Will.i.am is back with another smartwatch, i.am+ Dial

The Dial comes with free unlimited music, and unlike the pop star's previous wacky gadgets, you can actually buy it.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Hats off to Will.i.am -- he's really mastered the art of getting his wrist into photos.

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Will.i.am has released his latest stab at making a gadget. Will.u.buy.it?

The i.am+ Dial is a smartwatch with a phone built in. It's the second attempt at a wrist-worn, phone-free wearable from the former Black Eyed Peas musician and producer after the abortive Puls, which failed to set hearts racing. Between that, his bizarre Foto.sosho iPhone case, his weird triangular speaker backpack and a collaboration with Gucci that never materialised, you'll forgive us if we struggle to take Will.i.am's tech ventures very ser.i.ously.

But let's give the Dial the benefit of the doubt -- it is, after all, probably the closest an i.am device has come to the wrists of the public, going up for preorder in the UK now.

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The i.am smartwatch needs no phone to make calls and texts.


Courtesy of British network Three, the Dial starts from £49 (that's roughly $70 or AU$96) up front, followed by a two-year contract at roughly £25 per month (in the ballpark of $35, or AU$45 per month). Existing Three customers pay nothing up front.

Those are just direct conversions of the UK price, by the way -- there's no word yet on when it will be available outside the UK.

Dial up

The Dial has its own 3G SIM card, so you don't need a phone to call, text and email from your wrist. You can connect to Wi-Fi, but there's no 4G, which is a bit of a disappointment.

With no phone screen to type on and only a 1.63-inch AMOLED screen on the watch, how do you control the Dial? By chatting to it, using the built-in voice-activated system called AneedA -- as in "I need a..."

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Maybe you need to play a particular song, or create a custom playlist, or you need to know about the latest news and concerts for your favourite artists. You can also instruct AneedA to tweet, call you a taxi, or take a selfie with the 2-megapixel camera.

Included in the price is an unlimited ad-free music service boasting more than 20 million music tracks, powered by streaming and download service 7digital.

You can stream and download tracks to the Dial's 32GB memory without racking up data charges -- it's all included in that monthly fee. The watch comes with a pair of Bluetooth i.am+ EP earphones to listen to your tunes.