UPDATE: I must update: newer firmware Beta_22.214.171.124.8.6 fixes all of the font/text issues I had. Everything looks crisp and beautiful now. Too early to see any improvement in battery life, but I am very very pleased with the new firmware!
Review: InPulse SmartWatch Bluetooth Watch for BlackBerry
New Firmware Beta_126.96.36.199.8.6 [rating:8]
Cost: $149+ @ www.getinpulse.com
I received my InPulse SmartWatch on Friday, and thus have been testing it out thoroughly over the weekend. There are two kinds of users for such a gadget: The basic user with a BlackBerry who just wants notifications, and the programmer who will enjoy trying to make it run DOOM. I am the former, and likely won’t use the hack-able aspects at least for a while. Let’s start with the out-boxing. All images are captured on my BlackBerry 9650.
As you can see it comes with a getting started card, a standard Micro-USB cable, and the watch in tight plastic wrap. Getting the wrap off was a bit cumbersome, but it certainly had no scratches and looks really sharp. The right side has a single button which I will go over later, and the left the micro-USB port for charging. The back has clear plastic so you can see inside; kind of cool! The band is standard for most non-metal bands, and fits comfortably. The back of the watch could be a bit smoother; the left and right edges feel a bit rough, so I don’t fit the band super snug but one notch looser. It came uncharged, so first thing I did is grab my BlackBerry’s charging cable and plug ‘er in.
The pair code is easily displayed, and the device uses the pair code in its name/identification, so don’t worry about ever not knowing it. I image every InPulse had a different code. The getting started card tells BlackBerry uses to head to getinpulse.com/beta to get the app for your phone. The watch comes basically blank, without usable firmware, so the BB app is required to send the firmware to the watch. I downloaded to app to my 9650, easily paired with the watch, and used the app to send the firmware to the watch.
This takes about 10 minutes total time, and the progress indicators in the BB app were helpful. They warn you don’t let the watch and your BB unpair during this time. We all know interrupting firmware uploads are unfun. Of course in a real word situation like Friday Night you may not have 10 minutes to sit around when you’re wife is ready to leave. If this was a Blackberry, I’d have to keep it tethered to my computer, but this is all over Bluetooth, so we left and while she drove my SmartWatch and BlackBerry was still uploading firmware while in the car. Once firmware was complete I could start to set preferences from the BB app, which are then pushed to the phone, pretty much instantly. I was pleased I could set for 24-h time rather than 12, and you have options for font and color for the time, date, message header, and text. Also the date format which is handy. Maybe this is something with my watch, but some fonts don’t display well:
while some do..
Also messages I receive have no spaces; every word runs together. The software is in beta, so I’d expect this to get fixed soon. That night I successfully received and read txts and e-mails on my watch as they were received by my BlackBerry. I could also see a phone call arriving, with the name from my address book provided, though there was a noticeable delay of when the InPulse notified me. This could be an issue depending on how far away your BlackBerry is when you need to pick up that call. The range of the Bluetooth connection seems good. All weekend with my BlackBerry resting somewhere I could be anywhere in my 2 story home, or my friend’s wider ranch style hone, and the connection was never dropped.
Functions are pretty simple. There is only one button. A quick click is for moving through a list, and click-hold is to make a selection. This is also back when you are within an item, like a txt msg or an e-mail. Normally the watch is in screensaver mode where the time is displayed small and off to the left side, moving every minute. Quick click to see the time displayed in large font with your choice of weekday, day, and month per your preference.
Click-hold for a menu of messages, calls, calendar, watch status.
I easily got used to the navigation. I appreciate the simple one-button design, but I personally wouldn’t have found a 2 or 3 button design a detractor; just for speed. Click-hold to get a menu, click to go through a list, and Click-hold to view the item. Click-hold again to go back to the beginning.
I see several advantages for daily use. For one driving, where having the ability to scan if the call incoming is an important person, and if the txt or e-mail relates to my trip or needs my immediate attention to reply. All on my wrist, which is a heck of a lot closer to the road in my vision than looking down at one’s phone. Still it is always best to wait until you’re not driving; or at a red light. If you’re just relaxing or working you can just keep your BlackBerry anywhere, charging perhaps, and still get notified of something important. This coming week I’ll be teaching at a conference, and while my phone’s in my holster, I’ll see what’s up on my SmartWatch. Then I’ll decide if I need to reach to get my phone. This was the basic reason I decided to get an InPulse. All the times you feel the holster vibrate and you wonder “should I reach for it?” You can customize which of your e-mail addresses get what kind of vibration on the InPulse. For me any work e-mail is two vibrations, and anything personal is one.
The last thing to mention is battery life. One weekend may not be a valid test. I charged it for 30 minutes Friday before we headed out, and the battery lasted about 6-7 hours. There is no warning when it is getting low, and no true way to know how much juice it has. You are a bit blind here. Saturday morning I charged for an hour and it lasted 11 hours. Same thing on Sunday. As with any new battery it needs a few charges to cycle normally. Getting a few days would be nice. The current firmware version states a known issue of reduced battery life of users of a 9650 with OS 6, which is me. I’ve not tried charging it overnight, because I thought such a small battery wouldn’t like that so much. I’ll keep experimenting. At least all my existing Micro-USB chargers for Blackberry are compatible.
Overall its fun, and it is nicely noticeable, with people already wanting to know more when they see it. My wife who always preferred me to wear a watch which I haven’t since owning a BlackBerry is pleased with how stylish it looks; and it satisfies the tech side of me. Wishes are for better font display, and longer battery life. Hope you’ll enjoy trying it out too.