Hot Band wants you to put something strange under your wrist to make any watch smarter.
A regular watch can't get messages, nor can it make phone calls from your wrist. But there are companies out there trying to make dumb watches smarter...mainly via straps. Hot Band is one of them.
Hot Band hits Kickstarter today, and it's basically a strap you pop a little "smart fob" into that has notifications and fitness tracking. It charges on its own, and gets two days of battery life. The Hot Band Smart Fob lives on the underside of your watch band, like a little smart wart.
The Smart Fob can be popped out, and an Audio Fob added: basically, a Bluetooth earbud that can live on your wrist and be used to make phone calls from your hand. Flip open the speaker, hold your hand up to your ear and talk away. I tried an early prototype at CNET's office, and, well, it worked. Hot Band promises to offer more discreet phone calls than a regular smartwatch speakerphone like the Apple Watch, which is why Hot Band is oddly choosing to convince Apple Watch owners to add this thing underneath their wrist.
Hot Band will attach to any watch using a 20-24mm band, including many Android Wear watches and Pebble watches. It's a clever idea if you think of it adding a speakerphone onto a smartwatch that lacks one, or a screen to a standard watch. But Hot Band's design -- admittedly, these photos are of early pre-release versions -- just does not look attractive at all right now.
I only tried an extremely prerelease version of Hot Band's audio fob, and it was awkward, weird-looking and flimsy. The notification-based smart fob wasn't even a working model. Should you risk backing early on Kickstarter (always a risky endeavor), you could get either the audio or smart fob (not both, oddly) for $49 (converting roughly to £35 in the UK or AU$70 in Australia) each. But the expected retail price is $119 (roughly £80 or AU$170), which seems way too high.
I get that some people have regular watches, and may not want to buy a smartwatch. Hot Band is one of what seems like a slowly growing category of "smart watch band" products, promising to turn your everyday watch into something...smarter. At the right price, and the right design, maybe it would be a clever idea. Hot Band's cleverest idea is its call-from-your-wrist feature. If Hot Band cleaned up its design and pulled all its features into one thin strap, then maybe I might be interested. But I wouldn't touch it in its current form.