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David Zax

A View from David Zax

The Smart Phone on Your Wrist

Meta Watch, previously a division of Fossil, is now its own company. Which seems to be good news for “smartwatch” enthusiasts.

  • September 14, 2011

Technology has a way of making you realize you were annoyed by very minor things. For instance, the hassle of reaching into your pocket. Your smart phone is now the center of your universe, itself having unearthed–and eradicated–heaps of previous annoyances (the annoyance of not having the Internet on your person, the annoyance of asking for directions, the annoyance of planning ahead, the annoyance of having to remember things…). But there’s one annoyance the smart phone hasn’t solved–that of having to constantly reach into your pocket to fish the thing out. Enter the “smartwatch.”

This week, it was announced that Meta Watch, a smart-watch division within Fossil, had been purchased by a group of investors. While within Fossil, the Meta Watch group made some headway, presenting a version of the watch back in March. But delays and defective parts followed, and then a blown summer release date. A group of investors, led by former Nokia executive Juha Pinomaa, apparently thought they could do better. They announced this week that they had bought Meta Watch out from under Fossil, and would operate the company as an independent entity. The company will be based in Dallas, with an R&D entity in Espoo, Finland.

This is good news, all you pocket-averse people out there. The smart watch, if it’s done right, stands to be a huge timesaver. Folks who have gone hands-on (wrists-on?) with smart watches comment on how surprisingly useful they can be. Basically, a smart watch can connect to your smart phone and distill the pulse of that device–e-mails pushed, SMS’s received, and so forth–displaying that data on the watch’s face. How often does your phone buzz in your pocket, announcing a text message that may or may not require your immediate attention? A well-made smart watch can enable you, with a subtle glance at your wrist, to make that determination effortlessly.

And reviewers out there also say that Meta Watch holds the most promise among the contenders for the first major smart watch. GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel, for instance, a smart watch evangelist, says: “I’ve used several ‘smart’ watches over the past half-dozen years. Simply put: Few have worked well for me outside of the Meta Watch prototype I reviewed this past June. The Meta Watch manages the wireless connection extremely well, runs for a long time on a single charge and smartly provides useful information at a glance, instead of trying to do too much on a small screen.”

Smart watches can be useful in a range of situations. When I go for a jog, I won’t bring my iPhone, but I might bring my watch and an iPod Shuffle–a smart watch could bundle the two in one. And if future smart watches come with an NFC payment mechanism, as Forbes suggests, it could be easy to step out of the apartment for a quick run to the bodega without the need to find my wallet beforehand.

It’s a realm of gadgetry with great promise–reason enough for LG, Samsung, and Texas Instruments to each have dipped a toe in these waters, if briefly. But Meta Watch is the group that seems to get smart watches better than any other, all the more reason to be excited by the recent news and the company’s stated goal to put out $200 watches this month in the U.S. and Europe.

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