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Neptune Pine smartwatch excites, but only in theory

Could this be the geeky smartwatch we've all been waiting for? Maybe, but for now we'll have to keep waiting.

A conceptual image of the Neptune Pine smartwatch.
Neptune Computer

Run a Google search for smartwatch, and you'll find quite a few choices out there. But many of these watches fall flat of actually delivering what a real geek wants: a timepiece with sexy specifications, a cool (and actually usable) interface, and total independence from a smartphone.

Neptune Computer -- a startup based in Montreal -- is looking to deliver a smartwatch called Pine that could fulfill those geeky needs. Before you get too excited, though, note that some hurdles stand in the way.

Neptune wants to bring a wide-screen experience to smartwatches. Neptune Computer

The proposed specifications for the 1GHz Neptune Pine currently include an ARM Cortex-A9, the Leaf OS (a modified version of Android), and a micro-SIM slot that basically turns the device into a miniature 3G smartphone that can make calls, and handle SMS and other functions.

A wide-screen capacitive touch display (currently set at 2.5 inches, 432x240 pixels) could make the Pine more usable than other smartwatches, as it offers more real estate space for content and the maker suggests it may offer a typing experience similar to the dimensions of the iPhone's keyboard. Connectivity would include Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0, while the proposed 800mAh battery delivers 5 hours of talk time and 120 hours of standby. Other highlights of the Neptune include a 5-megapixel camera, FM radio, heart rate monitor, and a slew of apps. The Pine may also detach from the watch strap.

Does the Neptune Pine interest you? (Click to enlarge.) Neptune Computer

What's not to love about the Pine? Well, it's not real yet and Neptune founder Simon Tian told me the design seen on the Web site wasn't final. For example, the company may shift toward a 2.4-inch screen and 320x240 resolution display for better app compatibility. He noted that other specifications could change as well, so I left the conversation with the feeling that there's still quite a bit of work to do behind the scenes. The fact that the company doesn't have a final product together means the Q3 2013 launch date may slip to later, which Tian confirmed.

Despite these shortcomings, Tian noted that after a few articles in the press and a couple of posts on Reddit, the company received nearly 6,000 reservations for the smartwatch, which starts at $335 for 8GB, and goes for $365 for $16GB, and $395 for the 32GB version. I couldn't help but wonder if people knew what they were reserving, though, since the Web site says in small print that the design and specifications may change.

Correction, 5:18 p.m. PT: The story originally misstated the possible size of a future Pine screen. A Neptune Computer representative clarified that it may change to 2.4 inches.