has no ports except for the proprietary docking port on its backside, the I’m Watch has a standard 3.5mm jack for listening to movies. It also has a micro USB port for charging so there’s no need for a charging bay. A button on the side functions as both a back button and a wake button that brings your watch back to life when tapped.
The operating system itself looks more Android-like than the WIMM’s because it has a thin status bar at the top of each screen. The home screen consists of numbers and three application icons. Swiping left or right shows more home screens with more icons. Among the apps available on the demo products we saw were email, Facebook, Twitter, a picture viewer and a music player.
The watch pairs with your phone via Bluetooth to get its Internet connection and download all those messages. So if your phone is off or you’re running low on juice and turn off Bluetooth, the I’m Watch can’t get any new data for you. However, it can still show whatever messages it last downloaded and it’s still useful as a picture viewer or music player. The 4GB of non-removable data storage can hold a fair amount of MP3s, though you’ll only have either 64MB or 128MB for installing more apps, which will be available from an I’m market at the time of launch.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the I’m Watch is its ability to actually make calls from your wrist when tethered to your phone. Not only can you dial a phone number on the touchscreen keypad, but the watch’s speaker and microphone allow you to have the full Dick Tracy experience, sans video, from your wrist. In a demo we witnessed, sound was loud and clear from the speaker. Users who didn’t want everyone hearing their calls could also tether in a Bluetooth headset.
The email, Facebook and Twitter clients we saw were quite attractive, but we did not notice any images coming in those streams, so it seems like you’ll just be getting text. Disappointingly, the email app only shows you the sender names and subject lines of your messages, not the body text. The idea is that you’ll whip out the phone if you see an important sender and subject line on the watch, but we’d like the option to read at least some of the message, something Sony’s less-sophisticated Smartwatch, a lower-cost competitor also displayed at CES, allows. The WIMM One watch does not yet have email, Facebook or Twitter support.
The good news about email on the I’m Watch is that, like all other features, it could be augmented by a third-party app. The company has an SDK and is encouraging developers to jump on board. All apps aside, company CEO Massimiliano Bertolini believes his watches can go mainstream because of their compelling designs.
The devices are up for pre-order now on imwatch.it and should begin shipping in March, a spokesperson told us. We can’t wait to get a closer look at the I’m Watch and put it through its paces.