Life with the world's geekiest watch

The WIMM Android watch can do neat tricks--if developers write the apps for it.

It's practically a smartphone on your wrist. Rafe Needleman/CNET

I'm going to need new shirts.

For the past few days I've been wearing, instead of my usual Oris wristwatch, the Android-powered WIMM smartwatch, the developer kits for which just started shipping. For a video, see my preview story, WIMM launches platform for smart watches .

Let me tell you something: This watch is not a winner with the ladies. It's a big lump of black, square plastic with, in its resting state, a boring gray LCD display. It lights up in glorious color when you touch it. Either way, Patek Philippe it ain't. It's so freaking huge I can't even button my shirt cuff around it. I'm aware that this dev kit is not designed for me, it's for developers, and they only wear T-shirts, so OK. And future manufactures might be able to trim the size of this thing down a bit.

Now, this wrist anvil does have some fun tricks. When your phone rings, the watch buzzes and displays the incoming caller ID data (it gets it over Bluetooth). You can send the call straight to voice mail if you want, and you never have to retrieve your phone from your pocket. And via Wi-Fi, it connects to your Google Calendar, which is useful info to have on your wrist.

Downsides, other than bulk? Battery life. The watch has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios in it, not to mention GPS and a magnetometer. In my early testing, it lasted about as long as an iPhone 4S: it made it through the day, but only just. You have to charge it every night.

Battery life is improving as the software gets tweaked, but this is a high-tech piece of gear on your wrist, and it's never going to be something that goes a week without a charge. Maybe somebody can build a winder-charger into it so you can power it up like a real watch.

The real issue is the chicken-and-egg problem for developers. The WIMM platform is based on Android, so developers could build some pretty cool things on the platform: health monitoring apps, media remote controls, social network clients, and so on. But devs won't line up until there's a market, and the fact is that the WIMM watch is expensive, too bulky, and doesn't do anything (other than sit on your wrist) that your smartphone doesn't do already. I still like it, but I don't think it's the next great mobile platform.

 

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