Wimm Labs, creator of the innovative Wimm One smart watch, has a dream of pushing the boundaries of mobile computing by giving birth to an entire software platform. And the company sees the $199 Wimm One as a device both powerful and flexible enough to do so. Like the Sony SmartWatch and Motorola MotoActv, the gadget runs its own flavor of Android while connecting to smartphones over Bluetooth and wireless networks through Wi-Fi, and operating independently like a tiny, cute, cuddly electronic brain. But unlike those competitors, the Wimm One doesn't fit firmly into the typical consumer electronics mold. Wimm Labs wants the Wimm One to be not just a mere widget but rather a development tool ushering in a vanguard of even more advanced devices. Appropriately, its unpolished looks and beta aesthetics will turn off average shoppers.
Let's be clear, the Wimm Labs Wimm One won't help you win any fashion kudos. The watch's jet-black rubber wrist strap and blocky accompanying cradle are no-frills to a fault. It has a pure utilitarian look that perhaps only NASA engineers, high-school math teachers, and software engineers could love.
Further heightening its straight-from-the-lab aesthetic is the Wimm One's modular construction. All its processing power, touch screen, sensors, and other components really reside in the Wimm One's austere square chassis. It's essentially a self-contained ultramobile computer powered by a custom version of Android software. Popping in and out of its strap with ease, the gadget is even referred to by Wimm Labs as the Wimm One module.
In fact, the company envisions the device as multifunctional, able to eventually fit into all kinds of accessories and attachments such as bicycle straps, lanyards, and belt loops. For now though these solutions exist as concepts only.
Measuring a relatively small 1.26 inches tall by 1.4 inches wide by 0.49 inch thick, the Wimm One takes up less space than the Motorola MotoActv (1.81 inches by 1.81 inches by 0.37 inch) but is slightly thicker. Apple's iPod Nano, though, is trimmer than both, even including its clip ((1.5 inches by 1.6 inches by 0.35 inch).
The only controls you'll find on the Wimm One are a tiny power button located on the module's right side and its miniscule 1.41 inch touch screen (1x1 inch). Thankfully the screen is bimodal, meaning it both functions as a backlit color LCD for indoor and nighttime use and converts into a traditional monochrome LCD so it can be read in direct sunlight.
Powered by an internal rechargeable battery, the Wimm One comes with a paddle-style charging cradle that connects to standard AC outlets. To top off the battery just fit the Wimm One onto the cradle so its metal contacts are aligned properly. You can do this whether the module is inside its wrist strap or not.
Wimm Labs says the Wimm One is splashproof; it isn't as tough as the Motorola MotoActv, though, which is built to withstand exposure to dust too, plus sports a crack-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass screen.
Features and software
It's no accident that the Wimm One screams prototype from 10 feet away, since that's what this device really is. Wimm Labs views the device as something in between a true consumer product and a hardware tool for developers. Akin to a Google Nexus-class smartphone in this way, the Wimm One is meant for technology enthusiasts to use to develop interesting and truly inspirational apps. Wimm Labs hopes this will supercharge adoption of what it sees as a burgeoning software platform.
Out of the box, the Wimm One is very capable in its own right. Inside the device are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios for connecting to wireless networks and smartphones. You'll also find preinstalled micro apps for pedometer, weather, calendar, world clock, timer, and alarm clock functions.
Already onboard are many distinctive watch faces to choose from. I especially like the Swinger face, which consists of tiny colored dots overlaid on top of a digital clock. Another slick yet admittedly very geeky option is the Elementary face. It displays two periodic table elements side by side, using their atomic weights to form the correct time. For example at 3:05, the watch would read Lithium (3) and Boron (5).
To get more watch designs and applications, users can also either go to the Wimm Web site or download the companion mobile app (Android and iOS) to browse the Wimm micro app store. At the moment there are 33 software titles for the taking developed by both Wimm Labs and third-party software makers.
You can also use the Wimm companion app to sync the Wimm One over a Bluetooth connection and keep weather, calendar, and other apps updated. In addition the companion app will alert you when text messages come your way and display the identity of incoming phone calls.
The time I spent with the Wimm One was enjoyable and I was able to set up the device very quickly. After charging the watch, I created a Wimm account, which is necessary for registering the Wimm One module and to start downloading applications. I then connected it to my Wi-Fi network and was able to view installed apps and manipulate the order they're listed in on the device via the my.wimm.com Web site. After the Wimm One synced, applications and watch faces I selected were automatically downloaded to and installed on my unit.
I had a similar experience with the Wimm companion app, which I used to find and choose new apps to run on the device without any glitches. Unlike the troubled Sony SmartWatch, the Wimm One never crashed once or demonstrated any flaky behavior.
As a matter of fact, all the software I tried worked flawlessly and as advertised. When calls and texts hit my handset, the Wimm One gave my wrist a little haptic buzz and displayed caller ID info if my phone had it handy. Weather, watch faces, and calendar functions operated without a hitch too.
One minor complaint is that the Wimm One supports only one calendar at a time, so viewing work and personal appointments at the same time isn't possible. Another drawback is the Wimm One's battery life. I found that if I had Wi-Fi and or Bluetooth active, the gadget barely made it through a full workday. Turning off both radios boosted the device's staying power to about a 24 hours, but it would definitely need a recharge in the AM.
The $199 Wimm One is a very capable smart watch. It's packed to the gills with nice hardware such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a touch screen that can be read indoors and outdoors. The $149 Sony SmartWatch by contrast is extremely stylish plus promises plenty of software functions such as making calls via a connected handset and support for smartphone-based e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter information. That said, I found Sony's device to be highly unstable, crash-prone, and unable to operate without a phone connection for long, and its screen is illegible in sunlight.
Of course the Wimm One has a truly beta-prototype feel and can't take quite as much of a beating as the fitness-minded $249.99 Motorola MotoActv. While the MotoActv doesn't have as wide an app selection as the Wimm One, Motorola's smart watch has polish as well as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a GPS radio -- which last the Wimm One lacks. Frankly, the MotoActv is the safer, more consumer-friendly option. If you aren't afraid of living on the cutting edge of Android mobility though, the Wimm One is the way to go.