Companies often design products that they announce, show off at trade shows, then subsequently kill. And usually they have good reason to bury the product. After parading it around, they get negative feedback and realize that, in spite of their best efforts, the product in question may simply not be ready for prime time. Such is the case with the original Fossil Wrist PDA, which was introduced over a year ago, then never saw the light of day. Now, the company is taking a second stab at it with the Fossil Wrist PDA FX2008, and unfortunately, the news isn't good. While the integrated Palm OS is plenty robust, and our excitement for smart watches is more than obvious, it seems that the two may form a marriage that isn't necessarily made in heaven. Add to that the Fossil Wrist PDA's price tag of $249 and it's neither the most useful nor the best-priced smart watch on the market. Abacus, a division of Fossil, also offers a Wrist PDA with a thinner silver casing but the same functionality at $199.
Physically, the Fossil Wrist PDA is huge. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing, seeing that chunky cuff-type watches are in--for the moment. On the left side of the watch is the Back button, which takes you one step out of the interface. Above that is the USB port, which has a plastic cover. On the top of the watch is the infrared port, and on the right side, you'll find the page-up and -down buttons that flank the three-directional rocker switch, all of which are easy to use. Criticisms aside, the Fossil Wrist PDA feels pretty good and solid on the arm, as it should at 3.8 ounces. Nevertheless, we were disappointed that the Fossil Wrist PDA is not water resistant, unlike the various SPOT watches that work with Microsoft's MSN Direct service. Furthermore, battery life is relatively short, at about three to four days. Thankfully, you can charge the Fossil Wrist PDA via the included USB cable.
The Fossil Wrist PDA runs Palm OS 4.1and is powered by a Motorola DragonBall Super VZ 66MHz processor. Add to that 8MB of built-in memory, and you have a smart watch that also packs some brawn--in theory. Furthermore, since the Fossil Wrist PDA is essentially just another Palm device, it will run most Palm OS applications. Of course, its monochrome 1-inch (diagonal) display is a scant 160x160 pixels, so you can imagine how good most third-party applications will look on it. Applications specifically designed to run on the Fossil Wrist PDA will work better. That said, however, at the time of this writing, there were only a handful of such applications available, including PIM software such as HoliDates and Wassup and games such as Karateka and Sub Patrol. As far as customizing the look of your screen, you can choose from 11 watch faces.
The Fossil Wrist PDA ships with several useful applications: an address book, a date book, a to-do list, a memo pad, and a calculator, among others. The Fossil Wrist PDA connects to your PC or Mac via the included USB cable and uses PalmOne's HotSync application to sync data between the device and your computer. Our test machine initially had some problems detecting the Fossil Wrist PDA, but eventually, we were able to connect to our Windows-based PC. Also, since the Wrist PDA has an infrared port, it supports beaming data and infrared HotSync operations. Once we were able to make the connection to our PC, synchronization was smooth.
Being able to access the date book and the address book on the go was fantastic, but inputting data to the Fossil Wrist PDA was, for lack of a better word, a joke. The Fossil Wrist PDA ships with a tiny foldable stylus that is tucked into the clasp of the watchband, and you can use it to input data to the device via its touch screen through handwriting recognition or the insultingly tiny virtual keyboard. When shown the virtual keyboard, one of our colleagues remarked that the device was like a computer built for a dollhouse.
The smart watch scene is young, particularly the PDA-type breed, and because of this, the whole genre has some growing up to do. That said, while there's a lot that we like about Microsoft's SPOT watches (for instance, their ability to update your watch with real-time data on the go), there isn't much that we like about the Fossil Wrist PDA. The display is so small and the text and onscreen elements are so difficult to read that using the device is more frustrating than helpful. We'd opt for a standalone Palm device before going with the Fossil Wrist PDA.